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Sod Poodles Take Series Over Travs

Tawa, Castillo Each Homer
(John Moore)
August 21, 2023

Amarillo, Texas (August 20, 2023) – Amarillo once again jumped out to an early lead over the Arkansas Travelers and this time went wire-to-wire to close out the series with a 7-5 win. Tim Tawa and Neyfy Castillo each homered to cap excellent weeks at the plate while the Sod

Amarillo, Texas (August 20, 2023) – Amarillo once again jumped out to an early lead over the Arkansas Travelers and this time went wire-to-wire to close out the series with a 7-5 win. Tim Tawa and Neyfy Castillo each homered to cap excellent weeks at the plate while the Sod Poodles bullpen was efficient, needing just five arms to cover the bullpen game on the mound.

It was an 11-pitch top of the first inning for Raffi Vizcaino in his spot start for Amarillo. The right-hander worked three-up-three-down with all three coming in by way of ground outs.

Two pitches into his first at-bat, Caleb Roberts was standing on second after a fly ball got off the top of the wall in left field. Two batters later, A.J. Vukovich provided the first run of the game with a RBI single that placed runners on the corners after Tawa drew a walk behind Roberts in his first at-bat of the game. A wild pitch allowed Tawa to score before a hit batter put another on base with just one out in the inning. The third hit of the inning was a bloop single off the bat of Castillo to load the bases before a walk scored Amarillo's third run. A sac fly made it back-to-back games with a four-run opening inning for the Amarillo offense.

Vizcaino worked his second consecutive runner-less inning, picking up his first strikeout of the game for the second out of the inning. Tawa extended the lead with a mammoth 445-ft home run to left-center field - his 20th of the season. Vizcaino was back to work for the third and proceeded to induce his sixth groundout of the night for the first out of. Arkansas got their first base runner aboard with their first hit of the game, a one-out single. Vizcaino then retired each of the next two to finish his outing with three scoreless and just one hit surrendered.

Castillo made it 6-0 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the third before turning the inning over to Jake Rice in relief. The southpaw struck out the first man he faced before a groundout and another strikeout made it four scoreless for Amarillo pitchers.

The Sod Poodles were held in check for the first time in the game despite getting a pair of runners aboard via free passes in the home half of the fourth. Rice's night came to an end after just one inning with Emailin Montilla taking over on the mound. An error and subsequent double helped to score the Travs' first run of the game. A lineout and Montilla's first strikeout of the outing gave him his first two outs in the fifth. A two-out RBI single kept the inning alive but the damage was limited to just two runs to keep it 6-2.

Two singles were followed by a pair of quick outs before Roberts stepped to the plate in the fifth. His second hit of the night gave him a RBI and increased Amarillo's advantage back to five runs.

Mitchell Otanez was the third reliever used for the Sod Poodles, taking over for the top of the sixth. Two runs came across on as many hits as Arkansas cut the Sod Poodles' lead down to three runs. Otanez saw the first batter up in the seventh hit a single before a walk and a couple of wild pitches put two men into scoring position once again. Following a strikeout, a sharply hit ball to Melendez at the hot corner gave Amarillo their second out of the inning as Melendez threw to the plate to catch the runner in a rundown between third and home. With the remaining runners still in scoring position, the Sod Poodles turned to lefty Kyle Backhus. Two pitches later, Amarillo was out of the jam as Backhus pitched a ground ball for Seth Beer to take to the first base bag himself.

Backhus was able to work around a single and walk in the top of the eighth to prevent the Travs from inching any closer to the lead. His offense was able to draw a couple of walks in the home half of the penultimate inning but the lead would stay at just three runs heading to the top of the ninth.

A one-out double was followed by a walk to send the potential tying run to the plate for Arkansas. After working ahead in the count 0-2, the Travs decided to gamble with one of the minors leading base-stealers in Jonatan Clase. The Mariners no. 8-rated prospect is tied for third in the minors in swiped bags this season with 61. A strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play cut down Clase trying to swipe third to end the ballgame - and the series.

Amarillo now heads south with a trip to San Antonio looming to face the Missions. After an off-day Monday, the team will begin their final 24 games of the regular season with a six-game series at Nelson Wolff Stadium beginning on Tuesday, August 22. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.


TIMMY TWENTY TANKS: Tim Tawa joined the 20-home-run club with a solo shot in the bottom of the second inning. The former Stanford Cardinal is just the fourth Sod Poodle to eclipse the 20+ home run mark in a single season, joining A.J. Vukovich in a tie for third. Tawa and Vukovich are also tied for the second-most home runs in the organization this season behind fellow teammate Ivan Melendez (30). Tawa finished the game 1-for-4 with a home run, RBI, two runs scored, and a walk. For the series, Tawa went 8-for-24 (.333) with two home runs, five RBI, eight runs scored, and five walks. He played in all six games of the series with three multi-hit efforts.

HECK OF A WEEK: Neyfy Castillo had a stellar week against the Arkansas Travelers. The outfielder went 11-for-23 (.478) with four home runs, two doubles, a triple, 14 RBI, eight runs, and two walks. He finished the series by going 3-for-4 with a home run, RBI, and two runs scored on Sunday.

RIF RAF: Making his first start with Amarillo and his first since June 23rd during a rehab appearance with the ACL D-backs, Raffi Vizcaino worked a season-high 3.0 IP during his spot start. He allowed just one hit and picked up two strikeouts for his outing. Over his last 13 appearances in Amarillo, Vizcaino has now worked eight scoreless appearances, allowing just 13 hits, and has 21 strikeouts over his last 18.2 IP, good for a 2.97 ERA since July 9th.

NEIN: Kyle Backhus worked the final 2.1 IP on Sunday en route to his team-leading ninth save of the season. His nine saves are also T-9th in Double-A, T-3rd in the Texas League, and most in the D-backs' farm system in 2023. The Southpaw has worked his last five appearances without a run coming against him. During the stretch, he is 1-0 with two saves and has allowed just four hits compared to 11 strikeouts over 8.1 IP. It's his fourth 5+ game streak without a run coming against him.

THAT'S QUITE RICE: Jake Rice earned the win after being the first man used out of the Amarillo bullpen on Sunday. He moved to 5-0 on the year and has worked four of his last five games without a run allowed. Over his last 7.1 IP, he has allowed just two runs - both of which came earlier this series on Tuesday - and still earned the save in that game. He has 13 strikeouts in his last five games, good for a 16.5 K/9 rate since August 8th.

FOUR SCORE AND JUST A DAY AGO: For the second straight game, Amarillo plated four runs in the game's opening inning. It was the 29th four-run inning by Amarillo this season. The Sod Poodles have scored 4+ runs in an inning 53 times this season.