Ponies’ bats quiet again

Mustangs unable to come up with clutch hit in 2-1 loss to Missoula
2010-08-08T22:09:00Z 2010-08-08T23:23:08Z Ponies’ bats quiet againGREG RACHAC Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 08, 2010 10:09 pm  • 

Mustangs manager Delino DeShields would have added one element to his team’s latest homestand.

More offense.

“The guys are trying,” DeShields said Sunday after his team lost 2-1 in a rubber match with Missoula. “They’re still coming to work and busting their butts every day, it’s just one of those times where we have to tough it out until the bats get going again.”

Billings split its six-game stretch at Dehler Park, culminating with Sunday’s loss in which it mustered six hits while stranding seven on base.

The Mustangs scored 16 runs in those six contests, an average of a little more than two per outing. They also went through a significant dry spell earlier in the homestand when Helena held them to just two hits in 18 innings.

The Mustangs will try to regroup on a four-game trip that begins tonight in Helena, and that might do the trick: Billings has fared much better offensively on the road, averaging six runs per game while hitting .290. Those numbers contrast Billings’ .250 batting average and the four runs it scores per game at home.

“I’m hoping to see our team stay focused and swing the bat better than we’ve been doing,” second baseman Billy Hamilton said.

Missoula starter Patrick Schuster, who earned national attention last year when he threw four consecutive no-hitters for his high school team in Florida, shut down the Mustangs to earn his third win.

The left-handed Schuster (3-3) gave up just one earned run in five innings, and wiggled his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth to keep the lead.

The Mustangs have struggled all year with the bases loaded. This was another instance of them coming up short in a clutch situation, which was snuffed out when Danny Hernandez grounded into a 1-2-3 double play.

Billings is now hitting a paltry .125 (5 for 40) with the bases loaded.

“All we have to do is put a ball in play and we score a run,” DeShields said. “It’s been killing us all year. I don’t really know how we make that change, but we’ve got to get better in that situation.”

“Once we get the bases loaded we get all (uptight) and we aren’t our regular selves,” Hamilton said. “We have to be more relaxed and get our regular at-bats in.”

The 19-year-old Hamilton knocked in the Mustangs’ only run with a double earlier in the fifth. Missoula scored a pair of runs in the top half of that inning when Roberto Rodriguez hit an RBI single and Chris Jarrett drove home a run on a fielder’s choice grounder.

Mustangs outfielder Juan Duran was robbed of extra bases an inning later when Adam Eaton made a leaping catch against the wall in center field. The ball appeared to be headed out of the park when it left Duran’s bat, but Eaton retired Duran in spectacular fashion.

Jonathan Correa (0-1) made his first start with the Mustangs and took the loss despite a solid outing. Correa went five innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits. He struck out five and walked a pair.

Correa was called up last week from the Mustangs’ Arizona League affiliate.

“He was solid. He cruised through five,” DeShields said of Correa. “Then he walked (a couple) batters and that was the ballgame right there. But he threw well for his first time out.”

The Mustangs, now under .500 for the third time in the Pioneer League’s second half, travel to Helena for two games before making their way to Great Falls for another two-game set.

NOTES: DeShields said OF Yorman Rodriguez and IF Cristobal Rodriguez could return to the lineup by the end of this week. Yorman Rodriguez has been out since July 30 with a hand injury while Cristobal Rodriguez is out with a hamstring ailment and has played in just one game since July 12. DeShields also said OF Sean Conner is out for the year with a knee injury and is scheduled for surgery in the next couple days.

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