Taking the all-star stage

Jackson, Freitas set for Triple-A game in El Paso

(Reynaldo Holguin )

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | July 5, 2019 2:06 PM

Missions fans like to stand and cheer as loudly as possible whenever reliever Jay Jackson gets to two outs and two strikes in a ninth-inning save opportunity.

They erupt again when he snaps off a devastating breaking pitch to end the game.

Likewise, the fans also love to roar their approval whenever David Freitas drives in runs with an extra-base hit in a close game.

Coming off big-time individual performances in the first half of the season, both Jackson and Freitas are scheduled to represent the Missions and the Pacific Coast League on Wednesday night at the RMHC Triple-A All-Star Game.

The PCL stars will play a team from the International League in the 32nd annual game, which is set for Southwest University Park in El Paso.

Both Jackson, 31, and Freitas, 30, are playing in their first season in the Milwaukee Brewers' minor-league system.

After three seasons in Japan, Jackson signed with the Brewers in February. Freitas arrived on April 14 via a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

"They've had very good years," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "I think they're both major league players that have had time (in the big leagues). They're quality baseball players, and they've had great years. They're very deserving.

"David, offensively, and Jay, pitching-wise, have done a great job for us."

The Missions had four players selected to play in the game, but two of them - Keston Hiura and Tyler Saladino - later were promoted to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In discussing his third, mid-season, all-star appointment and his first since 2013, Jackson traced it to the team's success.

"It's nice," Jackson said of the honor. "It's a good thing to have, to have on the mantel, I guess. It really just shows how good our team is.

"I mean, to have four guys and lead the selections, it shows you how good our team's been playing and what we've been able to accomplish."

As one of the PCL's best closers, Jackson had produced a 4-2 record and a 1.04 earned run average.

In addition, he's converted seven of eight save opportunities. A dynamic power pitcher, Jackson has 50 strikeouts in 34 and 2/3 innings.

Freitas, from Wilton, Calilf., is hitting .359 for the season and .366 for the Missions. For the season, he's third in the PCL in average, and he has 75 hits, including 16 doubles, with 47 RBI.

For Freitas, the all-star selection is his fourth and his first since 2012.

"I think it's an honor," he said. "You know, we just go out and play the game. But if people are saying that (I'm an all-star) -- they get to vote on it, too - that makes it pretty special. My family and I are honored to be selected to play in this game."

Freitas has earned it with his ability to put the ball in play.   

Even though he's been consistent at the plate all season, he really turned it on during the team's season-high, seven-game winning streak from June 13-20.

In that stretch, his bat was ablaze, as he hit .450 on 9 of 20 at the plate.   His hits included four doubles and a home run. As a result of his binge, he scored seven runs and drove in seven more.

Freitas said it's fun to come to the ball park to play for a winning team.

"You know, obviously (it is)," he said. "If we switched it around and we were at the bottom (of the standings), it would kind of be like we're playing to not get crushed. But here, we're playing to stay on top.

"I know Round Rock's pretty close (in the standings). It's just that, going out there and getting 'Ws' is a lot more fun. Then you can eventually see playoffs in the future, and you take it from there."

Freitas said he definitely wants to catch Jackson in the all-star game.

"I was actually talking to JJ about it," he said. "I asked him, 'You definitely got to throw to me, right? That's kind of how it works? Right?'

"So, yeah, I'm hoping I get to catch J.J. because he's from (the Missions). He's from the (Brewers) organization. He's been throwing a lot to me. He's one of the few guys I have caught."

Jackson has been on top of his game all year.

His first big moment in front of the home fans came in the team's first home series, on April 10, when he struck our Memphis' Yairo Munoz to choke off a rally in the top of the ninth.

His effort ended the threat and led to a San Antonio comeback victory, with Mauricio Dubon getting the game-winning hit on a walkoff single.

Thus, Jackson earned the win in relief and started to build on his popularity with the fans. Later in April, the Brewers called him up to the major leagues, but he didn't stick.

After less than a week, he was back down in the minors.

"You take it with a grain of salt," Jackson said. "I'm not in control of what moves they make up there. But I really feel like if I would have had more time to stay up there, I could have helped the team a lot more. I could have put a better foot forward than I did.

"You know, I pitched three out of four days when I was up there. And they gave me a shot. You know, I didn't really struggle. But I didn't get as comfortable as I would have liked and the amount of time I would like to be out there."

When Jackson returned to the Missions, he continued his dominance, producing scoreless streaks of six and eight appearances out of the bullpen.

On the Missions' last homestand, on July 2, he had the crowd on its feet again as he struck out the side in the ninth to preserve a 2-1 victory against the Iowa Cubs.

It was his eighth straight game of holding an opponent without an earned run, and it continued to raise eyebrows because of the way he toyed with Cubs hitters.   

Against either the fastball or the breaking pitch, the Cubs didn't have much of a chance. Freitas said Jackson's breaking ball sets up his fastball, and vice-versa.

"He has a little changeup that you don't get to see that much," Freitas said. "He throws it every once in awhile. But with his mid-90s fastball - that (one has) got a little giddy-up on it. The slider is great, but they play off each other so well."

In a recent interview in the Missions' clubhouse, Freitas was told what Jackson had said about his teammates. About how he thinks everyone has helped him achieve his all-star status.

"He's a good dude," Freitas said. "He gets after it. And it obviously shows on the field."




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

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