Barfield positives; Whitaker tagged

Josh Barfield accomplished a feat he had not done in two weeks. Rusty Tucker talks about his comfort level on the hill, while Brian Whitaker is shellacked. Sean Kazmar had a play you won't see in the boxscore and Ricky Steik runs his streak to 21.

Portland won 5-4

Tagg Bozied made his season debut with Portland and went 0-for-3. He was hit by a pitch and scored a run. Bozied hit .333 with Mobile, knocking in 12 runs in 12 games.

Josh Barfield knocked in two runs, his first RBI's in 14 games. In his previous 22 games, Barfield had just one RBI. On a positive note, Barfield has struck out just six times over his last 13 games, significant because he had whiffed 40 times in his first 35 games.

Jon Knott homered for the second day in a row, hitting a two-run blast. Knott now has ten homers on the year with seven coming in his last 22 games. Knott has RBI's in three consecutive games and has driven in seven over his last nine contests. He has also scored a run in ten of his last 11 games played. Knott was credited with his first outfield assist of the year on Monday.

Clay Hensley has been a workhorse since joining Portland, going seven innings in four of his last five starts. Hensley allowed four runs on five hits and a walk and has yet to allow more than five hits in any of his six starts this season. The opposition is hitting just .180 off him this season. It took his worst outing of the year, he allowed seven runs in his previous five starts, to get his first Pacific Coast League victory.

Mobile lost 7-4

Left-hander reliever Rusty Tucker spoke with Mobile BayBears broadcaster Tim Hagerty prior to Monday's game. Tucker spoke about his return to the field after missing all of 2004 due to Tommy John surgery:

"We are two months in the season and I am getting a lot more comfortable out there. I knew it was going to take some time. I think the first two months have gone well. I think I am right where I need to be."

Ironically, Tucker revealed that he does most of his tasks right-handed, except pitching:

"I do everything with my right hand except throw the baseball. Write, eat, except throw a baseball. It is a weird thing. I don't know if my dad was smart and taught me to throw a baseball left-handed."

As for the Mobile squad which entered play five games out of first place despite a 21-29 record:

"We are not out of it. We are within striking distance."

Brian Whitaker left the game with the bases loaded in the fifth inning having not recorded an out as five straight batters reached base, walking his final batter on four pitches. Whitaker was charged with seven runs on eight hits and four walks in four-plus innings of work. It is the third time in four games that he has allowed six or more runs and the righty has given up nine walks in his last two outings. On the year, the opposition is hitting .311 off him.

Wilmer Villatoro relieved Whitaker and promptly gave up a double that cleared the bases. He has allowed four of five inherited runners to score since joining Mobile and has twice come in with the bases loaded (once with Lake Elsinore) and each time all three runs scored. Villatoro has allowed 12 of 18 inherited runners to score on the year, something that does not show up in the stat sheet at the end of the year but should be the standard by which relievers are measured.

Corey Smith, the goat last night with his play in the field, hit a two-out, two-run homer over the left field wall to tie the game at 2-2. It is his second homer in three games and fourth of the year. Smith was responsible for driving in three of Mobile's four runs, giving him nine RBI's over his last nine games. Smith raised his average to a paltry .232 at home with two hits on Monday, but he is hitting .348 away from the Hank.

Lake Elsinore had the day off

Fort Wayne lost 3-2

Sean Kazmar broke up a double play with a hard slide into second base in the seventh inning that became the catalyst for a two-run inning, although the Wizards left the bases loaded when Colt Morton struck out and Tom Vincent grounded out. Kazmar went 1-for-4 on the day.

Luke Steidlmayer went five innings and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks. The righty has yet to go more than 5.2 innings on the year after being converted from a long reliever. His ERA rose to 2.01, the first time this year it has reached the 2.00 mark. Steidlmayer has a 3.38 ERA as a starter after logging a 0.47 ERA as a reliever. He has kept the opposition to a .196 batting average on the year.

Ricky Steik held two inherited runners from scoring and pushed his scoreless streak to 21 innings over a span of 17 appearances. The righty has allowed 11 hits over the streak, keeping the opposition to a .186 batting average during May and a .083 average with runners in scoring position on the year.

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