Holmberg Hurls, Walker Wallops Milkmen to Victory
It seems like a simple enough formula. Get a two-run homer from your star slugger in the first inning that gives your team the lead, then ride your ace starter to close out the victory. It may not be that simple, but the Milwaukee Milkmen followed the formula to perfection as Adam Walker homered and David Holmberg tossed a gem to lead the Milkmen to their second straight victory over the Winnipeg Goldeyes, 2-1. That moved Milwaukee within a half-game of the top spot in the American Association standings.
The Goldeyes took the lead in the top of the first. Wes Darvill drilled the third pitch of the game for his fourth homer of the year to put Winnipeg on top, 1-0. The Goldeyes looked like they would extend their lead as Darnell Sweeney followed with a single and Kyle Martin sent him to third with a double, putting two runners in scoring position with no one out. However, Holmberg pulled out his best Houdini impersonation, striking out the next two batters before getting Dario Pizzano to ground out to end the threat.
Milwaukee responded right away to the masterful pitching of their starter. In the bottom of the first, David Washington singled with one down. That brought Walker to the plate, who blasted his 12th homer of the season, putting the Milkmen on top, 2-1.
The first inning fireworks gave the impression that this could be a slugfest, but both pitchers settled down as this quickly turned into a pitchers’ duel. Winnipeg put runners at second and third with two down in the second, but Holmberg struck out Sweeney to end the inning. He then retired nine of the next 11 hitters, with an error and a walk being the only blemishes against the left-hander.
Meanwhile, Goldeyes starter Kevin Hilton was pitching just as well. After giving up the two-run homer, the right-hander retired 17 of the next 20 batters he faced.
The top two teams played like this was a playoff contest and it had the feeling to it. Holmberg (6-1) came on in the seventh and struck out the side. That would be it for his night. The lefty allowed one run on five hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out nine.
Hilton came out for the seventh as well. He hit the first batter he faced. A sacrifice moved the runner to second and that would be it for the right-hander. Hilton (5-2) went 6.1 innings, allowing three hits, a walk, and two-earned runs. He struck out six. Kent Hasler came on and retired all five batters he faced.
After the masterful pitching performance by Homberg, it was the bullpen’s turn. A.J. Schugel took over and retired the side in order in the eighth. That brought a call for closer Peyton Gray. The closer quickly retired the first two hitters, but then gave up a double and a walk to put the go-ahead run on first. Unfazed, Gray got ahead of Darvill, 1-2, before striking him out to close out his 10th save of the season. Gray extended his scoreless streak to 21 consecutive innings.
By Robert Pannier