Bouncing back on a windy night

Missions beat the Sounds, 5-3, to even series

(Reynaldo Holguin )

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | April 14, 2019 1:49 AM

Fans sat in the stands Saturday night, bundled up in sweatshirts and jackets against a cold wind out of the north.

A paper wrapper of some sort blew across the outfield grass at Wolff Stadium late in the game between the Nashville Sounds and the home-team San Antonio Missions.

It almost felt like a scene out of the 1960s at old Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Perhaps fittingly, native Californian Tyler Saladino hit two long, wind-aided home runs as the Missions snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Sounds, 5-3.

What's that? Wind-aided homers in the Missions' home stadium?

"From what I understand that doesn't happen very often here at the Wolff," first-year Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "So, it was a rare thing, and we took advantage of it."

After Andy Ibanez blasted a solo homer to center in the top of the second for Nashville, Saladino answered in the bottom half with a long, high-arc, two-run blast down the left field line to make it 2-1.

The lightning off Saladino's bat wowed a crowd of 5,027 fans and allowed Missions starter Burch Smith to settle in and pitch his second strong game of the season.

Smith blanked the Sounds and held them to only one hit the rest of the way, through six innings, to pick up his first victory.

"Feels great," said Smith, who allowed one run on three hits. "It's always great to win at home, for the hometown fans. More importantly, it was a great team win overall. You know, great hitting and some great defensive plays.

"Me and (catcher Jacob) Nottingham were on the same page all night. I thought he called a great game."

In the seventh, Saladino led off with a long solo shot to left-center, which carried on the fly to the top of the grass berm, to highlight a three-run uprising.

After Keston Hiura lashed a two-run double down the first-base line, the Missions had three runs in the inning and a 5-1 lead.

The Sounds got one run back in each the eighth and the ninth, but a bullpen that has been struggling held when it counted.

As a result, the Missions (6-4) evened the four-game series against the Sounds (3-7) at one win apiece leading into Game 3 on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. The finale is set for Monday at 11:05 a.m.

Coming into the ball park on Saturday, the Missions had lost two in a row for the first time this season.

They dropped a 6-3 decision to Memphis on Thursday and fell 7-3 to Nashville in the first game of the new home series.

Against Nashville, they had a 2-0 lead and two outs in the eighth when they collapsed, allowing five hits, making two errors and giving up seven unearned runs.

Saladino figured into the inning by misplaying a ground ball that could have cut off the rally.

By Saturday, he had forgotten about all of it.

Asked if he thought at all about the loss leading into Game 2 of the series, he responded with a straight face, 'I forgot about it until you just mentioned it."

Really?

"I hadn't thought about it once," he said, laughing.

Saladino said the way he approached handling the misfortune on Friday night and his preparation for Saturday underscores how he tries to play the game, in general.

"You don't want to be worrying about stuff in the past, especially when you're out there facing 95 (mph pitches) a couple of hours later," he said. "You got to turn the page."

Saladino said baseball players are forced into shutting out bad nights because of the hectic, day-to-day schedule.

"If, say, we weren't playing today, then, yeah, we'd probably still be thinking about it," he said. "But we got a brand-new game … a whole new day."

Missions notes

Smith, a 29-year-old San Antonio native who grew up in Tyler, improved to 1-0 with an 0.84 earned run average in two starts.

As the fifth starter in the Missions' rotation, he has thrown well, allowing five hits while striking out 13 in 11 innings.

The bullpen trio of Taylor Williams, Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Fields worked three innings -- one apiece -- and gave up two runs on four hits.

Jeffress, in what may have been his last outing before he goes back to the Milwaukee Brewers, pitched the eighth and yielded two wind-blown extra base hits, including a solo home run to Adam Moore.

But, he struck out two and hit 90-91 on the radar gun.

Sweet said he thinks the bullpen will be OK even though it entered the game with a 7.28 ERA and eight blown saves.

"We're going to get better out of our bullpen," the manager said.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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