By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
After the San Antonio Missions escaped with a wild, extra-innings victory in Amarillo on Tuesday, they returned home to Wolff Stadium on Thursday night hoping to beat the Sod Poodles again to clinch a first-round Texas League playoff series.
The Soddies had other ideas.
Amarillo hit three home runs, cruised to an early six-run lead and then held on for a 7-4 win to tie the best-of-three set at one game apiece. As a result, the two teams will play again Friday night at the Wolff, with the winner advancing to the TL title series.
Seth Beer, Deyvison De Los Santos and Caleb Roberts homered to back the pitching of high-kicking starter Yilber Diaz, allowing the Sod Poodles to keep their championship hopes alive.
On Tuesday, both teams hit five home runs apiece in the series opener as San Antonio won, 12-11, in 10 innings. The Missions weren’t quite as prolific at the plate in Game 2.
They hit the ball well early but couldn’t capitalize when they had runners on base. Finally, in the bottom of the sixth, they broke through with two runs. Michael De La Cruz blasted an RBI double off the wall and 21-year-old Homer Bush Jr. added an RBI single to right.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Amarillo bullpen faltered and San Antonio took advantage, scoring two runs. That’s when the rally ended. With the bases loaded, De La Cruz popped up to left field for the final out.
Afterward, Missions manager Luke Montz said he liked the way his team kept battling in the game. He said he will not need to call a meeting for any pep talks to get his players ready to play on Friday.
“There’s nothing to say,” Montz said. “We talk about this from day one. This is what it’s all about. It’s winning baseball. It’s a winning culture. Playoff baseball. Guys are going to show up at the ballpark tomorrow with a job to do, and (that is to) win.
“We put it on the line. We talk about that from day one. There’s no speeches. We’re going to go out there and compete and get after somebody.”
Infielder Graham Pauley is the Player of the Year and Robby Snelling is the Pitcher of the Year in the San Diego Padres’ minor-league system. Both are playing for the Double-A Missions in the Texas League playoffs.
Pauley, 22, from Alpharetta, Ga., batted .308 in 127 combined games between Single-A Lake Elsinore, High-A Fort Wayne and San Antonio. Snelling, 19, from Reno, Nevada, went 11-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 22 combined starts between Lake Elsinore, Fort Wayne and San Antonio.
In winning the award, Pauley said it was an honor. He said he talked to officials in the organization, including A.J. Preller, the Padres’ president of baseball operations and general manager.
The words of encouragement from everyone were welcomed by Pauley, who joined the Missions late in the season, on Aug. 22.
“It kind of just makes me want to do the same stuff and try to stick to the routine I’ve had all year,” said Pauley, who legged out a double and hit two singles Thursday night. “When you keep doing the same things and it’s working out, you keep those things going.”
Texas League playoffs
South — Amarillo 7, San Antonio 4.
North — Springfield 6, Arkansas 4.
Note: Both series are tied, 1-1.
South — Amarillo at San Antonio, 7:05 p.m.
North — Springfield at Arkansas, 6:35 p.m.
Note: Winners advance to the TL title series
TL title series
Sunday — South winner at the North
Tuesday — North at South
Wednesday — North at South (if necessary)