Midland snaps skid at Arvest
SPRINGDALE — For the first time in 2017, Midland solved the Naturals at Arvest Ballpark.
In late May, Northwest Arkansas swept the RockHounds for the first time since April 2016 and only the third time in franchise history. And after big nights offensively in games one and two of the series, the Naturals were on the verge of doing so again.
Midland, though, tagged Naturals starter Corey Ray for four runs over the middle innings and grabbed a 4-2 win to salvage a game in the series and snap a five-game skid in Springdale. The RockHounds received a strong effort on the mound from Grant Holmes, who fanned eight over 5.2 innings to earn his ninth win of the year.
“He had a really good curveball and showed it late,” Naturals manager Vance Wilson said. “He didn’t really show it until he got to two strikes. That’s kind of what we scuffled with.”
Holmes made life difficult for Northwest Arkansas for a majority of his outing. He scattered just two hits and struck out eight through five before meeting trouble in the sixth as Samir Duenez homered for the fourth time in his last nine games to cut the Naturals’ deficit to 4-2. In the fourth inning, Holmes retired the side on strikes and, for the game, allowed just the one extra base hit.
Midland’s Jorge Mateo manufactured the game’s first run by opening the fourth inning with a single before swiping second — without a throw — and third. Max Schrock then tallied his team-leading eighth RBI of the month with a groundout to first, scoring Mateo. RockHounds eighthole Sean Murphy came into the game 4-for-29 in August, but delivered an RBI single to right in the fifth to extend Midland’s lead.
A sacrifice fly and RBI single later, Midland took a 4-0 lead in the sixth on starter Ray, who Wilson thought had “some of his better command” early on. Ray (6-10) tied a career-high with five walks and was saddled with the loss.
“I thought he kind of got squeezed on a couple of pitches that changed some counts,” Wilson said. “With that being said, (Ray) wasn’t able to be resilient and come back with some pitches in the zone late and gave up a couple of runs.”
Mauricio Ramos tallied a pair of hits in the loss for Northwest Arkansas, but Deunez’s blast was the extent of Northwest Arkansas’
offense after a combined 17 runs and 24 hits in the first two games of the three-game set. Duenez’s home run gives him 16 for the season to go along with 69 RBI.
“He’s doing a nice job of getting back to what his swing is,” Wilson said. “When he’s just a good hitter the ball goes out of the park. He’s worked his tail off.”
■ Trailing 4-2, Northwest Arkansas’ Anderson Miller belted a shot into the gap in right-center field in the seventh inning Thursday. As he rounded second, Miller lost his footing and attempted to scramble back to second, but was tagged out for the second out of the inning.
■ After allowing a man on in the first and second innings, Ray escaped trouble with a pair of double play balls early. Ray then picked off his sixth runner of the year to close the second.
On Deck: Northwest Arkansas continues its sixgame
homestand tonight and opens up a weekend series with Frisco. The Naturals are scheduled to send right-hander Zack Lovvorn (4-5, 4.72 ERA) to the mound against Yohander Mendez (7-7, 3.86 ERA).
Today’s Promotion: Faith and Family Night pregame concert featuring Micah Tyler with a fireworks show following the game.
On The Air: 92.1 FM, The Ticket
On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com