The Mustangs have played from behind — and pitched from behind — through much of their current seven-game homestand. It was the same story in an 11-6 defeat to Ogden on Saturday, their fifth straight loss at home.
Starter Wyatt Strahan walked two in the first, two more in the second, and Billings trailed 5-1 early. Ogden scored three times in the first, but none of those runs were charged to Strahan because of an error by first baseman Argenis Aldazoro.
But Strahan was tagged for two runs in the second after being lifted for reliever Seth Varner with no outs. It was all uphill from there.
“We were trying to get ahead (in the count) but we couldn’t really get anything rolling,” said Mustangs catcher Garrett Boulware. “And when you can’t get ahead they start swinging at pitches they want. Sometimes it just doesn’t work the way you want it to.”
The right-handed Strahan (0-3) took the loss. The Mustangs used five pitchers, who combined to strike out nine. But they also walked eight Ogden hitters -- and paid for it.
“If you walk guys, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot,” Mustangs manager Dick Schofield said. “But if you’re making pitches and they’re getting hits, then sometimes you just have to tip your cap.”
Of Strahan, who came to Billings as a third-round draft pick out of USC, Schofield said: “Everything was up. It’s just that simple. Everything. It’s hard for guys maybe at this level to make an adjustment on their own. I hate to say that’s why they’re (at the Rookie level), but it is.”
The Mustangs were hung with three errors, two by outfielder Brian O’Grady. There wasn’t much to excite the crowd of 3,000-plus, except for a brilliant 4-6-3 double play in the fifth.
Second baseman Alberti Chavez got it started by ranging toward the bag on a sharp grounder by Ivan Vela. Chavez scooped the ball and flipped it from his glove to shortstop Cory Thompson, who barehanded it, got the force at second and fired to Aldazoro to complete the twin killing.
“He’s just talented. He’s just born like that,” Boulware said of Chavez. “You could come out here and watch him practice and he does stuff like that all day.”
KEY MOMENT: Jimmy Allen’s two-run base hit against Strahan in the first started things for Ogden. Mustangs pitchers have now given up nine first-inning runs through the first five games of the homestand. Allen finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs.
ON THE MOUND: The Mustangs couldn’t solve Ogden starter J.D. Underwood (2-2), who went six innings. Underwood allowed four hits and struck out four, and really only made one mistake when he gave up a long home run to Aristides Aquino in the sixth. “He got ahead and used his breaking ball and his changeup,” Schofield said. “He just pitched. It’d be nice for our guys to do that. And they will.”
AT THE PLATE: Aquino’s home run, a two-run shot, was his fifth of the season. He raised his team-leading RBI total to 18. O’Grady went 1 for 2 and drew three more walks, and is now one of only seven players in the Pioneer League with an on-base percentage of .400 or higher (.418). Ogden catcher Julian Leon, just 18 years old, went 2 for 3 to raise his average to .323.
ON DECK: The Mustangs will again try to get their first win of the homestand on Sunday against Ogden. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Dehler Park.