And so the Runners rested. After evening the series against Laredo at two games apiece Tuesday night in the finale, the team was headed home for an off day before beginning a crucial 8-game homestand at the Stadium.
Pedro Flores came through to salvage the series split, winning his 100th career game Tuesday with help from Kelly Casares, who earned his third save in a 3-1 victory. The win, coupled with Tim Haines’ outstanding outing Saturday night, gave the Roadrunners a 19-21 record coming back home, two games ahead of the RGV WhiteWings. The Wings will be waiting to rejoin the Valley battle with their neighbors from the west, Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
Haines (4-3, 2.65 ERA) struck out a Runner season high 13 batters and pitched the team’s first shutout of 2009 Saturday, and he leads the league with 56 Ks in 54 innings. Edinburg, still second in the loop with a 4.37 team ERA, has fanned 264 hitters this year, second in the ULB. This fact is worth remembering with the free-swinging Wings to visit soon. RGV is prone to the K in ’09, having struck out 316 times, the top mark among the six teams.
Veteran hacker Brian Nichols leads the way for an offense that hits .272 (Edinburg is at .267); he’s batted .344 so far with five homers and a healthy .516 slugging percentage. The other man to watch out for in the lineup is speedy Agustin Septimo, first in the league in triples with four, first in hits with 52, and currently hitting .311. Jonathan Poterson is second in the league with eight homers as the Wings have hit 25 bombs but have the least stolen bases in the league.
Edinburg meanwhile can counter with Robert Matlock (.315), right behind Septimo with 51 hits, and Carlos Hereaud, fifth in the ULB with 32 RBI, along with an average a tick over .300. Against a RGV staff that has control problems, expect the patient Runners (first in walks with 205) to take their time and work the hurlers and the count.
The Wings have the worst team ERA, at 5.37, but can bring the heat with some strikeout pitchers. Juan Diaz is their best arm, as he is 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA and 39 Ks. Sendy Vasquez is just 1-3 but has a solid 3.51 ERA; his downfall has been 22 bases on balls to match his 22 Ks so far. Juan Peralta (24 walks), Reymond Cruz (44 Ks, third in the league in 55 innings) and Julio Santana (nine saves, league best) round out the all-Latino pitching crew.
Haines has already beaten the Wings twice; in the first series he gained the only victory during a 4-game set at Harlingen June 24-27, beating Eddie Dennis’ squad 1-0 with late relief aid from Casares. Then, as the Runners swept their Valley rival four straight July 2-5, Haines enjoyed great run support for a 13-1 cruiser on July 4, a game in which catcher Cameron McGuire slammed a pair of homers.
The series with the Wings will be followed by four home tilts with Coastal Bend, and Vince Moore’s club looks to keep its home fires burning. Edinburg is 12-4 at the Stadium so far, but just 7-17 on the road.
“We know we can win here, we always play well at home,” said Moore during the last homestand. “But we have yet to be able to leave the Valley and win much. That has to change if we want to be in contention for a playoff spot.”
Edinburg heads out on the road again at the end of the month, with its first stop being San Angelo against the league-leading Colts, who are threatening to run away with the ULB title. The Colts were six games up on second-place Coastal Bend as of Wednesday.