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Preparing for a Playoff Push

August 25, 2019 - Pacific Coast League (PCL) - San Antonio Missions News Release

The Missions are set to play the last home game of their first regular season in the Pacific Coast League.

The schedule clearly says that the home finale is set for 6:05 p.m. Sunday at the Wolff Stadium against the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

Then again, if the Missions can continue to swing the bats the way they did in a 15-3 victory over the Dodgers Saturday night, the scheduling of another home game at the Wolff might be a distinct possibility.

A PCL postseason home game, that is.

Asked to predict whether Sunday's game would be the last time that fans would see his team at home this summer, Missions manager Rick Sweet smiled and said coyly, "No. No. We'll be back."

Told by a reporter that his second-place Missions now trail the Round Rock Express by two games in the PCL's American Southern Division, Sweet nodded his head again.

"I know that," he said.

Sweet knows, too, that the Express (79-52) and the Missions (77-54) both have only nine more to play.

What is most important to Sweet, really, is that the teams will play each other four times in four nights starting on Monday night in Round Rock.

"We have control (of our destiny)," Sweet said. "As long as we don't have to rely on anybody else, you know, I feel good about (our position). We've had a couple of really good days. And I like where we're at."

One night after Missions pitching handcuffed the Dodgers on six hits in a 4-2 victory Friday night, the offense erupted for 14 hits Saturday, including seven of them for extra bases.

Nate Orf highlighted the outburst with his first career grand slam and streaking Tyrone Taylor added some sizzle with a long two-run homer.

The Missions scored six runs in the fourth inning and six more in the seventh. With the 15 total runs, they tallied the most they've scored since a 19-1 home victory over Reno on June 18.

How did this happen?

Who flipped the switch on a team that had lost 14 of 21 since July 31?

"There are no switches," Sweet said. "It's just baseball. If there (were) switches, I'd have flipped 'em a long time ago."

Orf is a prime example. He's just a player who, like everyone else, goes through times when he doesn't make much of an impact.

At other times, the ball flies off his bat. For instance, over the past two nights, the former Baylor standout has scorched the ball against the Dodgers.

One night after hitting a foul ball that narrowly hooked foul beyond the left field fence, Orf ripped his 10th homer of the season with the bases loaded, in the fourth inning, off Oklahoma City starter Justin De Fratus.

He added an RBI single later in the evening for a career-high five runs driven in.

"Nice," Orf said. "I didn't know about the grand slam (as my first). I wish I had a bunch of 'em in there. But, you know, I'll take it. I just want to win."

Taylor extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a 3-for-5 effort and four RBI.

After drilling his 12th homer of the season in the eighth inning off Luis Vasquez, he hiked his batting average to .476 during the streak and to .271 for the season.

It's been a dramatic turnaround for Taylor, who struggled for months through a few injuries to find a rhythm, and now he's found it.

"That's a good word choice, right there," Taylor said. "People use the word timing in baseball. But I love the word rhythm. That's cool."

PCL standings

American Southern -- Round Rock 79-52, San Antonio 77-54, New Orleans 68-61, Oklahoma City 59-71.

American Northern - Iowa 70-61, Memphis 64-67, Nashville 60-69, Omaha 55-75.

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

Coming up

Milwaukee Brewers veteran left-hander Brent Suter will be used as an opener to start the Missions' game Sunday against the Dodgers. Veteran righty Shelby Miller will start Game 1 in Round Rock on Monday, followed by Thomas Jankins, Aaron Wilkerson and Trey Supak, Sweet said.

De-Lux talent

Oklahoma City leadoff man Gavin Lux went 2-for-5 Saturday to reach base safely in 43 of his first 44 Triple-A games. Lux, 21, is hitting .407 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI since he was promoted from Double-A Tulsa.

Taking two in Round Rock

The Express won two seven-inning games at home on Saturday, downing the New Orleans Baby Cakes 7-1 and 5-4. The Baby Cakes rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh in the second game. But with the potential tying run at second, Round Rock reliever Ronel Blanco struck out Yadiel Rivera and Peter O'Brien to end the game.

Talking roster expansion

It's that time of year again in major league baseball. Executives from coast to coast are reviewing lists of minor league players that they may want to call up for the stretch run.

With MLB roster expansion looming a week away on Sept 1, are the Missions' players thinking about it?

"I think it depends on the player," Sweet said. "You see how much movement there is at this level. Yeah, they think about it. But, usually, players at this level are able to put that off to the side. If they don't, they're probably not going to have a lot of success."

MLB roster expansion could affect both San Antonio and Round Rock on the last weekend of the regular season.

The Missions play their last four at Nashville, while the Express will play their final four at Omaha. The last day of the PCL regular season is Sept. 2.

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