In the eighth, reliever Aquilino Lopez stepped in and quickly loaded the bases with a walk, a single and a bunt with no outs, but recovered to strike out the next three. Lopez recorded nine eighth inning strikeouts in 2005 for the Colorado Sky Sox.
"My breaking ball didn't break the first few times," he said after the game. "I missed a few sliders. They weren't strong enough throws. With breaking balls you have to mix it up," he continued, referring to his strikeouts. "I tried fastballs up and inside, then came back with sliders."
Closer Brian Sikorski was also solid striking out his first two batters in the ninth, giving up a single and then finishing by forcing a fly out to end the game.
Walter Young, who's batting has been inconsistent so far, followed up on his first multi-hit game the previous night with a sacrifice RBI in the fourth, topped by consecutive homers in the sixth and eight innings. Young last went deep in consecutive at bats in June of 2005. He had successive multi-hit games Sept. 13th and 14th of 2005 and batted over .300 from June through September in 2004.
"I get better the more pitches I see," Young admitted. "Not playing everyday makes it difficult. But whenever I get a chance, I try to make the best of it. Last year was the first year I had a good April. I get that first month out of the way and then I'm all right. It gets warmer and I start seeing the ball better."
Asked if today's performance would increase Young's playing time, manager Craig Colbert remained candid, "With so many hitters, it's tough to get everyone in each game, but in the big league, you have to perform on short notice, so they have to get used to it."
As is increasingly customary, Justin Leone had another big day at the plate. He singled in the first, and racked up a three-run homer in the fifth, his eighth, which continued his league-leading numbers (batting, home runs, total bases and on-base percentage). He has hits in 15 of 17 games and has been on base in every game this season. In 2005 Leone had 17 multi-hit games, a stat he is likely to surpass this year.
Veteran shortstop Ricky Guttierez was released by the team last night and replaced by Manny Alexander, another aging shortstop.
"It's a decision that comes from top management. Ricky was great, a total pro and I have nothing but high things to say about him," Colbert commented on Gutierrez' departure. "Both Ricky and Manny are outstanding, very experienced players. Ricky had 11 years experience and Manny has seven, it's like having an extra coach on the field."