ROUND ROCK, Texas - Memphis fell apart late in the first game and never got the offense going in the nightcap of the doubleheader, as Round Rock swept the twinbill at the Dell Diamond on Monday night.
The Express scored five unanswered runs over the final three innings in the first game to complete an extra-inning, walk-off 5-4 win. The home team rode the momentum into the doubleheader finale, putting up a three-run victory for a 6-3 final. The pair of wins catapult Round Rock (61-56) past Memphis (60-57) for sole possession of second place in the American Southern Division.
Carlos Martinez, who was optioned back to Memphis on Friday, made his first start in a Redbirds uniform since August of 2013 in the opener. The hard-throwing right-hander went 4.1 innings without allowing a run. The Express managed three hits off him, fanning four times and walking once. Unfortunately for Martinez, he failed to make it out of the fifth and took a no-decision.
The Redbirds offense struck first for the fourth straight game in the series, pounding out four runs in the opening frame for the second consecutive game. Tommy Pham led off with a single and Stephen Piscotty followed with the same two batters later. After the pair successfully executed a double steal, Scott Moore stepped in and drove them both in with an opposite field home run.
The lead expanded when Audry Perez and launched a solo home run in the next at-bat. It was the first time the 'Birds had gone back-to-back this season, giving Moore his 14th longball of the year and Perez his 4th on the season. With four totals hits in the inning, the advantage was 4-0.
Round Rock finally broke through off reliever Jorge Rondon in the sixth. Rondon had worked his way out of a jam Martinez had gotten into during the fifth inning, but could not repeat that success in the next frame. Tommy Telis and Geovany Soto hit back-to-back RBI doubles and cut the Redbirds lead in half at 4-2.
The two-run lead was not enough for Eric Fornataro, who surrendered two runs and blew the save for the second straight night. Jared Hoying highlighted the two-run seventh with a run-scoring single up the middle to even things at 4-4.
The Express carried it into the 8th when Soto unloaded a ball that landed over the right field wall for a walk-off home run. It was the catcher's first homer of the season and it handed left-hander Pedro Feliciano his fifth loss in 2014.
Memphis threatened in several innings, but was just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left a runner standing at third to end an inning on two separate occasions. It was their first defeat in a doubleheader game since June 18 when they fell 9-8 at Salt Lake.
The nightcap seemed to be all Round Rock from the start. They tacked on three runs in the second, capped by a two-run home run from Bryan Petersen. Brent Lillibridge added an RBI in the fourth and the Express were coasting along with a 4-0 lead.
The Redbirds grabbed a run in the fifth courtesy of Pham's second longball in his last four games. It was the outfielder's eighth of the season and it broke the Round Rock shutout. The inability to score with runners in scoring position again hurt Memphis in the loss, going 2-for-8 in the situation.
Both of those hits came in the seventh inning when Memphis started the frame with four consecutive singles, slicing the deficit to 6-3. Pham, Grichuk, Moore and Xavier Scruggs strung together the hit, but the rally would end when the Express turned a doubleplay and got a game-ending groundout.
Nick Greenwood took the loss, allowing three runs in three innings. Right-hander Zach Petrick also had trouble against the division-rival, surrendering three runs in three frames. Express reliever Ben Rowen earned his third win with 3.1 innings and three runs.
The series concludes tomorrow with a 7:05 pm finale at the Dell Diamond. The 'Birds will send out John Gast (3-2, 4.99) and the Express will counter with left-hander Edwar Cabrera (1-1, 5.40).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.