Grand Prairie AirHogs Kings of 1-Run Games in DH Sweep
The 2014 season was quite the struggle for the Grand Prairie AirHogs. A 40-60 season left the team from Texas 33 games behind the American Association champion Wichita Wingnuts, and left the club searching for a new direction to get them into the win column on a regular basis in 2015. After a double-header sweep of the Laredo Lemurs on Wednesday, the AirHogs are looking pretty good these days, and appear to be on the right track toward being a true competitor in the league.
Game 1 was the completion of yesterday’s game which was suspended. Laredo jumped out to the 2-0 lead early, only to watch Grand Prairie chip away at that lead until they were leading half-way through the game.
Brett Wallach started for Grand Prairie, and the Lemurs would jump on the right-hander right away. Dvontrey Richardson, who had a huge day at the plate (or rather two days at the plate), doubled to start the inning, and scored when Kevin Taylor tripled to the wall. A ground out by Abel Nieves scored Taylor and just three batters into the game the Laredo Lemurs had the lead.
In the bottom of the first the Grand Prairie AirHogs cut that lead in half against Laredo starter Greg Holle. Chris Elder tripled to nearly the same spot that Taylor had reached in the top half of the inning, and scored one batter later when Robi Estrada doubled.
For the next three innings the score would stay 2-1. Holle was dominant following the double by Estrada., retiring the next 12 batters in a row. Wallach was not as dominant, but was getting the job done. He retired six of the seven hitters in the second and third innings combined, and was pitching very well. In the fourth the right-hander gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning before retiring the side in order.
In the fifth Wallach gave up a single, then retired the next two batters before the game was suspended. When it resumed Blake Oliver took over for Wallach, and he retired the final batter of the fifth to keep the score 2-1.
Holle was also done for Laredo. Where Oliver was able to keep the Lemurs off the scoreboard, reliever Henry Garcia would not have the same success. A one out walk to Frazier Hall was followed by a single by Josh Eatherly to put runners at first and second. A ground out moved both runners into scoring position, and Elder followed with a single that scored both Hall and Eartherly giving the Grand Prairie AirHogs their first lead of the game.
Oliver continued through the eighth and allowed 5 hits in his 3.1 innings pitched, but he kept the Lemurs off the scoreboard and his team in the lead. In the ninth, Dakota Watts came in to close out the game for Grand Prairie. He allowed a walk to lead off the inning and a base hit two batters later, but remained poised, striking out Taylor and getting Abel Nieves to ground out to end the game.
Oliver (1-1) earned the win, while Watts earned his first save of the year. Garcia (0-1) took the loss.
Richardson had four of the Lemurs 12 hits. The AirHogs only had six hits as a team, but Estrada and Elder had two apiece.
Game 2 was an incredible pitchers’ duel that saw both teams score in the seventh inning. The AirHogs happened to score just one more to earn the win and the double-header sweep. Kevin Brandt got the start for Laredo while Danny Gutierrez got the nod for Grand Prairie. Gutierrez shut the Lemurs bats down, holding them to just 3 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings. He also struck out 7, and lowered his ERA to 0.82.
Brandt pitched nearly as well, allowed 3 hits and 4 walks with 3 strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched. He left in the fifth after Hayden Jennings reached third with two outs. Rett Varner came in and got Zane Chavez to fly out to end the inning.
Zachary Dando took over for Grand Prairie in the sixth, and he kept the visitors off the scoreboard. In the seventh Laredo would finally break through. Luke Bailey was the second batter of the inning and he took an 0-1 pitch from Dando and ripped it over the outfield wall for his second home run of the year. That gave Laredo the 1-0 lead.
Right-hander John Brebbia came in to pitch for the visitors in the seventh looking to close it out. He successfully retired the first two batters of the inning, and it looked like the Lemurs would split the double-header, but Frazier Hall changed all that when he pinch hit for Jennings and took the first pitch he saw from Brebbia for a home run to tie the game. It was Hall’s first home run of the year. Elder followed the home run with a single and stole second base before Estrada walked. Ryan Beckman took over for the Lemurs and Chavez was the first hitter Beckman faced. On a 1-1 pitch, Chavez singled to score Elder, and the Grand Prairie AirHogs were the 2-1 winners.
It was a nice twist of fate for Dando (1-0), who looked like he was going to take the loss but instead wound up the victor. Brebbia (0-1) took the loss.
By Robert Pannier