One by one, they offered their take on the team turnaround, some stressing pitching, others timely hitting. And others, well almost all of them, pointed to certain habits and trends that have gotten the Roadrunners smashing along on a 7-game winning streak.
Before they went out and smacked Laredo 4-2 Sunday for win No. 7 in the streak, Eric Gonzalez suggested that it might be the shirts.
“A bunch of pitchers, they decided that we had to wear Hawaiian shirts every Sunday afternoon before the games, so I had to go out and get one,” said the suddenly surging outfielder, who has his average up near .240 after a somewhat dismal season at the plate. “And when we were in San Angelo, Ossie (Flores, the catcher) bought a sword at a pawn shop . . . he’s had that thing in the dugout, so maybe it helped.”
Sunday night, the Runners were loose, befitting a group that has turned it on at the right time. They were flinging a Frisbee around the outfield at Edinburg Baseball Stadium, sharing some laughs, and seemed at home, which was natural; they have been nearly unbeatable at the Stadium in 2009, and came off a 4-game Valley sweep of Amarillo.
Cameron McGuire slammed a three-run homer in the third to support another fine outing from lefty Miguel Martinez (5-4 now, he had 9 K’s Sunday), and the burly backstop noted that sometimes, a team has to reevaluate its approach to the game.
“We have gotten it going at the right time and I think it has had to do with how we think,” said the catcher, who leads the team with five round-trippers. “When we were going bad there for awhile, I think we were too serious, we stopped having fun. You have to keep in mind that it’s a kid’s game we’re playing, something we all love. Once we relaxed a little, everything fell into place.”
McGuire made sure his only hit of the night fell into place, over the left-field fence, as he redirected a slider the other way for all the runs the Runners would need.
“I saw it well, I kind of knew it was coming, it was the only time I got a good piece all night as it turned out,” he said. “When I hit it, I knew it was gone, I just put my head down and started trotting.”
The Runners have now allowed just eight runs in their last six games, as the mound staff has come up big with the season in the balance. Edinburg now has a firm lock on second place in the ULB behind San Angelo, and that’s huge.
“We have to make sure to get second so we can start out with two games at home in the playoffs,” said veteran Pedro Flores, who added that for six games now, the Runners have carried what they call “squares,” or unlit cigarettes, into the dugout. They don’t smoke them; they just puff the opponent away.
Everything is clicking right now for the ball club, as they prepare to hold in to second and plan for the postseason. It’s been a combination platter these days, hitting and pitching in tandem with some well-placed quirks.
“Hell yeah, I’m excited about what we’ve been doing,” said Gonzalez, who has been around long enough to know that habits and superstitions, while they may seem silly to the outside observer, can carry a team a long way. “I knew these guys had it in them, we just had to find the groove. Now that we have it, we have to keep it.”