The Missions defeated Midland 4-3 Monday night at Wolff Stadium with both teams playing National League-style baseball scoring four of the game’s seven runs on sacrifice flies.
San Antonio starter Manny Ayala walked Todd Donovan in the first inning, who was looking for his 300th minor league steal once he got on base. Donovan took off on the first pitch but was gunned down by a perfect throw by David Parrish.
In the bottom of the inning, the Missions then put the pressure when Chad Huffman doubled off Midland starter Josh Outman to put runners at second and third. Kyle Blanks picked up his 61st RBI of the season when his groundout scored Josh Alley to put the Missions up 1-0.
The next inning was the undoing of Outman when he couldn’t find the strike zone, walking the seventh and ninth hitters of the lineup. Gabriel Lopez hit a rocket to left field, scoring Baxter easily and bringing in Johnston after an Aaron Cunningham error on the play.
Ryan Webb was brought in to relieve Outman, but allowed Alley a single that loaded the bases with one out. The Missions let him off the hook as both Huffman and Blanks couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, allowing Midland out of the inning with only minimal damage.
With a 3-0 lead in the third inning, Ayala allowed singles the first two batters. A sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position, and Aaron Cunningham got the first run on the board for Midland with a sac fly to deep left field. The threat ended when Ayala caught Donovan leaning at second base, picking him off easily.
“He’s a burner so I knew he’d be going. That was a huge out, I really needed that one” said Ayala.
Ayala put them down in order in the fourth, but was in trouble in the fifth when he again allowed the first two hitters to reach base. A sac bunt attempt turned into a bases loaded situation when Ayala bobbled the ball and got no out on the play. The Rockhounds scored twice on sac flies to tie the game before Ayala got Tommy Everidge looking at a perfectly placed fastball on the outside corner for the third out.
Consecutive singles in the sixth from Blanks and Cooper put runners at first and third for the Missions, with Mike Baxter bringing in the eventual winning run with yet another sac fly.
Missions pitchers didn’t allow another base runner after the 5th as Ayala retired the bottom of the sixth in order before Masse pulled him in favor Mauro Zarate. Zarate pitched two scoreless innings before Greg Burke came in to close out the game in the ninth.
Ayala picked up his fifth win of the season, using 83 pitches over six innings where he allowed only two earned runs. The win allowed the Missions to solely occupy second place in the South division, and are now up two games over third place.
“It’s going to come down to the wire between us and Midland, so any win we can pick up against them is big,” said Ayala.