Starting pitching thrives; Knott, Bozied mash

Tagg Bozied hit his first homer in Pacific Coast League play and Jon Knott continues to mash, while Chris Oxspring is pitching like he did in Olympic play. Travis Chick appears to have settled in with Mobile. Arturo Lopez has his best outing of the year but has no support from his troops. Michael Ekstrom continues his hot hand.

Portland won 4-2

Chris Oxspring carried a shutout into the ninth before surrendering a two-run jack with one out, effectively ending his night. Oxspring's final tally of the day was 8.1 innings of work, two runs allowed on six hits and a walk – the second time he has completed eight innings in a start this year. He has allowed three runs over his last 15.1 innings of work in winning two straight starts. He had allowed 18 runs in his previous 11.1 innings of work.

Tagg Bozied hit his first Pacific Coast League homer of the year and his first since debuting in Mobile on May 16 when he smacked three out of the yard. Bozied went 3-for-5, adding a double to give him three extra base hits in the last three games – also his first extra base hits since his Mobile and season debut. It was the third three-hit game of the year for the slugger, coming in his 15th game.

Jon Knott hit his third homer in four nights and added two RBI's on a 2-for-5 night. He is 9-for-20 over his last five games with at least one run scored in each and six RBI's. Since the start of May, Knott is hitting .322 with 22 extra base hits in 31 games. His 32 extra base hits on the season place him tied for fourth throughout the minors, pending the outcome of Wednesday's games.

Mobile lost 9-7

Travis Chick took the hill to begin the month of June for Mobile and gave up three runs, one earned, on seven hits in five innings of work. Over the last three starts, spanning 16 innings of work, Chick has allowed two earned runs. He has not received a decision in any of those starts. He has lowered his ERA from a season high 9.35 on April 25 down to 5.00. Chick did not walk a batter after offering up a free pass ten times over the previous three games. Batters hit .306 off him in April and are hitting .255 off him since.

Left-handed reliever Rusty Tucker was charged with three runs in two-thirds of an inning – not helped when Natanael Mateo allowed two inherited runners to score. Tucker has now allowed runs in 11 of his 19 relief appearances, including three straight outings and eight of his past 11. After batters hit just .172 off him in April, they are swatting .352 during May and the first of June.

Paul McAnulty homered for the second time in as many days and extended his hitting streak to nine in the process. The outfielder has hit three homers in his past five games and has seven jacks over his last 17 games. Seven of his eight homers have come when he is batting third in the lineup. He is also hitting .312 from the three-spot, as opposed to his .265 average when he bats fifth.

Lake Elsinore lost 2-0 in 12

Arturo Lopez frustrated Modesto on Wednesday, allowing just two hits over eight innings of nearly flawless work. While he only struck out one batter, Lopez faced one over the minimum – retiring the final 15 batters he faced. He has not allowed more than three hits in any of his last three starts and has yielded just two earned runs over his last four games, a span of 25 innings. Lopez has just one win out of those four games. The opposition is hitting .240 off him for the year.

In a game that lasted 12 innings, Steve Baker was the only member of the Storm to record two hits. It is not uncommon to see Baker with a multi-hit game. He has 19 multi-hit affairs in 38 games for the Storm and has only gone hitless in seven games. His .369 average is good for second in the California League.

Baker, who separated his shoulder last season, is just happy to be in the lineup this season: "I think injuries do a lot to you and it gives you a sense of appreciation to play the game. I think I am excited to be out there playing again. Thankful to God – he healed me up well and I am getting a chance to play again."

Paul Abraham has proved to be something no one knew he was – fallible. In his second inning of work, Abraham surrendered two runs, one earned, on a walk to open the inning, two hits, and a sacrifice fly. It was just the third earned run allowed by Abraham in 33 innings of work. He has held the opposition to a .196 average on the year with a .114 batting average against with runners in scoring position. All three of his earned runs have come over his last seven appearances.

Fort Wayne won 4-1

Michael Ekstrom continued his hot hand on Wednesday, tossing seven strong innings of one-run ball to pick up his seventh win of the year. He allowed five hits and struck out two to keep him third in the Midwest League in ERA at 1.43. Ekstrom's ERA since the start of May is 1.07. He has allowed seven runs over his last seven starts and has allowed one or fewer in eight of his 11 starts on the year.

Matt Varner recorded his league leading 16th save of the year and has notched a save in 16 of his last 17 appearances. He has steadily dropped his ERA from 54.00 to 4.50. His ERA for May was a cool 1.00 and he has kept the opposition to a .162 average since the beginning of May.

Brett Dowdy went 1-for-4 with an RBI, giving him an RBI in four consecutive games. Dowdy has six RBI's over that time span, 16 since May 1, to place him second on the team in the category. With runners in scoring position, Dowdy is hitting .346. He is also first on the team in runs scored and his 51 hits pace the club.

The Wizards added left-hander Chris Steinborn to the team, replacing Phil Polanco who was sent to extended spring training after a terrible debut. Steinborn went 3-0 with a 7.90 ERA for the Modesto Nuts of the California League before being released. Hitters bat .344 off him on the year.

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