Mustangs open homestand on right track

2014-07-23T23:12:00Z 2014-07-24T00:54:07Z Mustangs open homestand on right trackBy GREG RACHAC The Billings Gazette

The Mustangs’ charter rolled into Dehler Park sometime around 7:30 Wednesday morning, ending the eight-day, seven-game road trip that took them through Idaho Falls and Ogden.

But with a game to play less than 12 hours later, where was the turnaround time?

“We came in and let the guys go back to their houses and just sleep,” Mustangs manager Dick Schofield said. “They’re young, and I told them, ‘You’re not tired, you just think you’re tired.’”

Tired or not, the Mustangs executed in all phases Wednesday night in an 8-3 win over Missoula. Ty Washington homered, and Alex Blandino, Kevin Franklin and Shed Long each drove in two runs as Billings opened a seven-game homestand meaning business.

Travel can be tough on young players in the minors, but Schofield has addressed the issue a couple times by reminding his club to put mind over matter.

“It truly is a mental thing, and you can talk yourself in and out of most things,” he said. “You will get physically worn out, but if you allow your brain to say ‘I’m tired,’ then your body shuts down.

“You can do so many things physically, way beyond what we think we can. And if your sleep patterns get out of whack and that’s the worst thing that happens to you in the minor leagues, then we’re doing alright.”

Left-handed relief pitcher Brennan Bernardino continued his mastery of the Pioneer League, picking up his third save. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14 1/3 innings.

On the strength of his curveball, Bernardino has given up nine hits and struck out 20 while waking four in 11 appearances.

“I’ve fallen in love with my curveball,” said Bernardino, a 26th-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds in June out of Cal State Dominguez Hills. “It felt like it was coming out of my hand pretty good tonight.”

KEY MOMENT: With his team leading 4-3 in the eighth, Franklin shot a two-run triple into the right-field corner on a 3-2 count to extend the advantage. Franklin chugged head first into third base to beat the relay. “That was huge,” Schofield said. “Frank has battled all year. He’ll have a good at bat and then a couple bad ones … but that was a ball that he shot right down the line.”

ON THE MOUND: Bernardino’s exploits aside, Mustangs starter Wyatt Strahan worked into the fourth for the first time the season. It was the first time all year he didn’t have an inning count, but was pulled once he surpassed his 55-pitch limit. The right-handed Strahan, a third-round draft pick out of USC, gave up three earned runs on eight hits.

AT THE PLATE: Missoula’s Justin Williams is one of the hottest hitters in the league, and he extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a first-inning single against Strahan. Williams has hit .421 (32 for 76) during the streak. Washington’s solo homer in the fifth, which crossed just inside the foul pole, was his third of the season.

ON DECK: The Mustangs will send Tyler Mahle (2-3, 5.51) to the hill Thursday for the second and final game of their series with Missoula. Mahle took the loss last Saturday in Ogden, which was five days after he beat the Raptors with the league’s only nine-inning shutout.

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

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