It’s been a season of streaks for the Roadrunners, who started their return year to town with four wins, later lost nine of 11, and recently swept four from the RGV WhiteWings. Friday the team bested Coastal Bend, 7-4, behind a strong outing from lefty Miguel Martinez, beating the Thunder club that had taken three of four when the two met earlier in the week, in Robstown.
For the Runners, 14-15 now and in fourth place, the key early blow was a three-run homer from Carlos Hereaud in the first, after Martinez had worked his way out of trouble in the opening half-frame at the Stadium.
In fact, all the Edinburg damage off CB starter Zach Beal came with two out and nothing doing. Bryon Smith drew a walk (nine for the night, as the team is second in the league in plate patience) and newcomer Hunter Owen singled sharply to left. Then Hereaud blasted one out of the park, just the 12th bomb of the season for Edinburg, for a 3-0 lead.
Earlier, Martinez, who ended up going 7 1/3 innings and retiring 13 of 15 at one point, allowed two singles and a walk in the first before bearing down to get the last two outs and escape unscathed.
From there, the jangly lefty gave his best effort of 2009, shutting out Coastal Bend (last in the loop in hitting and homers) while his mates added two in the second and single tallies in the fifth and sixth. Keeping the Thunder hitters off kilter with a nasty change and slurve, he surrendered three hits total before tiring in the late stages.
By then, an RBI walk from Smith and a run-scoring single from Owen (2 for 5 for the Millsaps College grad who is originally from Mississippi) made it 5-0. The team stretched its lead to 7-0 on a sacrifice fly by Vincent Blue in the fifth and an RBI single from Osiel Flores a frame later.
Smith made a couple of sweet fielding plays at first, one in the third and the other in the ninth, after Coastal Bend had narrowed the gap to three and threatened to come all the way back.
In the third, Smith ranged nearly into the first-base dugout to snare a foul pop. Down the stretch, he completed a double play by reaching a wide throw from Hereaud on a double-play ball and tagging the runner going by. He sustained a jammed finger on the play and is day to day.
The solid start from Martinez followed an equally effective stint from Tim Haines in the final game of the road series against the Thunder, which the UTPA ex lost 1-0 despite giving up just six hits in seven innings Thursday.
“I take the blame for the game being so close,” said manager Vince Moore, who thought he might have left Martinez in a bit too long. “He gave us a great outing, and he was over 100 pitches for the game, but I left him in.”
In the eighth that Moore spoke of, Martinez (2-2 now, he struck out seven) gave up a pair of walks and exited with one out, in favor of lefty Bryan Martin. The usually reliable reliever (2.40 ERA in 15 innings coming in) walked in two as the Thunder plated three, and on came Kelly Casares, who got out of a bases-loaded situation and ended up with his second save after finishing in the ninth.
The tone of the game was set when the Runners avoided disaster in the first and then rebounded for the three-spot with Hereaud’s third dinger of the season. He now has a team-best 26 RBI in 29 games.
“That was a perfect time to get a home run,” said Moore. “I think this team was due for the long ball, we’re right on the edge of breaking out, so Carlos hitting one for us is a good sign.”
NOTES: Moore juggled the infield a bit, with Hereaud at short, regular SS Angel Reyes at third, and Eric Gonzalez at second.
The Friday night crowd was late arriving, and maybe ended up at 1,000. The team has drawn 1,700 a night to the Stadium, third in the league and a notch below the ULB average of 1,900 a shot.
Former Coyote catcher Eddie Wilson was in attendance, touting his Valley Baseball Academy, a teaching and coaching group going strong this year. Wilson and Co. were to host a skills clinic and a tryout camp for players 16 and under Saturday at the Stadium.
Catcher Cameron McGuire, who has seen some playing time lately, including a two-homer night last week, has the haircut of the year. His shaggy Mohawk cut looks like something straight out of “Taxi Driver,” but at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, he probably isn’t going to get any “You talkin’ to me?” cracks from his teammates…that is, if any of the guys are old enough to remember Robert DeNiro’s classic role as Travis Bickle in the 1976 film.