During the second half of Texas League play, the pitching has laid the foundation for the success of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, and Wednesday night's game against the Midland RockHounds epitomized why.
But it was power which finished the building at Hodgetown.
As has been the case for the last month, the Sod Poodles got their usual strong pitching performance from both their starters and relievers. That kept them afloat until their offense got untracked in the seventh inning, as A.J. Kennedy and Edward Olivares both hit home runs to give them the lead for good in a 4-3 victory.
It was the sixth straight victory for the Sod Poodles (65-55) over Midland (59-62) and their fifth series win in their last six, as the final game is Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Jesse Scholtens threw six strong innings but got a no decision, Blake Rogers threw two innings of relief to get the win and David Bednar, who's been as automotic as anybody for the Sod Poodles, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth innings for his 12th save.
"The starting pitching always sets the tone," Sod Poodles manager Phillip Wellman said. "Jesse gave up those two homers but they were solo shots. That's the way you get to win here."
Scholtens gave up a solo bomb to Edwin Diaz to lead off the second and another one to Taylor Motter in the fourth as the RockHounds took a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Sod Poodles did next to nothing at the plate for the first five innings.
Midland starter Grant Holmes retired the first 10 hitters before hitting Ivan Castillo and walking Olivares with one out. Owen Miller was then called out looking on a strike which was high and inside, something which elicited a strong enough reaction from Wellman to earn him his third ejection of the season.
Holmes left after five innings, giving up only one hit. Midland reliever Trey Cochran-Gill was far less of a mystery, as Castillo greeted him with a double then scored on Miller's groundout to cut the lead to 2-1.
Rogers relieved Scholtens in the top of the seventh and walked two of the first three hitters he faced, and Mikey White's RBI single made it 3-1, but that was all Rogers surrendered.
"We were holding Blake back yesterday (when the Sod Poodles finished a rain delayed game and played a regularly scheduled one) because we knew we'd need him today," Wellman said. "He hadn't pitched in five days and that's never good for a reliever. He walked a couple of guys and after that he was all right."
Two pitches into the bottom of the inning, the Sod Poodles came alive against Cochran-Gill. Kennedy, the team's No. 2 catcher, hit his first home run at Hodgetown and his second of the season to cut the lead to 3-2.
It was a big night for Kennedy, who went 3-for-4 and fell a triple short of the cycle.
"I knew when I hit it it was gone," Kennedy said. "I really got excited when I went around the bases and the lights went on and off. I don't get to play every day and I try to make the most of it when (Wellman) calls on me."
Peter Van Gansen followed with a double to left, but the inning hung in the balance as Cochran-Gill retired the next two batters.
That brought up Olivares, who's second in the Texas League in homers. He hit the first pitch high into the air to left center and it just carried over the wall for a two-run homer to make it 4-3.
"I hit it pretty hard but I didn't think it was going to go out, I thought it was going to hit the wall," Olivares said. "I was just trying to get a pitch I could drive and I did."
After Rogers pitched a scoreless ninth, Bednar came in two nail it down, getting two strikeouts along the way, including punching out Dan Gamache to end it.
Sod Poodles 4, RockHounds 3
Midland ab r h bi Amarillo ab r h bi
Gamache lf 5 0 1 0 Trammell cf 5 0 0 0
White 3b 4 0 1 1 Castillo ss 3 1 1 0
Mondou 2b 3 0 0 0 Olivares rf 3 1 1 2
Diaz ss 4 1 1 1 Miller 2b 3 0 0 1
Ramirez lf 3 0 0 0 Torrens dh 3 0 1 0
Motter dh 4 1 1 1 Potts 3b 3 0 0 0
Deichmann rf 3 1 2 0 Kohlwey lf 3 0 0 0
Theroux c 4 0 0 0 Kennedy c 4 1 3 1
McDonald cf 3 0 0 0 Van Gansen 1b 4 1 1 0
Totals 33 3 6 3 Totals 31 4 7 4
Midland 010 100 100 — 3
Amarillo 000 001 30x — 4
LOB—Midland 7, Amarillo 9. 2B—Castillo, Van Gansen, Kennedy. 3B—Deichmann. HR—Diaz (11), Motter (5), Kennedy (2), Olivares (17).
Midland IP H R ER BB SO
Holmes 5.0 1 0 0 2 6
Cochran-Gill L, 3-4 1.2 4 4 4 3 2
Zambrano 1.1 2 0 0 0 3
Amarillo IP H R ER BB SO
Scholtens 6.0 5 2 2 1 7
Rogers W, 2-1 2.0 1 1 1 3 2
Bednar S, 12 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
WP—Zambrano. HBP—by Holmes (Castillo). T—2:43. Attn.—5,578.