Missions Bring the Rain Against the Rainiers

by Jose Bouquett

Missions Bring the Rain Against the Rainiers

“We’re not really competing against each other,” Tyler Saladino said. “But it makes it fun when stuff like this happens so we can go back-and-forth about it.”

On a night where howling winds made Wolff Stadium a pitcher friendly ballpark, the San Antonio Missions (42-26) score four in the seventh inning on the backs of two home runs from Saladino and Keston Hiura.

The game began with Missions’ starter Thomas Jankins squaring off with future hall of famer “King” Felix Hernandez in his first rehab start after injuring his lat on May 12th. Hernandez is familiar with Wolff stadium as he played for the AA San Antonio when he was 18 years-old in 2004. The 18-year-old went 5-1 with a 3.30 ERA with the Missions.

Prior to his injury, Hernandez joined the historic 2,500 strikeout club. There are only four other active pitchers that are a part of this hallowed club: CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Hernandez.

“It’s crazy seeing his name on the lineup card,” Jankins said. “That’s a guy I grew up watching and being a huge fan of. To be able to pitch against him today was a cool feeling.”

Not only would he pitch against him, the 23-year-old right hander went on and out pitch King Felix. Each pitcher managed a scoreless first, but Hernandez ran into trouble in the second inning. A leadoff bunt single from Cory Spangenberg turned into the first run of the game for the Missions. After hitting the next batter, Hernandez found himself with two men on and no outs. A double steal by Spangenberg and Saladino put the first run of the game 90-feet away. Troy Stokes Jr. converted for the Missions as his flyball to left field proved deep enough to score Spangenberg and give San Antonio the early 1-0 lead.

The situation quickly deteriorated for the Rainiers as Hernandez called for the trainers after the third batter in the third inning. According to the Seattle Mariners he left due to fatigue after 31 pitches. Initially Hernandez was scheduled for 50-55 pitches, but his early exit forced the Rainiers to turn to Tyler Cloyd who limited the damaged to only one run kept the game at a manageable 2-0.

Cloyd kept the Rainiers within striking distance by blanking the Missions for four straight innings. The offense responded by stringing together a single and a double from old man Jose Lobaton to cut the Missions lead in half.

A pitching duel formed after the early offense and Jankins shined for the Missions. He pitched six solid innings, only allowed three hits and one run. Jankins’ success allowed what Manager Rick Sweet once called the best bullpen he has ever had as a coach. Donnie Hart, Deolis Guerra and Miguel Sanchez pitched the last three innings and only allowed one hit.

“It’s a very good feeling,” Sweet said when asked about the emotions of having a stellar bullpen. “If you asked me who our closer is, I’d have to name five or six guys.”

The middle portion of the game was highlighted by the ejection of another former Mission. Rainiers head coach, Daren Brown coached the Missions in 2006 and was quickly tossed after the reversal of a hit by a pitch call.

The knockout blow was delivered by the Missions in the seventh inning. A one-out walk of Lucas Erceg brought up Hiura who would make the most of his opportunity. Hiura shot a line drive into the right center gap and seemingly snuck over the wall and bounced back into play. Hiura stopped his home run trot at second base because of the initial call of the ball being hit off the wall. A conference between the umpires quickly led to the reversal of the call and Hiura coming home to double the Mission lead.

The damaged continued by Spangenberg hitting his second single of the game allowing Saladino to match the contribution of Hiura. Saladino obliterated a ball 450’ feet and sent the sellout 7,560 fans in attendance into a frenzy.

These two home runs bolstered the Missions lead to a point that proved impossible for the Rainiers to overcome. The final reflected the series as a whole with the Missions winning 6-1 on the back of an excellent pitching performance and the long ball.

Game Notes:

  • The Missions sold out their fifth game of the season.
  • With the addition of two more home runs, the Missions hit 16 home runs in nine games.
  • Travis Shaw needs to be worried about how well Hiura is playing and how poorly his hitting has been.
  • Daren Brown’s ejection, that featured a thrown hat, is the Rainiers first since 5/10.
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