The Billings Mustangs were ready for a breakout game and they got it Friday night.
They didn’t set any season highs in hits or runs scored, but their 8-2 win over the Missoula Osprey at Dehler Park was still a welcome tonic after having been held to one hit in each of their previous two games.
“We’re going to have our little (down) times, but I’m confident in this club,” Mustangs manager Delino DeShields said. “They’re going to bounce back. They’ve been showing me they can do that all year. We just can’t panic, you know what I mean, just keep playing.”
Billy Hamilton hit his first career home run and Tyler Cline continued his seamless transition into the starting rotation as the Mustangs sent the Osprey to their third straight loss and the eighth in their last 11.
Missoula pitchers have the highest ERA in the Pioneer League and the Mustangs didn’t help them out in that regard. Devin Lohman, Dayne Read, Dominic D’Anna and Stephen Hunt added RBIs and Danny Hernandez had a three-hit night as the Mustangs broke out of a collective 3 for 65 slump by collecting 10 hits.
Cline worked 5º innings, the longest stint of his three starts, and had a stretch of 15º total scoreless innings until Bobby Stone’s RBI double in the sixth. The right-hander, who was moved to the rotation after the promotion of Clayton Shunick last month, allowed just two hits before running into trouble in the sixth when the final four batters he faced reached base with two of them scoring.
Cline (2-1) left with a 4-2 lead before Drew Hayes and Daniel Wolford wrapped things up. Cline has a 1.23 ERA as a starter and his ERA stands at 2.17 overall.
“Tonight I had my ‘A’ game and threw a lot of strikes and made a lot of outs,” Cline said. “The bats came around and got me a few hits and runs and I just kept going out there and pitching.”
The hit that really stood out was Hamilton’s three-run homer in the fifth inning that gave the Mustangs a 4-0 lead. Hamilton, a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2009, learned to switch-hit just last year, and the natural righty has been sending most of his left-handed hits to the opposite field.
But he pulled a 1-2 pitch from Missoula starter J.R. Bradley over the right-field fence and then cracked a big smile as he returned to the dugout to receive congratulations from his teammates.
“I never thought I’d hit a home run until I got on up a little bit, ’til I figured out how to use my left hand,” said Hamilton, who is 12 for 23 (.522) in his last six games. “But it’s over with now.”
NOTES: Hayes faced seven batters and struck out four of them. ... Mustangs starter Daniel Corcino (1-3, 3.40 ERA) is on his way to Single-A Dayton (Ohio) of the Midwest League. DeShields said right-hander Jonathan Correa will be called up from the Arizona League to take Corcino’s spot in the rotation. Correa was 4-2 with a 2.06 ERA in the Arizona League, and had 49 strikeouts in 39 innings. … DeShields also said that starter Daniel Tuttle has an injured knee and is questionable for his Sunday start. … 1B Jonathan Kaskow has rejoined the Mustangs. After being promoted to Dayton earlier this year, Kaskow batted just .079 in 38 at-bats with the Dragons. ... Also returning to the Mustangs is left-hander Luca Paneratti, who played in Billings last season. He was 3-7 with a 5.96 ERA in 14 starts last year. ... The first 1,000 fans through the gates tonight will receive a Jason LaRue bobblehead doll. LaRue, an 12-year major league veteran who currently plays for the St. Louis Cardinals, played catcher for the Mustangs in 1995.