Bees take 2 of 3 from Clinton over weekend

Buoyed by excellent pitching and timely hitting, the Burlington Bees over the weekend won consecutive games for the first time this season. Elsewhere in the minors, the Omaha Royals won on Friday before being rained out on both Saturday and Sunday. Inside, RC recaps all of the weekend's action from around the Royals' minor leagues.

Low-A: Burlington Bees

Friday: Kane County 8, Burlington 1
Saturday: Burlington 3, Clinton 1
Sunday: Burlington 6, Clinton 2

The Bees lost on Friday, 8-1, dropping their four-game series with the Kane County Cougars, three games to one. Sam Runion started for Burlington, but he gave up eight runs (six earned) on eight hits, including three home runs, in five innings pitched while picking up his second loss of the season. Runion's off to a rough start thus far, and his tough outing on Friday pushed his ERA to 9.00. Blaine Hardy pitched the final four innings on Friday with quite different results, shutting out the Cougars on just one hit and no walks while fanning seven batters.

At the plate, the Bees managed just six hits on Friday. Nick Francis once again led the way, finishing 2-for-4 with a solo home run – accounting for the Bees' only run – in the ninth inning. Kyle Martin, J.D. Alfaro, and Sean McCauley were all 1-for-4, while Eric Hosmer drew the collar by going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

On Saturday, the Bees opened a four-game series in Clinton by winning the first game, 3-1. Starting pitcher Luis Cota had a great outing, tossing five innings and surrendering just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out five. Justin Garcia and Barry Bowden combined for four scoreless innings in relief, with Bowden picking up his second save of the year. In five outings and 5.2 innings pitched thus far this season, Bowden has allowed just one hit and no runs.

Offensively, Francis was 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI, pushing his batting average to .413. McCauley was 2-for-4 with a double, while Antonio Jimenez was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Hosmer finished the game 1-for-3 with two walks.

The Bees squared up with the LumberKings again on Sunday, and Burlington won again, the first time this season the Bees have won consecutive games. Zach Peterson started for the Bees and pitched well, holding Clinton to just two runs on four hits over six innings of work. Carson Bryant took over in the seventh and pitched three scoreless innings while picking up his first victory of the season. Bryant struck out four batters and surrendered just one hit and two walks while lowering his ERA to 2.70.

At the plate, the Bees scratched out nine hits, with both Hosmer and Patrick Norris going 2-for-4. Catcher Jose Bonilla was 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI, while Nick Francis was 1-for-5 with his club-leading 11th RBI.

Game three of the four-game set is scheduled for Monday night, with Brent Fisher on the hill for the Bees (5-10). Fisher (0-0, 2.45 ERA) last pitched on Wednesday vs. Kane County, when he held the Cougars to just one unearned run in four innings of work.

High-A: Wilmington Blue Rocks

Friday: Winston-Salem 6, Wilmington 5 (10 innings)
Saturday: Winston-Salem 14, Wilmington 13
Sunday: Winston-Salem 8, Wilmington 4

After winning the opening game of a four-game series with the Winston-Salem Dash on Thursday, the Blue Rocks on Friday night dropped a one-run decision, 6-5. Alex Caldera started for Wilmington and went 5.1 innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. Caldera exited the game with the Rocks trailing 5-3, but Wilmington chipped away at the lead, finally knotting the game at five in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, the Dash plated a run in the bottom of the tenth off of Kelvin Villa, who to that point had pitched 3.2 scoreless innings in relief of Caldera.

Despite the loss, outfielder Jamar Walton turned in an excellent night, slamming a solo home run in the seventh, and then another in the ninth to knot the game at 5-5. Walton finished the game 2-for-4. Mike Moustakas also hit a home run, his third, in a 1-for-4 night. Derrick Robinson was 2-for-5 with his ninth stolen base of the season, while Adrian Ortiz swiped his first two stolen bases of the season while going 1-for-4.

On Saturday, the Rocks dropped a slugfest, again by one run, as they fell to the Dash, 14-13. Starting pitcher Jason Godin fell victim to a tight strike zone and a defensive miscue by Moustakas while yielding eight runs (two earned) in the first inning. Godin got just two outs before being replaced by Chris Chavez, who pitched 3.1 innings and surrendered three runs on nine hits. Ray Liotta took over in the fifth, and he pitched three scoreless innings before handing off to Brandon Sisk. The southpaw reliever had made five appearances prior to Saturday without allowing a run, but he surrendered three runs in the eighth inning on two hits and a pair of walks while losing his first decision of the year.

Despite finding themselves down 8-2 after that brutal first inning, the Rocks' offense stormed back in the second and third innings, scoring three runs in both frames while knotting the game at 8-8. They took a one-run lead in the fourth, and after the Dash responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame, the Rocks scored twice more in the fifth to again tie the game. Wilmington took a 13-11 lead in the top of the eighth, but the three runs allowed by Sisk in the bottom of the inning proved to be the final margin. In all, the Blue Rocks banged out 16 hits, with every player in the lineup getting at least one. Derrick Robinson (3-for-6, 3 runs, 2 RBIs, 1 2B) and Clint Robinson (3-for-4, 1 BB, 2 2B, 1 RBI) both had three hits apiece, with the former stealing two more bases, pushing his league-leading total to 11. Moustakas was 2-for-5 with a double, two RBIs, and his fourth home run of the season.

