SAN ANTONIO — The Missions fell behind 6-0 in the second inning, but rallied to complete the come-from-behind victory at Wolff Stadium on Saturday night, defeating the Arkansas Travelers 8-7.
Missions starter Jerry Keel was roughed up early on, allowing a pair of two-run homers to Joey Curletta and Braden Bishop (the Mariners number 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline) in the first two innings. But, after taking more than 70 pitches to get through the first three innings, the lanky lefty settled in and retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth, and retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
“He wasn’t getting on top of his sinker, so it wasn’t sinking. It was just running flat, and he paid the price,” said Missions skipper Phillip Wellman.
“I’ll take the blame for that, for not getting his pace going,” said catcher Austin Allen of Keel’s performance. “We both were just working a little bit slow, and I should’ve been like ‘Hey Jerry, let’s step on the gas a little’ – not out of control or anything, but have a healthy sense of urgency.”
If the Missions hitters felt a sense of urgency, they certainly didn’t show it. Facing a 6-0 deficit in the second, they chipped away at the lead piece by piece, scoring runs in five different innings behind a 15 hit barrage. Though San Antonio is second in the Texas League in long balls, Friday they relied on doubles by Allen, Ty France, Kyle Overstreet, Michael Gettys, and Fernando Tatis Jr.
With the game tied at seven in the eighth, Allen smoked a liner off the glove of a diving first baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. Before the ball could be recovered near the visitor’s bullpen area, Josh Naylor, who had reached on a bloop single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.
“That’s a character builder right there,” said Wellman. “Allen’s at-bat was unbelievably huge. He battled. So did Josh Naylor, to keep that train moving. As a whole, we had everyone in the lineup get a hit. That’s sweet.”
Jose Castillo and Rowan Wick threw hitless innings in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, as Castillo was credited with his first victory of the season and Wick notched his first save of 2018.
San Antonio Prospect Notes: Tatis Jr.’s lone hit of the night was a sharp grounder through the hole between third and short. When the left fielder nonchalantly retrieved the ball and tossed it in, Tatis sped around first and dove headfirst into second to beat the throw. The young shortstop also struck out twice (the second was on an iffy pitch that looked outside) and was robbed of a base hit when Bishop made a very nice sliding catch on a slicing liner in center.
Naylor, who has made starts in left field for the first time in his career this season, looked sharp at first, making some nice picks and full extension stretches. He also showed a good eye at the plate and didn’t chase anything out of the zone. The Missions broadcast team noted that he was batting over .500 in two-strike situations (in 17 at bats). In nine games, he is leading the Texas League with a 1.554 OPS.
Worth noting that the seventh and eighth innings were pitched by Mariners Top 30 prospects Matthew Festa (number 9) and Art Warren (8), who struck out four, but allowed two runs on four hits in their two innings of work.