Vince Moore has a theory, and it usually proves to be true. The Roadrunner manager compares his baseball team, or any one of them for that matter, to a family. The clan is given to ups and downs, grins and grimaces, and sometimes knock-down, drag-out brawls, in-house.
With his group having split the past 14 games and seen its lead in the ULB slip to 3.5 games over Amarillo, Moore decided to have a little, um, intervention as the ‘Runners bused home from a 1-3 trip at Laredo Tuesday night. Word is, he gave it to the guys pretty good, about hustling, staying together, doing their job, etc. Papa Moore had spoken.
So as the ‘Runners faced off with Rio Grande Valley Thursday to begin an 8-game homestand, there was more at stake at the Stadium than the average Thirsty Thursday jamboree. Badly needing a win to stop the slide and regain some confidence, the Family came through, with catcher Osiel Flores slamming a game-winning double in the 12th inning to rally his mates to an 8-7 victory and a 33-17 overall record.
All of a sudden, the lingering grumbles turned to elation in a moment, as the ‘Runners had come from behind for the second time and thrilled what was left of a record crowd of 5,317 on AT&T Night at the park.
“We gave it to them and they gave it back, so we’ll take it,” said Moore, whose bunch made four errors, including one from second baseman Wilmer Pino in the top of the 12th that handed the visiting WhiteWings a 7-6 lead. “As for what’s been going around here lately, well, as I say, it’s like a family. Guys are around each other every day, all the time, they’re going to get on each other’s nerves eventually. It’s just like a household, if your family was having fun all the time, something’s wrong! People disagree, it’s all about how you handle it.”
NICE AND ROUGH
They’ve dominated the league all year but no one can argue that the ‘Runners haven’t hit that inevitable rough stretch, and it hit the peak in Laredo, when they played poorly and lost three of four, leading to some internecine squabbles. That’s the way it goes in baseball when you’re losing, and conversely, winning seems to cure all ills and heal all rifts.
But to start Thursday, it seemed like same old, same old for a struggling club, as ace Wardell Starling allowed four runs in the first two innings. But he rebounded with a vengeance, pitching into the eighth and striking out six, at one point retiring 12 in a row through the middle frames.
Meanwhile, the Red Machine matched the Wings at 4-4 in the second with Felix Molina delivering a clutch two-run single. The two out-rally was begun by a new addition, shortstop Albert Gonzalez, who arrived from Coastal Bend Wednesday and beat out an infield hit in his debut at-bat to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
With a huge crowd thoroughly enjoying itself at the concession stands, it stayed knotted at four into the eighth. But then Starling tired and the Wings, losers of 10 straight to Edinburg this season coming in, scratched out a run thanks to a wild pitch and passed ball. RGV added another run in the top of the ninth off reliever Ric Serrano to lead 6-4.
Curtains time? Not exactly, as the eternally patient Robert Matlock coaxed a leadoff walk, and Carlos Hereaud followed with a single. With one out, Flores grounded out, moving runners to second and third, leading to a huge moment from utility man Melvin Perez.
The burly Dominican launched one that appeared to be headed for the darkness, but it smacked halfway up the wall in center, a prodigious double that tied the game again.
The home side could (should) have won it in the 11th, but Flores was thrown out at second trying to steal after a single, with the Edinburg bench erupting in derision at the call. Perez then slammed a hit that would have taken the cheese and Pino singled, but Molina made out, and it was on to the 12th.
At this juncture, there were more bugs buzzing around than rooters, as the night grew deathly still and brutally humid. Those who stayed were about to see some fireworks.
RGV regained the advantage at 7-6 off reliever Aaron Guerra and it was comeback time once again.
In the Edinburg 12th, infielder Wilson Batista fanned but reached base on a passed-ball third strike, hustling down the line and Moore had suggested all the players do during his bus-ride dressing down. Ambiorix Concepcion, the team leader in RBI, was 0 for 5 so far but stepped to the dish and popped a broken-bat single and the Runners were in business, Matlock then bunting the runners over.
Outfielder Vincent Blue, in his last game in the Valley after it was announced that he would be traded to Sussex (N.J.) Friday, hammered one down the line but first baseman Wil Baez of RGV made a super play to dive for the ball and tag the bag, a run scoring for a 7-7 count.
With two outs, Flores came up, having replaced starting catcher Alexis Hernandez in the seventh. He cracked one deep down the right-field line past Al Quiroz to become the hero of the hour.
“It was ugly but we needed it, so we’ll take it,” said an exhausted Moore afterward. “This might help us iron out some of the stuff that’s been going on. And look, this sort of thing happens with every team, but if you remain united as a family, you’ll be OK in the end.”
NOTES: Pino led a 13-hit attack with three safeties, while Perez and Molina drove home two runs each. Guerra got the win to rise to 3-1 for the season, though the Wings stole five bases on the night. Tim Haines (4-4) goes for the ‘Runners Friday night.