Moran strong again at home as Mustangs continue hot streak

2014-08-05T22:48:00Z 2014-08-06T00:16:04Z Moran strong again at home as Mustangs continue hot streakBy MIKE SCHERTING The Billings Gazette

Home is where Luke Moran’s best outings have been. Now, after his fourth Dehler Park start, the Mustangs right-hander finally has a win to show for it.

Moran scattered seven hits -- two solo home runs among them -- and three relievers threw hitless ball for four innings to help lead the Mustangs past Grand Junction 6-2 on Tuesday night for their 10th win in their last 14 games.

For Moran (3-4), it’s his second straight victory but his first home win. That’s despite pitching to a 2.00 earned-run average over his previous three starts at Dehler, which covers 18 innings. The difference this time is he got the needed run support and left after the fifth inning with a four-run lead.

“I really like the mound here,” said Moran, who walked none and struck out four. “I don’t know, it’s probably just the way the numbers have worked out, but the fans are really supportive here, and that helps out a lot.”

It didn’t hurt that Moran was around the plate. A lot. His first 12 pitches were strikes and though he allowed five baserunners in the first two innings, he allowed just three over the next three.

After starting the season with a 9.35 ERA after his first two starts, Moran has that number down to a 4.94.

“I’m just trying to throw strikes low in the zone and start out with first-pitch strikes,” said Moran, a 14th-round draft pick in 2012 who went 4-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 15 starts for the Mustangs last season. “I think I’ve done that pretty well.”

Only two pitches hurt Moran, and they both ended up as long home runs by Kevin Padlo and Dom Nunez. But the damage was minimal.

“He’s been giving us quality starts, all but maybe a few,” manager Dick Schofield said. “He’s had a few outings where he deserved better than what he got. The game will reward you for working hard and doing the right thing.”

KEY MOMENT: Padlo hit his home run to lead off the top of the second, pulling the Rockies within 2-1. After a pop up, Wesley Jones singled and Moran hit Wilson Soriano to create a one-out jam. But Max George flew out to center and Nunez grounded to second to end the inning, and Grand Junction never had more than one runner on base at a time after that. “It was a little slow the first two innings, but I finally figured it out in the third,” Moran said. “Then I just kept rolling with it.”

ON THE MOUND: Jake Moody, Mike Saunders and Brian Hunter finished in style as the three Mustangs relievers faced the minimum over the final four innings. Moody walked a batter in the sixth, but that runner was erased on a double play. Saunders pitched a perfect seventh and Hunter retired all six batters he faced inr the eighth and ninth.

AT THE PLATE: Grand Junction had the power, but the Mustangs had the consistency. Five players drove in runs and all nine Billings players in the lineup had at last one hit as the Mustangs (7-3 second half, 24-24 overall) reached the .500 mark for the first time since July 8.

ON DECK: Tejay Antone takes the mound on Wednesday for the Mustangs in the third of this four-game series with the Rockies. With the second half of the season just over a quarter-way done, the Mustangs have a two-game lead in the North division. “The guys are doing everything that’s asked,” Schofield said. “Hopefully these next four weeks they’ll be rewarded for it.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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