SAN ANTONIO — In a game that remained scoreless until the ninth inning, the Missions came up just short in the bottom half, dropping the penultimate game of their series with Midland 2-1.

The pitchers’ duel was started by Jose Espada, who made one of his best starts of the season, striking out seven batters in four innings while giving up two hits and walking two. Espada struck out two batters in the second inning and retired the side via strikeout in the fourth inning while notching one punchout each in the first and third. The game was Espada’s fifth start in 19 appearances with the Missions and his second start of the series after he gave up five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning on Tuesday.

Jose Espada has given the Missions quality innings in 2023. (Photo: San Antonio Missions)

“He’s not really an older guy, but he’s got a little experience,” Missions manager Luke Montz noted of his 26-year-old starter. “He knows what he’s doing, and he knows that Tuesday wasn’t his best, but he bounced back against pretty much the same lineup, and it means a lot to show that he came back and punch seven guys out.”

Espada signed out of the American Association last summer and made 11 appearances (seven starts) for Fort Wayne in 2022. He has once again filled a swingman role in 2023, going 0-2 with a 3.27 ERA, 58 strikeouts, and 22 walks in 44 innings pitched.

“[Espada] is the same guy; he gives you long relief, he’s competitive, he has a really good mix. That’s what makes him able to be a starter is that mix,” noted Montz. “The big thing is sometimes his pitch count climbs early, and not being stretched out and built like a starter; we don’t want to overdo him.”

Bobby Milacki was the first arm out of the San Antonio bullpen, and the 26-year-old righty threw three scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out two and walking none. In 17 total appearances in 2023, Milacki’s first season in the Padres organization, he is 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA with a 41:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings, primarily with Fort Wayne.

“[Milacki] showed you everything tonight. He’s another guy who’s got a good mix; he’s just got to open up his arsenal and keep guys off balance,” said Montz. “He competes and has a good feel of what he’s doing.”

The Arizona Christian product, making his third appearance since being promoted to the Missions on June 16, took the mound for the eighth inning but was removed from the game after being struck by a line drive. The resulting pitching change brought on Kevin Kopps, who recorded the first out with an assist on a sacrifice bunt before forcing a groundout and striking out the third batter he faced to end the inning.

Although Milacki was out to start the eighth, Montz indicated that he would likely not have finished the inning even if the liner had not bruised him.

“We thought about it for a second, but we looked back at what he did on Tuesday; he threw 46 or 47 pitches. We had a few arms in the bullpen, so we went to Kopps there.”

San Antonio had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning but failed to bring either home. That cost them in the ninth, which Midland began strikeout, single, another strikeout, and another single before a liner to right field fell in to score the game’s first two runs.

“Tough draw right there in the ninth; that was a tough play in right field,” Montz said. “That’s what Kopps has been chasing, he’s had some real good outings, and he throws a hammer slider, but he’s really focused on what his next pitch can be to put guys away and get them off his fastball and get them off his cutter.”

In the bottom of the frame, Ripken Reyes and Tirso Ornelas led off with a pair of singles, placing runners on first and third with no outs. A wild pitch scored Reyes, getting the Missions on the board and advancing Ornelas to second base. Although Daniel Johnson managed to move Ornelas over to third with a one-out sacrifice fly, San Antonio could not capitalize on the runner in scoring position, dropping the game and taking a deficit in the series as they will look to even it up on Sunday.

Notes: In a fun box score oddity, Connor Hollis pinch ran for Pedro Castellanoswho went 2-for-3 in the eighth inning, then Hollis nominally remained in the game as the designated hitter. But in the ninth, San Antonio opted for Juan Fernandez to pinch hit in the spot, leaving Hollis as a DH who did not have a plate appearance. …Jackson Wolf takes the mound Sunday afternoon as the Missions look to even up the series in the finale.

Posted by Mark Wilkens

Born in San Diego and raised in Escondido, Mark now calls Phoenix home. Prior to MadFriars, Mark had multiple articles featured on Bleacher Report and covering the Padres, Angels and Clippers.


  1. Another awful outing from a wasted 3rd round pick. He got two of his outs for free (ridiculous sac bunt with the opponent’s #2 hitter, another out on the basepaths) and continues to put guys on base. Kopps has had one good year since he left high school and that was only because he was several years older than his competition. Even Montz is ragging on him. It’s time to cut bait and see if there’s some idiot GM out there that might give you a live arm or something for Kopps.


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