Looking for a split on Sunday, the Rocks dropped the series finale, 8-4. Starting pitcher Danny Duffy had his first rough outing of the season, surrendering six runs on eight hits (including three home runs) and a pair of walks in five innings while striking out just a single batter. Duffy (2-1, 4.35 ERA) lost his first game of the year. Ben Swaggerty pitched in relief, yielding one run on two hits and a walk in two innings of work, and Aaron Hartsock pitched the eighth inning, giving up one unearned run.

At the plate, Jeff Bianchi slammed his second home run of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth, while finishing the game 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Moustakas went 2-for-4 with a double as well, pushing his batting average to a season-best .292. Clint Robinson (0-for-4) was held hitless for just the second time this season, snapping a seven-game hitting streak.

The Rocks (9-10) now head north to Woodbridge, Virginia, taking on the Potomac Nationals in a three-game series that starts on Tuesday. Eduardo Paulino (1-0, 5.19 ERA) will start Tuesday night's game for Wilmington, looking to snap a three game slide for the Blue Rocks, who have also lost six of their last seven games.

Double-A: NW Arkansas Naturals

Friday: NW Arkansas 2, Arkansas 0
Saturday: Arkansas 4, NW Arkansas 1
Sunday: Arkansas 8, NW Arkansas 1

The weekend got off to a good start for the Naturals, as they blanked the Travelers, 2-0, on Friday night. Starting pitcher Blake Wood had his best outing of the season thus far, shutting out Arkansas on four hits and a walk over 6.1 innings while picking up his first win of the year. Gilbert De La Vara and Victor Marte preserved the shutout with a combined 2.2 innings of work. Marte struck out four batters while allowing just one hit in two innings pitched.

At the plate, the Nats scored their runs early, with single runs in each of the first two frames. Remarkably, the club managed just one hit all evening, a fifth inning pop-up double to right field by shortstop Chris McConnell. The Naturals pushed their first run across the plate in the first inning when Jose Duarte walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice, stole third and scored on a throwing error by the catcher. In the second inning, the Nats struck again when Cody Strait walked and advanced to third on consecutive balks by the Travelers' pitcher. Jordan Parraz then knocked him in with a sacrifice fly.

Unfortunately, the NW Arkansas offense didn't awaken from its slumber in time for Saturday's game, which the Nats lost, 4-1. The club had just six hits, with Parraz leadig the way with a 2-for-4 night. Kurt Mertins, Joe Dickerson, Corey Smith and Strait all finished 1-for-4. Starting pitcher Matt Kniginyzky picked up his first loss of the season after yielding three runs on six hits and a pair of walks in four innings of work. Chris Hayes pitched two innings in relief, surrendering one run, before turning it over to Chris Nicoll and Kyle Crist, who both pitched scoreless innings.

On Sunday afternoon, the Naturals looked to salvage a split with Dan Cortes on the mound. Cortes, who has struggled all season, had his best outing of the year, pitching into the sixth while surrendering two runs on three hits and four walks. In 5.2 innings pitched, Cortes fanned a pair of batters and lowered his ERA to 6.23. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't keep the game close, as Carlos Sencion and Greg Holland combined to give up six runs (five earned) in 2.1 innings of work. Cortes was tagged with his third loss of the season.

The offense struggled again, completing a weekend in which the club managed just 12 hits in three games. On Sunday, the Nats had just five. Brian McFall and Parraz both doubled and finished 1-for-4, while Mertins, Smith, and Strait also finished 1-for-4 with singles.

The Naturals (7-9) return home on Monday, where they will host the Springfield Cardinals for four games. Anthony Lerew (1-0, 3.07 ERA) will be on the mound for NW Arkansas. Lerew last pitched on Tuesday, winning his first decision of the season against Corpus Christi.

Triple-A: Omaha Royals

Friday: Omaha 3, Oklahoma City 0
Saturday: Postponed
Sunday: Postponed

The O-Royals were washed out on both Saturday and Sunday, but on Friday the club won a 3-0 decision over the RedHawks, splitting the first of two consecutive four-game series with Oklahoma City. Lenny DiNardo made his first start of the season in place of the promoted Brian Bannister and pitched masterfully, shutting out the RedHawks on just one hit over six innings. Carlos Rosa entered in the seventh and preserved the shutout, also surrendering just one hit while picking up a three-inning save, his first of the season. Rosa struck out five batters while walking just one, and he lowered his season ERA to 3.60.

The O-Royals' offense banged out 11 hits, and even though the club left 10 men on base, the three runs they managed to push across the plate were enough. Catcher J.R. House and first baseman Ryan Shealy both went 3-for-5, while third baseman Travis Metcalf was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Second baseman Tug Hulett hit safely in his fifth straight game, going 1-for-5 with a double.

The O-Royals (9-7) and RedHawks (7-8) try again on Monday, squaring up for a doubleheader to make up Saturday's rainout. Luke Hochevar (3-0, 1.89 ERA) will start the first game for Omaha, while Heath Phillips (1-1, 7.43 ERA) goes in the second. Hochevar's last started on Monday, when he held Albuquerque to just one run in eight brilliant innings. Sunday's rainout will be rescheduled as part of another doubleheader when the RedHawks next come to Omaha in August.

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