If that here-we-go-again feeling was creeping up on you, don't feel alone. Chances are most of the announced crowd of 2,496 at Dehler Park were in the same boat as it looked like the Billings Mustangs might be headed for another gut-wrenching loss.
You can breathe now because it didn't happen. The Mustangs hung on for a 4-3 win over the Great Falls Voyagers Monday night at Dehler Park, snapping a four-game losing streak. During that skid, the Mustangs had seen a 7-1 lead disappear in the ninth inning at Missoula on Friday. The next night, the Osprey won again in walk-off fashion.
The Mustangs survived this time when pinch-hitter Kevin Dubler hit a line drive right at first baseman Tommy Nurre for the final out.
Despite the late scare there was plenty to like about this performance.
Starter Shea Snowden (2-2) pitched superbly during his six-inning stint. And 16-year-old newcomer Yorman Rodriguez showed why the Reds were willing to shell out $2.5 million dollars to sign him. The teenager hit a run-scoring double and a solo home run in his home field debut.
Could the addition of Rodriguez brighten what has been a rough (10-22) season?
"I hope so," Mustangs manager Julio Garcia said. "His inexperience is going show up from time to time. And, that's OK, too. That's part of the learning process. He'll provide some pretty good moments as well."
Rodriguez, who had gone 3-for-7 with a home run after joining the team in Missoula, wasted no time against Great Falls' Garrett Johnson (0-1). Rodriguez hit a 1-2 pitch to deep left center to score Efrain Contreras and he later scored on an infield hit by Mauricio Pimentel as the Mustangs grabbed a rare 2-0 lead in the first.
The native of Venezuela led off the fifth with a drive that bounced off the top of the wall in right center for a 3-0 lead.
"I'm feeling really good and I'm working hard,'' Rodriguez said through interpreter and Mustangs pitcher Leonardo Astorgia.
Snowden is glad to see Rodriguez have an early impact.
"I was with him down in extended spring training,'' Snowden said. "I really didn't see that out of him down there, but man, he's just blowing it away right now. I mean, two home runs in the first two games he's up here. You can't ask for anything more.''
As for his own performance, Snowden credited work with pitching coach Bob Forsch.
"It felt good,'' Snowden said of his 73-pitch outing. "All my pitches were working. It was a carryover from two starts ago. My last start, I didn't really execute that well. Me and Bob have been working really hard on getting my arm up, changing my arm slot different places.''
Snowden gave up three hits, struck out seven and walked three. Meanwhile, his Voyager counterpart was having all sorts of problems. The 6-foot-10 Johnson tied an individual Pioneer League record by hitting four Mustangs in the first 1º innings. Later, the team tied the league mark for five hit batters when Cameron Bayne plunked Tyler Stovall in the seventh.
The problem was the Mustangs didn't take full advantage, stranding six runners in the first three innings and 10 for the game. It seemed like the lead should have been 7-0 instead of 4-0 when the ninth inning rolled around. Sean Connor's run-scoring hit in the eighth that produced the four-run lead quickly took on added importance.
Brian Pearl, who had retired the Voyagers in order during the eighth, yielded four straight singles that cut the lead to 4-2. Garcia brought in Daniel Corcino, who managed to get pinch-hitter Ryan Hamme to hit into a double play, but a run scored to make it 4-3.
Corcino then gave up a hit to Rob Cummings and walked Jeff Tezak to make the crowd even more nervous. He went to 3-1 on Dubler before his liner found Nurre's glove.
"It's great to hang on to any close game like that,'' Snowden said. "We're going to just keep plugging along.''