Missions Notebook

The San Antonio Missions returned home Sunday after starting the season with a long 10-day road trip. Joe Ruiz, one of two reporters who will be covering the Missions for InsidethePark.com this season, was there to take it all in, talk to a few players and recap the team's first home series versus Midland.

The Seattle Mariners' Double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions, returned home on Sunday night after starting the 2004 season on a grueling 10-day road trip. The two-time defending Texas League Champs had plenty of reasons to celebrate, as Sunday marked the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the Missions' home field, Nelson M. Wolff Municipal Stadium.

Adding to the ceremonies, a blue and red banner was raised prior to the game to signify the Missions 2003 Texas League Championship.

The Missions brought a 5-4 record into their first homestand of the season, looking to hit a groove like they did so often in each of the past two seasons. They did just that, as strong hitting keyed the Missions to a 3-1 series win over Midland, getting clutch hitting from a number of players. Team defense, though, is what was and what will be the overall key this season for the Missions to accomplish their goal of three-consecutive title runs.

Costly errors were the cause of Tuesday night's 6-2 loss, but some great flashes of the leather were rally-killers that led to wins on both Sunday (3-1) and Wednesday (8-1). Outfielder Dustin Delucchi, who hit safely in the first 12 games of the season, made a spectacular run-down of Midland catcher Jeremy Brown's line drive to deep left-center on Sunday night. Infielder Evel Bastida made up for an error in the Tuesday loss with two hit-saving stops on Wednesday.

While the bobbles, slips and missed throws were the cause of Tuesday's loss, the Missions defense didn't suffer for long.

"That's the attitude of this club," says infielder Greg Dobbs. "If we get in a rut, somebody says ‘step it up'."

Dobbs made his own great play in Wednesday's win, robbing Midland's Freddie Bynum of a hit. After the game, he was quick to deflect attention to the play of his teammates.

"That's something the team and the organization stress," said the Missions' third baseman. "We've got to play good (defense). It's good that these guys recognize that."

While Dobbs' glove stole hits, his bat sparked the entire squad. Dobbs' 11-pitch at-bat in Monday's four-run eighth inning started the Missions rally.

Dobbs' return to Wolff Stadium this season after last year's season-ending injury is only the first step in his full recovery.

"I feel good at the plate," said Dobbs. "The first few series, I wasn't.

"I'd rather see the ball and miss a few than not see the ball well."

Missions of the Series: Greg Dobbs went 7-for-12 in the series with two doubles and a triple. Dobbs scored three times and had one RBI. As noted earlier, his 11-pitch at-bat in Monday's 5-2 win started a 4-run rally in the eighth inning.

Honorable mentions go to the following players: outfielder Greg Jacobs, who went 5-for-12, scored three times and had one RBI; outfielder Shin-soo Choo, who batted 4-for-15 with two home runs; and infielder/DH John Lindsey, who batted 4-for-14 with one home run and three RBI. Lindsey also played solid defense in his one start at first base.

Pitching honors go to starting pitcher Gustavo Martinez. Martinez went 7.0 innings in Wednesday's win, striking out four and giving up four hits.

Honorable mentions go to starting pitcher Troy Cate, who had six strikeouts in 6.0 innings during Monday's win, and relievers Emiliano Fruto and Jared Hoerman. Fruto pitched 2.0 innings of one-hit relief in Monday's game to pick up his second win of the season, while Hoerman pitched 2.0 hitless innings to pick up saves on Sunday and Monday.

Feeding The Wolff: More than 11,000 people watched the Missions in their first home series of the season. What's especially notable about this number is the fact that the Missions had to fight especially hard to be draw fans with San Antonio's annual 10-day "Fiesta" celebration in full swing and the San Antonio Spurs playing the second game of their first round playoff series at home Tuesday night.

A Cannon In Right: Right Fielder Christian Guerrero surprised more than a few Midland baserunners (and those in the press box) with some spectacular throws from the outfield. Time and again this series, Guerrero nearly gunned down runners at every base when they decided to test his arm. Only time and practice can turn those "just-misses" into outs.

Hit After Hit: Delucchi started the 2004 season with 12-consecutive games in which he hit safely. The streak ended on Wednesday night with a ground ball out in the bottom of the 8th. Delucchi finished the game 0-5. Choo currently has a 9-game hitting streak and Dobbs is at 5 games. Ike Boone owns the San Antonio record with 35 consecutive games with a hit in 1931.

If you have any questions about the Missions, feel free to contact Joe at joeruiz@insidethepark.com.

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