Round Rock, Texas – On a beautiful summer evening in central Texas, El Paso pitchers limited the hosting Round Rock Express to two runs on four singles en route to a 4-2 victory.
Chihuahuas starter Jerry Keel turned in his best (and longest) outing of the young season, needing just 85 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Though his fastball sat 87-88 MPH most of the night, the 6-foot-6 lefty was able to mix speeds and locations to keep the Express off balance and induced a lot of weak contact. In his first three outings for El Paso this season, he posted a 13.5 K/9 rate, nearly double his career average. He came back to earth a bit Monday night, whiffing just two while walking three, but lowered his Triple-A ERA to 3.14 in the process.
The Express struck in the first, when a pair of bloop singles landed just in front of charging El Paso outfielders to score one. The Chihuahuas responded by loading the bases in the second on singles by Patrick Kivlehan and Goskue Katoh and a walk by Luis Campusano. Singles by Pedro Florimon and Lifetime Longhorn Michael Cantu gave El Paso a 3-1 cushion. A Round Rock error and a sac fly off former Friar Nick Vincent in the 5th pushed it to 4-1 in the fifth.
The El Paso bullpen would not allow a hit the final 3 1/3 innings, though there were still some very tense moments. Aaron Northcraft came on in relief of Keel and got a big strikeout to escape a jam in the sixth. Sam McWilliams, selected off the waiver wire from the New York Mets over the weekend, followed but didn’t make a great impression in his first appearance in the Padres organization. After hitting the leadoff man in the eighth, he induced a flyout and a pop up, but also issued three walks, pushing across the second run of the game for Round Rock. James Norwood was called on to stop the bleeding, and did so by inducing an inning ending groundout.
23-year-old Mason Thompson, who was born and went to high school in Round Rock, closed out the ninth with ease, inducing a soft liner before striking out the last two hitters he faced. He hit 99 MPH on the stadium radar, and none of the Express batters looked particularly comfortable against the 6-foot-7 righty. Monday was the first time this year Thompson came back without a day off between appearances. He struck out six of 10 batters faced in the series.
— marcus (@marcusSDTX) June 8, 2021
In a rare Triple-A game where neither side produced an extra-base hit, center fielder John Andreoli was the only El Paso player to record multiple hits, and Campusano worked a pair of walks to bump his Triple-A walk rate up to 10.6% (the same rate it was during his 38 MLB plate appearances this season). While still a highly regarded prospect in the system, the 22-year-old backstop has a .624 OPS, which was the second lowest average in last night’s lineup for El Paso. While Campusano looked solid behind the plate tonight, he did mishandle a throw home from Kivlehan in the first that led to an Express run in the first.
With injuries to a glut of Padres outfielders, El Paso has sent Andreoli, Kivlehan, and the recently promoted Brian O’Grady up to Petco Park so far this season. With O’Grady posting a 1.095 OPS in 64 Triple-A plate appearances in 2021 (and with O’Grady going 2-for-4 with a homer and a double last night), he has the inside track for being the next man up when AJ Preller needs fresh legs.
Note: Due to COVID-19 protocols and current team policy, there was no post-game media access.