The San Antonio Missions capped off one of their most successful months in team history by earning a series split against the Omaha Storm Chasers. (Side Note: Storm Chasers is a sweet team name. Shout out to the Royals and Omaha)
The first their four-game set featured the Missions transforming into their Flying Chanclas alter ego to disappointing results. Coming into the series, the Missions were on a six-game winning streak and had won 13 of 16 games.
Missions starter, Zack Brown, and Chasers starter, Scott Blewett, both cruised through the first inning but, ran into some sloppy play in the second. The Chasers took advantage of a one-out walk issued by Brown to former first round pick, Bubba Starling.
The problems only grew from there as an error from MLB rehab Travis Shaw put a second guy on the Chasers. After a line drive out and a single from Nick Dini that loaded the bases; Jake Hager committed the second error of the inning for San Antonio and gave the Chasers an early 1-0 lead.
Their lead did not last long as Troy Stokes Jr. launched a pitch into orbit over the left field wall and quickly tied the game back up at 1-1. All was silent until the fifth inning for both teams as the Chasers took a lead that they would not relinquish.
After a leadoff strikeout, Erick Mejia singled followed by a Cheslor Cuthbert double that put the Storm Chasers up 2-1. Starling returned to haunt the Missions again as he doubled home Cuthbert to extend their lead to 3-1.
The Missions did not go down quietly as they responded by scoring a run in the sixth curtesy of an error by Cuthbert. But the Missions were not able to complete the comeback as they left nine runners on base for the game and were shut down in the 9th inning by lefthanded closer Richard Lovelady (AKA Dick Lovelady).
Missions manager Rick Sweet did not use the teams rigorous travel schedule as an excuse for their poor performance. “When they talk about how much this game is mental, that’s what it is.” Sweet said. “When they say it’s a marathon it’s three hours sleep and maybe catching another hour on the plane… They do not do this in the big leagues. They have chartered planes, they have filet mignon, they have busses, they have off-days. Everybody goes through this, it’s a part of being in the minor leagues.”
Zack Brown was a bright spot in a sloppy game for the Missions as he went 5 and 1/3rd innings, seven hits, three runs and only two of them runs earned.
“I was very happy; it was one of his better games. His last three or four games have progressive gotten better… When you start the season here (triple-A) and you’ve never been here it can be very difficult. It takes a little time; his last three outings have definitely progressed upwards.”
Final Score 3-2 Storm Chasers.
Game two starter Aaron Wilkerson left his finger prints all over the Missions 3-0 victory. Wilkerson has proven to the Missions that he can be an elite pitcher, it’s only a matter of time until the Brewers realize.
In front of a sea of burnt orange jerseys, Wilkerson had his longest outing of the season and earned himself the lowest ERA in a month for a Missions pitcher with at least 25 innings pitched. Friday night Wilkerson went seven innings of shutdown baseball and was almost perfect.
The one hiccup came in the second inning after Wilkerson lost control and walked two batters to open the inning but then rebounded and extended his scoreless inning streak to 13 and 2/3rds innings.
The offense was mainly absent for the Missions besides the Mayor of Ding Dong City, Travis Shaw. Shaw, rehabbing from a wrist injury, was sent down to San Antonio to recover and gain his timing back before heading back to Milwaukee.
Any doubts of his readiness to return was erased as saw reached base on all four plate appearances including two singles and 426-foot piss missile to extend the Missions lead to 3-0. Shaw scored every run in the Missions win and was happy about his time in San Antonio.
“In the first series in Round Rock, I experimented with things. Really the whole time I’ve been down here I’ve been playing around with different trigger points and trying not to focus on the result too much.” Shaw said. “We found a trigger point today that kept me where I need to be and it’s kind of been the purpose of being down here”
Sweet was pleased with his starting pitchers’ performance, “It’s not like a light switch,” Sweet said, clicking a switch on and off in his office for emphasis. “Either you are (mentally tough) or you aren’t. He’s always (that way). He doesn’t throw 95 or 98 (mph). He knows how to pitch. He goes out. He competes. He stays with his game plan.”
This win on the last day of May gave San Antonio 20 wins in the month, a mark that few teams have reached in Missions history.
Final Score 3-0 Missions.
The momentum swung back in favor of the Storm Chasers in game three by via an early barrage of runs.
The Chasers came out firing off of Missions starter Burch Smith. Back-to-back three runs innings highlighted by a three-run home run from Nick Dini in the top of the second. Dini, who left injured on May 22, commented on the bizarre nature of his injury.
“Last week, we had a doubleheader and I was catching game two of a doubleheader,” Dini said. “The first batter of the game – I’ve never seen it before — three foul balls off my face. Back to back to back. Foul balls off the mask.”
“I tried to stay in, but our manager did the right thing and came and got me. I was a little banged up, but I feel good now. I’m healthy and I’m happy to be back.”
The Chasers sat on their laurels and cruised to an easy victory against the first place Mission.
Final Score: 7-2 Chasers
The final game in the series took place Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd that conveniently dressed as seats.
Thomas Jankins took the mound for the Missions and did not inspire confidence in the first inning. First basemen Samir Duenez opened up the scoring for the Chasers with a two-RBI single and giving them an early 2-0 lead.
The Missions would not go quietly into that good night as David Freitas’ Sacrifice ground-ball cut the Omaha lead in half. This was only the beginning for the Missions offense as a five-run fourth inning clinched the game for the Missions.
Travis Shaw led off the inning with a full-count walk and would come around to score off a Cory Spangenberg single. The hit parade continued as Troy Stokes Jr. doubled to score Orf and Spangenberg to give the Missions their first lead of the game.
The cherry on top of the Sunday for the Missions would come in the form of another double from Jake Hager to score two more runs extend their lead to 6-2.
Errors punctuated the afternoon for the Chasers as they committed four when the dust settled. The last of which allowed Orf to score from third base after an errant throw from catcher Xavier Fernandez.
The Chasers did not respond until the eighth inning when Starling managed to sneak a ball by the diving body of Stokes in left field. Starling legged out a triple and ended the scoring for the series.
Final Score: 8-3 Missions