Winning again with power hitting

Homers carry Missions past Rainiers, 6-1

(Reynaldo Holguin )

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | June 15, 2019 3:46 AM

Watching Keston Hiura's progress as a baseball player is a little like reading the first chapter of a great adventure novel.

It's exhilarating, and you can't stop turning the pages, because you know it's going to get better.

The Hiura saga took on a few new dimensions Friday night as the Missions backed the strong pitching of Thomas Jankins and defeated Felix Hernandez and the Tacoma Rainiers, 6-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 7,560 at Wolff Stadium.

Hiura notched two hits for the game and belted a two-run homer to spark a four-run seventh inning.

It was the third home run in two nights for the 22-year-old prodigy, who has hit five round-trippers in nine games since the Milwaukee Brewers sent him back to Triple-A.

Also for the second night in a row, Tyler Saladino supplied thunder to Hiura's lightning with a home run in the same inning as his young friend.

While Hiura's homer glanced off the top of the right field wall, the 29-year-old Saladino smashed a high drive to the back reaches of the grass berm.

Both shots victimized reliever Tyler Cloyd and secured for the Missions to a 2-1 series victory over the Rainiers.

Both managers lauded the play of Hiura, who has ripped 21 home runs in 63 games combined between the minors and the majors.

Tacoma manager Daren Brown managed Hiura in the Arizona fall league last year, so he isn't surprised at what he's seen in the last 48 hours.

"I know what he's about," Brown said. "I know he's a really good hitter. He's a really good player. It's just a matter of time for him. I know he's had a little taste of (the majors) this year. It won't be long before he's back there. I mean, he's a special kind of guy.

"I saw it in the fall league. He can really hit. There's really not any holes to what he does (at the plate)."

Hiura seems to be capitalizing on the use of a more lively major league ball in Triple-A for the first time this season.

In 2018, in leagues that employed a less lively minor-league ball, he hit 13 home runs combined between Class A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. This year, he is on a pace to hit more than 40.

"It's impressive," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "It's very, very impressive."

Even though the victory in the finale felt good for the home crowd, it also had a strange feel to it for long-time followers of the ball club.

It was sad for many to see one-time Seattle Mariners ace and former Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez struggle in 2 and 1/3 innings of a rehabilitation start.

The 33-year-old Hernandez, who pitched in San Antonio as a teenager in 2004, left the game in the third with his future in baseball uncertain.

After planning to throw between 55 and 60 pitches, he threw only 31 and exited without talking to the media.

"I don't think it was anything that was hurt," Brown said. "It was just fatigue. It was his first rehab outing. So, he said his shoulder, it felt like it got tired and (he) couldn't finishes pitches. If you look at what he did, hitting a couple of right-handed hitters with off-speed pitches, that kind of says that.

"He just kind of wasn't able to follow through with what he wanted to do."

Officially, Hernandez pitched 2 and 1/3 innings and yielded two runs on two hits. He walked one and struck out two.

Hernandez has been on the injured list since May 12. On May 14, the Mariners announced that the former six-time All-Star had a Grade 1 lat strain and would be out between four to six weeks.

It's a major concern for the Mariners that he hasn't been able to get past a series of injuries and setbacks over the past four years.

Most fans in San Antonio recall a mid-90s fastball when he was younger, which turned into 97 and 98 mph heat during his hey-day. Hernandez hit no more than 89 Friday on the scoreboard readings.

Missions players were happy to learn that no injury was reported and hat his earlier than expected departure was tied only to fatigue.

"That'll happen when you throw as many innings as he has, as many complete games as he has, all those thing he's done over his really long and successful career," Saladino said. "So, it's one of those things. You can't play forever. But I wish he best for him."

PCL standings

American Southern Division - San Antonio 42-26, Round Rock 40-27, New Orleans 37-31, Oklahoma City 27-39.

Pacific Northern Division - Sacramento 35-32, Fresno 33-34, Tacoma 32-26, Reno 29-38.

Coming up

Reno at San Antonio, four games, Saturday through Tuesday.

Petricka traded

The parent-club Milwaukee Brewers on Friday traded minor league reliever Jake Petricka to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named or for cash considerations.

Petricka played most of the season for the Missions and established himself as one of the team's top pitchers out of the bullpen.

The 31-year-old right-hander was 1-1 with a 1.89 earned run average and three saves. In 19 innings, he struck out 22 and walked four.

Petricka had given up zero earned runs in 12 and 2/3 innings over his last 10 appearances.

Home run leaders

Hiura ranks tied for seventh in the PCL with 16 home runs. Saladino has hit 14 homers and has driven in 51 runs on the season, good for sixth in the league.

Getting established in Triple-A

Thomas Jankins, who started the season in Double-A, keeps improving as a starting pitcher. In his last four starts, he's 3-0 with a 2.38 earned run average. He shut down Tacoma on one run and three hits in six innings.

"You just try and make small improvements every time out there," Jankins said. "There's always something to be learned from every outing. We've got a good group of catchers here that really work with you a lot, where they thin you can be successful, areas you can improve.

"I think we've made some incremental changes throughout the year."

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

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