SAN ANTONIO — The Missions bounced back after Thursday’s loss with still another impressive performance by center fielder Esteury Ruiz in their 6-1 victory on Friday night over the Midland Rockhounds.
Ruiz hit the first pitch he saw on the night off the left field wall for a double and built on that. He scored twice in the evening, and had a sequence that encapsulates his success so far this season. He drew a leadoff walk but the next two hitters went down without advancing him. So Ruiz took matters into his own hands, stealing second, then getting a running start to swipe third on the next pitch. When the RockHounds uncorked a wild pitch, Ruiz came home without a throw to score the second run of the game.
“Ten years ago, I used to never steal third base with two outs,” said San Antonio manager Phillip Wellman. “But if teams are going to give it to us – and the number of wild pitches in today’s game has increased four-fold even in the big leagues – then being at third base is a big advantage.
“If you aren’t going to pay attention, we will take third base.”
Ruiz is now third in the Texas League in batting average at .348, second in on-base percentage at .494 and leads the league with 27 stolen bases. The Padres acquired him in July of 2017 from the Kansas City Royals with Matt Strahm, and he is still only 23.
San Antonio got great pitching by former Carlsbad High School and Cal State Fullerton star Thomas Eschelman, 27, who had spent the past three years with the Baltimore Orioles.
Despite not throwing any pitch above 87 mph, Eshelman put on a clinic on how to mix pitches and get out of jams as he held the RockHounds to five hits and one run over six innings with no walks.
“He just pitches,” said Wellman. “He has a sinker, a cutter, changeup, slider and fastball, and that is how he pitched in the big leagues.
“He is fun to watch because he is a pitcher. He has effective velocity because the pitch looks harder than it [registers on the radar gun].”
San Antonio led the whole night, stole six bases in six attempts, and only struck out seven times against six walks.
Connor Hollis, 27, who we wrote about yesterday, had another nice night tonight with two hits, a stolen base and a walk. Hollis has pushed his slash line to .308/.440/.442. He played collegiately at the University of Houston and hit .289/.362/.449 between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery with the Ray’s organization last year.
“He is doing what he has done his career. I’m not sure what happened with Tampa; it apparently was a numbers game. He is a second baseman by trade, but he fits in better with us as at third, but he has been playing well.”
Right-handers Moises Lugo and Carlos Belen relieved Eschelman and threw three shutout innings to give the Missions their third win in four games.
Notes: RHP Dinelson Lamet has arrived and should throw Saturday’s game for the Missions. According to the team, he will be throwing out of the bullpen. Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon will also see action this weekend.
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