EL PASO — For the second night in a row, the Chihuahuas spotted Round Rock a lead before coming came to beat them. Tonight, the Express took an early 6-0 lead before Eguy Rosario ultimately came through with a walk-off single for El Paso’s second straight 7-6 victory.
“The team has been very resilient and didn’t show any panic,” said Chihuahuas manager Jared Sandberg. “Obviously, we would have liked to have gotten better results from the starting pitching in both games, but the team has found ways to win games in a variety of ways.
“Tonight, we just kept chipping away, and it’s exciting for the fans and us as well.”
Round Rock’s Cole Ragans was impressive, sending down the first nine batters he faced until Rosario opened the fourth inning with a double against the left field wall. Catcher Brett Sullivan brought him home with a single beforeC.J. Hinojosa, celebrating his 28th birthday, hit a two-out single to cut the lead in half.
The Express held the Chihuahuas scoreless for the next two innings. Third baseman Kervin Pichardo, who had been hitting .182 in Low-A Lake Elsinore and was promoted to fill a roster crunch in Triple-A, got his first hit with El Paso, a two-out triple to drive in two runs and cut the Express lead to one. Hinojosa singled in the eighth to tie the game.
In the ninth inning, big Cuban right-hander Michel Baez ran into trouble. He gave up an opening single, and after striking the second batter out, Sullivan unleashed a snap throw down to first base to get the runner for two outs, which was key because the hitter doubled off the wall in right, and the subsequent batter singled off of Baez’s shin, to put runners at first and third.
Lefty Tom Cosgrove came in to replace Baez, walked the next hitter to load the bases but got an easy ground-out to shortstop Rosario to end the inning.
Kyle Martin opened the ninth with a double to right, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Pichardo to bring up Rosario with a chance to win the game, which he did with a two-strike single to right field.
“Eguy is a really good hitter when he stays in the zone,” said Sandberg. “I was talking to him on the bench and told him, ‘if Martin gets on, Pichardo is going to bunt him over, and you are going to drive him in.’
“And he said, or take my walk;’ so he is aware of the situation and what he needed to do.
“He has put together an incredible June with eight home runs after a poor start and has made some good adjustments in the cage with his swing and mentally with his approach.”
After starter left-hander Luke Westphal gave up five runs, four earned in 2.2 innings, the Chihuahuas’ bullpen once again shut down the opposition with six pitchers only allowing one run.
“When guys go out there, they are well-rested and not overused or taxed,” said Sandberg on the success of his relief corps. “They have been working hard in their bullpens, and it has been translating into the games. We have been trying to put them in places where they succeed, and they are going out there and making their pitches.”
After being down 6-2 on Thursday and 6-0 tonight, Sandberg was asked if his players enjoy torturing him.
“I don’t want to take credit, but sometimes the team takes on the manager’s personality,” said Sandberg. “Robinson Canó said I don’t react too much, which helps the players stay on an even keel.
“So I don’t want to take credit, but I will take credit,” laughed Sandberg.
“Because it will be on me when it goes the other way.”