Looking to Regain the Momentum
Last week, Manager Rick Sweet and the Missions had just finished a sweep of a four-game series at home against the Reno Aces.
Holding the best record in the Pacific Coast League and in all of Triple-A baseball at the time, Sweet was in decidedly good spirits.
Regardless, he sounded a word of caution.
"If you're going to be some place, you might as well be at the top," Sweet said. "I do like that. I do like being there. But I also know we've got a long way to go.
"I just can't let my mind waver and let things slide and get off track, because I know things are going to change.
"I know how this game works. If I knew I was going to keep this club the rest of the year, I'd be all for it. But I know it's going to change, and it could change drastically."
The 66-year-old manager saw the future, and he called it.
As Sweet prepares the Missions for a nine-game homestand, opening Tuesday night with the first of four against Round Rock, his team has changed.
It's still a very potent team, but it is different than the one that fans saw in the first few weeks of June.
With the Missions dropping three of five on a recent trip to Omaha, their momentum surge as the top team in Triple-A and the leader in the PCL's American Southern Division has stalled just a bit.
The Express, rejuvenated after winning three of five at Iowa, has pulled to within 2 and 1/2 games of the Missions, their I-35 rivals in the American Southern race.
As the Missions return home to Wolff Stadium for a nine-game run, which includes four against Round Rock and five more against Iowa, here are a few observations on the state of the ball club:
Losing three painful, but understandable
The Missions started fast on the trip to Omaha, winning the opener and boosting their winning streak to a season-high seven games.
After that, some crazy things started happening, and, consequently, they dropped three of the next four to the Storm Chasers.
The first blow came when the Milwaukee Brewers called up staff ace Aaron Wilkerson. The next hit came when starter Burch Smith had to leave the team to attend to personal matters.
Wilkerson was scheduled to pitch Saturday and Smith on Monday. The Missions had to scramble to re-arrange the rotation both times. Both games ended up being losses.
Changing face of Missions pitching
With the parent-club Brewers still searching for a solidified staff to make another run in the National League Central, the Missions are destined to be affected.
In the accompanying move that vaulted Wilkerson back to the big leagues, Corbin Burnes was optioned to Triple-A and presumably will join the Missions this week.
But will he be able to find his groove? It remains to be seen.
Also, former Missions reliever Jake Petricka, recently traded to the Rangers' organization, also might be tough to replace.
Eyes on the bullpen will be on newcomer Luke Barker, who gave up the game-winning homer in a 3-2, seven-inning loss Monday at Omaha.
Home run balls keep flying
Despite the 2-3 record in Omaha, the offense continues to look better and better.
Newcomer Trent Grisham, up from Double-A Biloxi, hit home runs in each of his first three games for the Missions. As a team, the Missions finished the five-game series with 54 hits and nine home runs.
Specifically, hitters on a tear include Cory Spangenberg, Mauricio Dubon, David Freitas and Keston Hiura.
Both Hiura and Freitas unloaded with grand slams in the Missions' dramatic, 12-9 victory in 13 innings, a game that started Sunday afternoon and was completed on Monday.
Tyrone Taylor to return
Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said that outfielder Tyrone Taylor is expected to return to the Missions, possibly as early as Tuesday or Wednesday. Taylor has been on the injured list since May 26 with a wrist injury. Taylor, a defensive presence in the outfield, had 6 homers, 12 doubles and 28 RBI when he went down.
Milestone victory looming
Sweet has won 1,999 games in the minor leagues, 12th all time and second among active managers to Buddy Bailey of Single-A South Bend. Bailey is the active wins leader with 2,107. Sweet's record is 1,999-1,891.
Missions hold top spot
The Missions maintained a slim lead for best record in Triple-A and in the PCL after Tacoma, playing at home, beat the El Paso Chihuahuas 7-4 late Monday night on a two-out, walk-off grand slam by Chris Mariscal in the bottom of the 10th. The Missions are 48-29 on the season, and the Chihuahuas, in the PCL Pacific Southern, are 47-29. The Durham Bulls of the International League are also 47-29.
American Southern - San Antonio 48-29, Round Rock 45-31, New Orleans 42-35, Oklahoma City 30-45.
American Northern - Iowa 42-35, Omaha 37-40, Memphis 33-44, Nashville 31-45.
Pacific Southern - El Paso 47-29, Las Vegas 41-35, Salt Lake City 35-41, Albuquerque 33-44.
Pacific Northern - Fresno 40-37, Sacramento 39-36, Tacoma 36-41, Reno 32-44.
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