Coming through in the clutch once again

Hager's late RBI double lifts Missions past Cubs, 2-1

(Reynaldo Holguin )

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | July 3, 2019 2:57 AM

The late show, starring Jake Hager, was a must see for fans of the Missions on a breezy Tuesday night at Wolff Stadium.

Hager punched a one-out, RBI double to left field in the bottom of the eighth to score the winning run in a 2-1 victory over the Iowa Cubs.

"It's always nice to come off the bench and win it for the team," said Hager, who entered in the top half of the inning as a defensive substitute.

With his dramatics, Hager added to a burgeoning list of big moments this season.

The 26-year-old Nevada native slapped a go-ahead, pinch-hit triple in the top of the ninth on opening day at Oklahoma City to spark the Missions' first victory as a Triple-A franchise.

He added a walk-off single in a home victory over Round Rock on May 3.

The hit against Iowa may have been the biggest of all, considering that the Missions have been playing sub-.500 baseball over the past few weeks and needed something good to happen in the fourth game of a five-game series against a fellow division leader in the Pacific Coast League.

Hager, a ninth-year veteran in the minors, acknowledged that he relishes the opportunity to make a difference in key moments.

"That's what you play for," he said. "You want to be the hero every night, just having that mindset, just locking it in and really studying the pitcher before I get up there."

The eighth inning proved to be the most pivotal and inning in the game - and maybe in the series -- which is now tied 2-2 leading into Wednesday's 5:05 p.m. finale.

Iowa loaded the bases in the top half, but San Antonio reliever Taylor Williams ended the threat by blowing a fastball past Donnie Dewees for the strikeout.

In the bottom half, slumping Missions outfielder Tyrone Taylor led off against reliever Tim Collins with a single to left, only his second hit in the first eight games of the homestand.

Hager followed by ripping a ball deep to left. Landing near the fence, it bounced up, and then caromed back onto the field.

A ground-rule double call was a possibility, which would have stopped Taylor at third base, but it wasn't called and the play continued.

Consequently, Taylor raced around third and scored easily, much to the consternation of Iowa manager Marty Pevey.

With Taylor safe at home and the Missions leading by the eventual final score, Pevey bolted from the dugout to have a conversation with the officiating crew.

After he didn't get the umpires to see it his way, he was ejected.

Missions manager Rick Sweet was coy when asked what he saw when the ball bounced.

"I can't see that far," he said. "I tell you what a good part of it is, their players played it. That tells me it's in play."

Pitching prowess

Starting pitcher Burch Smith and relievers Deolis Guerra, Taylor Williams and Jay Jackson combined to throw a seven-hitter and shut down a team that had won six of its last seven games.

Top-notch defense was supplied by center fielder Trent Grisham, who ran down several fly balls on a windy night, and shortstop Mauricio Dubon, who robbed Taylor Davis of a hit in the seventh.

Also, first baseman Lucas Erceg had his moments, as well. He smothered the low throw on the end of Dubon's play.

Also, he stopped an Ian Happ chopper and made a nice flip to Jackson covering the bag for the last out.

Taylor's moment

Tyrone Taylor hasn't been swinging the bat with much success since he returned June 25 from a month on the injured list.

He was in a 1-for-21 slump on the homestand. In that regard, his base hit and the subsequent run scored in crunch time felt good.

"It always feels good to score a big run for the team like that, and especially to finally find the barrel (on the hit)," he said.

Sweet said he's confident that Taylor will come around with his bat.

"He's working very hard," Sweet said. "He's going to come out of it, and when he does, it's going to be unbelievable, because he's been set back for awhile. When he goes off, I'm going to put him in the lineup every night."

 PCL standings

American Southern Division -- San Antonio 52-33, Round Rock 50-34, New Orleans 46-39, Oklahoma City 34-49.

American Northern Division - Iowa 48-37, Omaha 38-47, Nashville 37-47, Memphis 35-50.

Note: Division winners in the American Southern and the American Northern meet in the first round of the playoffs.

Facing Colin Rea

Former Missions pitcher Colin Rea is expected to start the series finale Wednesday night for the Cubs. Rea pitched for the Missions in 2015 and 2018 when he was with the San Diego Padres.

With the Cubs, Rea made the PCL all-star team after producing a 9-2 record with a 3.27 earned run average. Rea will oppose Zack Brown of the Missions. Brown is 2-5 with a 5.94 ERA.

Calling on Drew Smyly

Former major league pitcher Drew Smyly is expected to join the Missions later this week in New Orleans, Sweet said.

''It gives us a starter we need," Sweet said. "We've been short a starter for awhile."

The Missions close out the homestand on Wednesday against Iowa. They'll open a four-game series at New Orleans on Thursday.

Released by the Rangers

Smyly, 30, was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers on June 20.

He was 1-5 with an 8.42 ERA in 13 games with Texas after not pitching in the majors the past two seasons.

Smyly, who had Tommy John elbow surgery in July of 2017, has compiled a 32-32 record with a 4.13 ERA in 169 appearances in the majors.

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

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