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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Justin Huber – 2-for-4, HR (12), 2B (13), 2 RBI
Omaha 5 vs. Nashville 4
Omaha prevailed in its second straight 5-4 contest, this time over the Nashville Sounds. And also for the second day in a row, both LF Justin Huber and RF Shane Costa homered. Huber's 2-for-4 effort included his two-run dinger in the eighth inning and his 13th double of the season, and his batting average is now back up to .282. Costa was also 2-for-4 and added a solo shot, his seventh, while extending his hitting streak to 15 games and raising his batting average to a robust .392.
Shane Costa is putting up Mark Teahen numbers in Omaha
Catcher Matt Tupman was also 1-for-3 with an RBI, and former Royal Bobby Keppel picked up his first save of the year while pitching the final two frames. RC will be on hand for Thursday afternoon's contest against the Sounds, and we're looking forward to seeing both Huber and Costa in action again.
High Desert 8 at Lancaster 12
The Mavs dropped a slugfest at Lancaster, putting them a full game behind Lake Elsinore for the lead in the Cal League's South Division. LF James Tomlin went 3-for-5 with three doubles, and 2B Wilver Perez raised his season BA to .276 with a 2-for-5 effort. Pitcher Kyle Crist started the game, but he lasted only two innings while surrendering three runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks.
Though the outing was substandard, Crist has been on of the Mavericks' most consistent starting pitchers this season (5-2, 4.15 ERA, 80.1 IP, 90 H, 22 BB, 56 K). In his previous start on July 12, the 23-year-old righty took a tough complete game loss, surrendering two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out seven. Crist was drafted by the Royals in the 34th round of the 2004 draft out of UC-Berkeley, and he's added 15 lbs to his 6-3, 194 lbs frame since his selection. He reportedly throws a fastball with good life, an occasionally above average curveball, a slider that buckles righties, and a developing change-up. His numbers are impressive for the California League, and perhaps most importantly, he's been able to keep the ball in the ballpark, allowing only six home runs all year.
Burlington 5 at Fort Wayne 3
A day after nearly being no-hit by Fort Wayne, the Bees exacted their revenge on the Wizards. 3B Mario Lisson, who had last night's only hit, went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run, and catcher Brady Everett was 2-for-4. Starter Michael Penn, who hadn't pitched since leaving his June 28 outing with "arm tenderness," got the start and threw 2.1 innings, allowing four hits and a run while striking out two. Penn was on a pitch count that limited him to 50 pitches, but it's good to see him back on the mound. Penn was drafted by the Royals in the 11th round of the 2005 draft, and he's been one of Burlington's best starters this season, entering the game with a 5-2 record and a 2.43 ERA in 63 innings pitched. Among the starters in Burlington's rotation, Penn's WHIP of 1.16 is the second-best on the team (behind Chris Nicoll – 1.05).
Idaho Falls 12 vs. Billings 7
SS Chris McConnell made an immediate impact in his return to the Pioneer League, going 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs, including a key seventh inning RBI single that sparked a five-run Chukars rally. McConnell, who blistered Pioneer League pitching last year to the tune of .331/.403/.516, began this season with Burlington. However, through 69 games and 239 at bats, he was hitting just .172/.254/.201, and the Royals decided to send him back to rookie ball to get both his stroke and his confidence back. He's still only 20-years old, so he's got plenty of time to improve. Hopefully the demotion will give him the spark he needs, and he'll get back on track quickly.
Chris McConnell's 2006 Pioneer League debut was excellent
Also contributing to the offensive effort on Monday night was CF Joe Dickerson, who went 1-for-4 with his second homer in three days, and DH Kurt Mertins, who raised his batting average to .446 while going 4-for-5 with a triple (3) and 2 RBIs. Leadoff hitter Brent Bigler, the Royals' 7th round pick this year out of UC-Riverside, also had an interesting night. Although the left fielder went 0-for-3, Bigler drew three walks and scored twice. Hyped as a player with great speed and outstanding plate discipline prior to the draft, Bigler's done nothing to spoil that reputation thus far. Even though tonight's 0-for-3 dropped his season batting average to .250, Bigler's OBP now stands at over .380, courtesy of 16 walks in 72 at bats. He's also stolen five bases this year without being caught. Bigler is definitely someone to watch closely – perhaps as a future leadoff hitter in KC.
On the mound, 2006 3rd rounder Blake Wood got the start, going 2.2 IP while allowing six hits, a walk, and three earned runs. Burke Baldwin, the Royals' 21st pick out of Elgin Community College in this year's draft, recorded his first professional win, tossing four innings of relief while allowing just two hits, a walk, and one run.
Arizona League Royals 2 at Arizona League Mariners 4
Starting pitcher Angelo Morales took his third loss of the season after surrendering three runs and eight hits in five innings pitched, and 2B Alwin Perez was 3-for-4 in the loss. More importantly, SS Jeff Bianchi was again absent from the lineup. Bianchi hasn't played since July 7, and even though we have not yet received any official reason as to why, it seems clear that he's probably sustained another injury setback. We're still working to find out exactly what happened, and we'll let you know as soon as we hear anything.
Where are you, Jeff Bianchi?
Note: The Wichita Wranglers were off on Monday
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