Rolling into Round Rock on a streak

Missions shut out Redbirds for sixth straight win

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | May 20, 2019 8:46 PM

The last time the Missions played the Round Rock Express, it was such a drizzly day at Wolff Stadium that the Puffy Taco probably needed an umbrella just to keep the moisture off the top of his tomato-shaped head.

After falling short with a ninth-inning rally, the Missions also experienced that rainy-day feeling themselves, losing 6-5 and squandering a chance to take over first place in the Pacific Coast League's American Southern Division.

Much has changed since that disappointing day on May 6 when the Express earned a split of the four-game series.

The Missions have since tied a season high with six straight victories to charge back to the top of the division standings, bumping Round Rock into second.

And now, on Tuesday night, they open a nine-day, 10-game road trip with the first of four in a row at Dell Diamond, the home of the Express.

Riding the five-hit shutout pitching of Burch Smith, Taylor Williams, Donnie Hart and Jay Jackson, the Missions beat the Memphis Redbirds 4-0 on Monday afternoon to sweep a five-game home series.

"Everybody's happy, especially -- for the whole homestand -- to play good baseball going into the next road trip," Missions slugger Tyler Saladino said. "Being that it's a day game right now, it's kind of a better feeling. We get to enjoy the rest of the day, before we head out to Round Rock."

Besides the pitching, the Missions also put on a late show of clutch hitting, with Saladino belting a pinch-hit, two-run homer to cap a three-run seventh.

Defensively, Nate Orf made a spectacular diving catch on the warning track of a wind-blown, ninth-inning drive off the bat of Ramon Urias.

Catcher Tuffy Gosewisch had a perfect view of one of the most eye-opening outfield plays of the season for the Missions.

"Off the bat, (Nate) thought it was a homer," Gosewisch said. "He just turned and ran and was trying to rob it. Then he turned around and realized the wind was coming (in) a little stronger than he expected. Just made a terrific recovery on that ball."

After Smith worked the first four innings, the Missions' bullpen took care of the rest of the chores on another hot and muggy day at Wolff.

"They all threw the ball well," Gosewisch said. "They threw the ball well and mixed it up. That's a good lineup they have over there, so, you know we have to pitch well against them. I thought we did the whole series.

"The main thing (today) was execution. They all executed when they needed to. We had some balls get caught that sometimes fall in. We made some good defensive plays, I thought. Things went our way today when they needed to."

Gosewisch himself played a key role in the shutout, blocking a ball thrown in the dirt by Williams and helping to choke off a Memphis rally in the sixth inning.

At the time, the Missions held a 1-0 lead, with Redbirds' runners at first and second.

If Williams' offering had skipped past Gosewisch for a wild pitch, it would have moved the potential tying run to third base and a possible go-ahead run to second.

But the 35-year-old former big-league catcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners executed perfectly, keeping it in front of him and forcing both runners to hold.

On the next pitch, Willliams threw a 95-mph fastball past Joe Hudson to end the inning and the threat.

When asked about the sequence, it seemed to touch off an emotional response from Sweet, a former big-league catcher himself.

"Tuffy is the ultimate professional baseball player," Sweet said. "He plays the game right. He's hard-nosed. I can catch him, and it could be freezing cold or 150 degrees out, and I know I'm going to get a max effort out of him all the time.

"He knows the game. He knows the importance of blocking certain balls in certain situations. He's always aware of what's going on in the game. It makes it very comfortable for me, when I'm managing on the side and I make a comment, and he's right there with me."

Gosewisch apparently made the most of a 7-day period earlier this month that he spent as an inactive player, when the Brewers were shifting personnel around.

"He was catching all our pitchers, making sure he stayed sharp," Sweet said. "Now he's back playing, and because of the hard work he put in before, he's doing very, very well."

PCL standings

American Southern Division - San Antonio 27-17, Round Rock 25-17, New Orleans 24-21, Oklahoma City 15-27

American Northern Division - Iowa 26-19, Memphis 21-23, Omaha 20-24, Nashville 16-26

Tuesday's matchups

7:05 p.m., at Round Rock - Thomas Jankins (2-1, 4.50) for San Antonio vs. Brady Rodgers (4-0, 3.22).

Round Rock update

The Express had lost three in a row at home to Nashville leading into Monday night's series finale in Round Rock.

Wilkerson honored

Missions starter Aaron Wilkerson has been named the PCL's Pitcher of the Week for May 13-19 after allowing one earned run in 10.1 innings over two appearances. He is the first Missions player to get a weekly honor in the PCL ... Reliever Jacob Barnes is expected to be activated Tuesday after coming down from Milwaukee.

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

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