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Hoping to Find a Spark at Home

August 23, 2019 - Pacific Coast League (PCL) - San Antonio Missions News Release

The end of the Missions' historic first season in the Pacific Coast League is approaching rapidly.

If they reach the postseason, we're looking at another two or three weeks of baseball. If they don't make it, we're looking at Sept. 2 as the last day.

The Missions, currently mired in an extended tailspin, would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today.

They've posted a 7-14 record since the July 31 trade deadline and, because of that, they're no longer in the lead in the PCL's American Southern Division, as they have been for most of the summer.

They're 1 and 1/2 games behind the Round Rock Express.

Neither contender looked very good on Thursday.

In an afternoon game at Des Moines, Iowa, the injury-troubled Missions wasted a strong effort by pitchers Thomas Jankins and Jimmy Nelson in a 1-0 loss to the Iowa Cubs.

Later, the Express got clobbered, falling 14-2 to the Memphis Redbirds.

Breaking down the race

Even though Round Rock has lost three straight and four out of five, the schedule would seem to favor the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros (76-52) to hang on over the Milwaukee Brewers-affiliated Missions (75-54).

Round Rock plays its next eight games at home, including four with New Orleans starting Friday night, and then four against San Antonio starting on Monday. The Express closes with four on the road at Omaha.

The Missions, meanwhile, open a three-game homestand on Friday night at Wolff Stadium against the Oklahoma City Dodgers before finishing with eight on the road -- four at Round Rock and four at Nashville.

On paper, the Missions' challenge doesn't appear all that daunting.

Nevertheless, it could be very tough considering the Missions have lost nine of their last 10 on the road, while the Express has won nine of its last 11 at home.

The Missions also face some star-power issues involving offensive threats Tyler Saladino and David Freitas. Saladino has been placed on the injured list, while Freitas did not play on the four-game trip to Iowa.

Freitas leads the Missions and ranks among the league leaders in batting average at .393. Saladino has hit 17 home runs and has driven in 64 runs.

Tonight's matchup

Oklahoma City's Justin De Fratus (2-4, 6.64) vs. San Antonio's Aaron Wilkerson (7-2, 3.59)

PCL standings

American Southern Division - Round Rock 76-52, San Antonio 75-54, New Orleans 68-58, Oklahoma City 59-69.

American Northern Division - Iowa 69-60, Memphis 62-67, Nashville 59-68, Omaha 55-73.

Note: Teams play a 140-game schedule through Sept. 2. The winners of the American Southern and American Northern divisions will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Another series will match winners in the Pacific Southern against the Pacific Northern divisions. Winners of the two divisional series will advance to the PCL title series. Both are best of five.

Winning consistently at home

In their inaugural season in the PCL, the Missions have utilized a strong home field advantage to stay near the top of the standings all summer. They have posted a 46-21 record at Wolff, the best home record in the PCL and in all of Triple-A.

As the Missions prepare to face the Dodgers on Friday night, here's a look at some of their defining moments at home this season:

April 9/10 - Shortstop Mauricio Dubon makes history twice. He strokes game-winning hits in the ninth inning of the first two Triple-A home games in Missions' history. In both games, the Missions beat the Memphis Redbirds, 6-5.

May 5 - The Missions defeat the Express twice on Cinco de Mayo. They win 10-9 in the completion of a suspended game, and then they cruise 6-1 in a seven-inning nightcap. Blake Allemand's three-run homer off Forrest Whitley and Jake Hager's walk-of RBI double in a three-run, ninth inning highlight the completion of a game suspended by rain two nights earlier.

May 10 - Saladino crushes a 467-foot home run, believed to be one of the longest in the history of Wolff Stadium, in a 9-8 victory over the New Orleans Baby Cakes. The ball sails over the green batters' eye situated atop the center field wall.

May 20 - Outfielder Nate Orf makes a spectacular catch of a wind-blown fly ball on the warning track in left field as the Missions beat the Memphis Redbirds 4-0 for their sixth straight victory, which capped a five-game home sweep. Orf's grab is judged as the No. 2 play of the night on ESPN's Sports Center.

May 31 - Wilkerson pitches seven scoreless innings, allowing only one hit, as the Missions blank Omaha, 3-0. Freitas goes 3-for-4 to kick off a 15-game hitting streak.

June 13 - San Antonio native Burch Smith strikes out 10 - tying a Missions' season high - in a five-inning stint to highlight a 15-1 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers.

June 25 - The Missions rout the Round Rock Express 10-2 as manager Rick Sweet picks up his 2,000th career victory in the minors. Batting phenomenon Keston Hiura hits his 19th home run, his last in Triple-A before he is called up three days later to the parent-club Milwaukee Brewers.

July 18 - Trent Grisham sparks a 15-hit attack as the Missions down the Nashville Sounds, 5-3, for their season-high eighth straight victory. As the Missions improve to 62-36, they maintain a season-high five-game lead over the Express in the American Southern Division race. Grisham goes 4-for-5 with three doubles.

July 30 - Grisham hits for the cycle with two home runs in an 8-4 victory over the Sacramento River Cats. It's the first cycle for the Missions in eight years.

July 31 - On the same day Grisham is called up to the majors, the parent-club Milwaukee Brewers deal Dubon to the San Francisco Giants on the trade deadline. In an almost surreal scene that afternoon, the former Missions' fan favorite says goodbye to his former teammates in the home team clubhouse, and then he strides over to the visitors' side to say hello to members of the River Cats, the Giants' Triple-A affiliate. In his first game with the new team, Dubon goes 0-for-3 at the plate, but Sacramento defeats San Antonio, 5-2.

Aug. 2 - Native Texan Trey Supak, in his first start for the Missions at Wolff, pitches 6 and 2/3 scoreless innings as the Missions down the Fresno Grizzlies, 1-0, in 10 innings. Supak, who played in high school at La Grange, works his magic in front of few dozen members of a group consisting of family and close friends.

Aug. 5 - Trailing by six runs in the second inning, the Missions rally for a 9-8 victory over the Fresno Grizzlies. The Missions hit three home runs in the fifth inning - by Troy Stokes Jr., Jacob Nottingham and Hager -- to spark the biggest comeback of the season.

Aug. 15 - Three days after Smith is picked up off waivers by the Giants organization, the former Missions' pitcher is assigned to the Giants' Triple-A team at Sacramento. Meanwhile, on the same day, the Missions drop the opener of a homestand, losing 5-3 in 10 innings to New Orleans.

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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