Winning with three outfield standouts

Ray, Taylor, Stokes homer in Missions' victory

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | May 11, 2019 5:16 AM

Corey Ray supplied the thunder early, and then Tyrone Taylor and Troy Stokes Jr. added the lighting late on another stormy night at Wolff Stadium.

All three players hit home runs, as the Missions rallied for a 9-8, rain-delayed victory over the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

With the win, the Missions claimed a 3-1 lead on the Baby Cakes in an eight-game Pacific Coast League series that now shifts to New Orleans for four more games in four days, with the first set for Saturday night.

Naturally, rain is expected, as forecasts project an 80 percent chance for showers on Saturday and 90 percent on Sunday.

Then again, the Missions have gained so much experience at playing in the rain lately, it likely won't change their approach too much to see it again.

On each of the last two nights, rain has drenched the Missions, the Baby Cakes and the fans at Wolff.

Both nights, the Missions homered three times and won the game.

They did it with an additional flair on Friday, bouncing back from a four-run deficit to win for the fifth time in seven games that have been completed in the last six days.

Missions manager Rick Sweet characterized Taylor's homer as the spark.

"The guys battled back, obviously, with a huge pinch-hit home run (from Taylor)," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "That was the (ignition). It's like that just ignited the whole bench, especially with a guy as highly-thought of as he is."

With Ray, Taylor and Stokes all blasting homers, it was a big day for the parent-club Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers projected coming out of spring training that the outfield in Triple-A would be solid with those three players.

But with Ray and Stokes on the injured list for much of April, the Missions have been forced to piece together the outfield as best they can, utilizing other players better suited for the infield.

Now they're starting to see the potential come to fruition.

In the finale of an eight-game homestand, Stokes played for the first time in two weeks after dealing with cramping in his hamstrings. In addition, it was Ray's fourth straight game after sitting out for three weeks with a broken finger.

Ray admittedly was eager to hit a ball over the fence for the Missions, given that he had done it 27 times last year in Double-A.

Asked about his feelings after he clubbed a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the first, Ray acknowledged, "About time -- that's what everyone said."

"You know, you hope it comes a little sooner, but you get one out of the way, and you see what happens from here," he said.

Trailing by a run, New Orleans wasn't down for long.

The Baby Cakes seized the advantage with two runs in the third and three in the fourth for a 5-1 lead. The big blow in the fourth came on a two-run homer by former Brewers prospect Yadiel Rivera.

Not to be outdone, the Missions came to life in the seventh in dramatic style.

With two on, two out and two strikes on Taylor, he launched a three-run blast that hit off the top of the berm beyond the left field wall.

The blow pulled the Missions to within 5-4.

"That got everybody going," Stokes said. "That was a pinch-hit homer (on) a 2-2 count. It was definitely clutch. That got everybody fired up. It put us back in the ballgame, too, so, that was big."

In the Missions' five-run eighth, it was Stokes' turn to join the party - and he did. He jerked a ball on a 2-0 count, knowing when it left his bat that it would also leave the field of play.

When it did, his two-run homer lifted the Missions into an 8-6 lead. Ray added an RBI single to make it 9-6.

In the top of the ninth, a steady rain that had been lingering for a few innings started to come down harder.

Taking advantage of the situation, New Orleans' Deven Marrero and Ramirez opened the inning against Jay Jackson with back-to-back singles and then moved up when Jackson threw a wild pitch.

At that point, the umpires suspended play.

Even though the grounds crew pulled the tarp over the infield in a matter of minutes, it rained so hard that water began pooling on the outfield grass behind the dirt of the infield on the right side.

Determined to get the game in, the umpires re-started it after a 46-minute delay.

From the outset, New Orleans seized the advantage, with Bryan Holaday stroking the first pitch from reliever Jake Petricka into center to score two runs.

Next, Petricka retired two straight on ground balls. On one of them, Holaday moved up to second, but that was as far as he would get.

Missions reliever Donnie Hart ended the game when he got JT Riddle to pop up to right field.

Later, Stokes said he thinks the Missions can be a "dominant team" if all three outfielders can stay healthy, play together and gain some continuity.

"We'll definitely be a sight to see," said Stokes, a Gold Glove honoree who had 19 home runs and 19 steals last year for the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers.

So far, it's been hard to tell what the Missions will have in the threesome collectively because they have played together only a handful of times in 33 games.

"At full strength, I think we're a really, really good team," said Ray, who had 27 homers and 37 steals last year at Biloxi. "I think we do a lot of things well.

"I think me, Troy and Tyrone all being healthy and playing at the same time brings versatility to the lineup. (We have) guys that can hit the ball out of the ball park, guys that can steal a base. I think all three of us play really good defense.

"Having all three of us healthy makes us that much better."

Taylor made a name for himself on opening day by blasting a home run off Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who was making a rehabilitation start for Oklahoma City.

He's been struggling of late, hitting 3 for 21 on the homestand before his pinch homer.

"I gave him an off day and put him in to pinch hit the first time I had an opportunity," Sweet said. "He hit it a long way."

Homestand

After splitting the first four games against the Round Rock Express and then winning three of four from the Baby Cakes, the Missions produced a 5-3 record on the homestand.

Coming up

Saturday, 6 p.m. -- Jimmy Nelson (0-0, 8.10) for the Missions vs. Elieser Hernandez (1-1, 1.16) for the Baby Cakes, at New Orleans.

PCL standings

American Southern Division - Round Rock 21-13, San Antonio 20-15, New Orleans 18-17, Oklahoma City 11-22.

Heaven and hail

Rick Sweet isn't complaining about the weather in San Antonio. Compared to the weather he's seen at Colorado Springs over the past four seasons, he'll take South Texas.

"We had snow in June (in Colorado)," Sweet said. "(On) June 1 or 2, we'd have a snowstorm. Hail happened at any time. We've been hailed on…this is heaven (compared to Colorado)."

Nevertheless, last Friday, rain forced officials to stop the opener of an eight-game homestand against Round Rock after three and a half innings. In turn, it led to the scheduling of a continuation game, effectively creating a doubleheader, on Sunday.

On Monday, it rained for about half of the Game 4 series finale against Round Rock. In addition, it rained for much of both Thursday and Friday night's games against New Orleans.

The Missions won three of the four rain-affected games.

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

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