Swinging the Bat with Confidence
Missions shortstop Mauricio Dubon has been persistent, and he's been patient. He's done the hard work required to come back from a devastating knee injury.
Now, it's paying off in a big way.
Swinging the bat with confidence, Dubon once again is starting to show the ability that has elevated him as one of the top prospects in the Milwaukee Brewers' minor league system.
The latest indication of his re-emergence came Monday night when he doubled and homered and drove in four runs in an 8-4 Pacific Coast League victory over the Reno Aces.
A crowd of 3,368 at Wolff Stadium watched as Dubon went 3-for-5 from the leadoff spot, sparking the Missions to their fifth straight win and a 5-1 record on the homestand.
A little more than a year since Dubon blew out a knee last May, Missions manager Rick Sweet predicted that Dubon would play at the next level.
"He should be a major league player, without a doubt," Sweet said. "Just got to get him all the way back. Last year when he got hurt ... his game was just starting to come around. He still had room to go last year.
"He wasn't ready to go to the big leagues last year when he got hurt, but he was starting to show it, like he's starting to show it now."
Dubon, from Honduras, seems to be finding his old rhythm at the plate once again.
He's hit safely in nine straight games, with five multiple-hit games in a row. Lately, he's been on fire, producing three hits in each of the team's last three outings.
As a result, a batting average that had sunk to .250 in late April has climbed to .312.
Speaking to reporters in the clubhouse Monday night, he applauded his teammates for grinding out a string of solid performances, winning the last two games of a series against Tacoma and three in a row against Reno.
Each night, it seems as if a different player emerges to make headlines.
For instance, as the homestand opened last week, Keston Hiura hit three home runs over a two-game stretch against Tacoma.
On Sunday, David Freitas homered and doubled and produced four RBI against Reno.
Against Reno on Monday, Dubon stepped up to help boost the team to a 45-26 record, the best in all of Triple-A, including teams in both the Pacific Coast League and in the International League.
"Like I told you at the beginning of the year, we have a pretty good team," Dubon said. "It's a very talented team. We have a great group of guys here. About every day, you never know who (will lead), who it's going to be. You never know.
"We just ride with it, and then whoever's hot, we're behind 'em."
If the Missions have had a weakness, it's been a defense that has lagged in the bottom third of the PCL statistics in fielding percentage.
But in a change for the better, they've only made two errors on the homestand and none in the last two games against Reno.
"We are a pretty good team defensively," Dubon said. "Right now, the pitchers are helping. They're making the hitters uncomfortable. We're locked in. It's just going our way right now."
Dubon supplied much of the momentum against Reno in the third game of a four-game series.
In the first inning, he chopped a double down the left field line and ended up scoring the first run of the game for the Missions.
Later, Dubon belted a ball onto the left field berm for a two-run homer in a three-run second inning.
Finally, he contributed to a four-run outburst in the third with a two-run single.
Both his homer and his single came on two-strike counts, with both against veteran pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who has more than 11 years of major league service.
"I'm a better hitter with two strikes," Dubon said. "I mean, I focus more. But like I say, I'm hitting better pitches. They throw me better pitches, I'm putting the barrel on the ball and it's finding holes."
During his nine-game batting streak, Dubon has pounded out 18 hits in 42 at bats for a hefty .428 average.
He said his offensive surge is starting to feel like the beginnings of his 23-game batting streak from last year in Triple-A.
"Uh, yeah," he said, smiling. "It does. Like last year, all over again. I mean, laying off bad stuff. Swinging at good strikes. It just feels like last year."
In 2018, in Dubon's streak, he went on a tear, producing 35 hits in 99 at bats (.354).
It only came to a stop on May 5 when Dubon blew out the knee and was lost for the season in a run-down on the bases.
If he had stayed healthy, he could have landed in the big leagues at the end of the 2018 season.
Instead, the 6-foot native of Honduras underwent surgery on May 22 and spent the next eight months in rehabilitation to get ready for spring training.
In the spring, he suffered another setback with a stomach ailment that landed him in the hospital. Now three months beyond the ailment, Dubon is starting to play at a high level again.
American Southern Division - San Antonio 45-26, Round Rock 42-28, New Orleans 39-32, Oklahoma City 29-40.
Pacific Northern Division - Sacramento 36-34, Fresno 35-35, Tacoma 33-38, Reno 29-41.
Reno at San Antonio, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday
Burch Smith (4-3, 3.02 ERA) for San Antonio vs. Matt Koch (1-2, 7.46 ERA) for Reno
Brown gets the win
Starting pitcher Zack Brown (2-4) earned his first victory since April. He pitched five innings and gave up four earned runs and six hits. He walked three and struck out five.
"You know, it could have gone a lot better," he said. "Luckily I had the offense and a lot of support. We got the early runs.
"Just got to do a better job of making pitches out of the stretch, and making pitches in crunch time, especially after the guys give me three runs (in the second inning). You can't let them back in the game like that (by giving up two in the third)."
Manager Rick Sweet said Brown's struggles this year are tied to his lack of experience in facing more mature hitters.
"What they find here (in the PCL) is, guys don't chase balls out of the (strike) zone, as much as they do (in Double-A)," Sweet said. "They have to get better command of their pitches both in the zone and out of the zone."
Sweet said infielder Lucas Erceg worked hard on his swing with coach Al LeBoeuf before the game. Erceg (.202 n the season) showed some promise with a 2-for-2 effort, including both balls hit to the opposite field in left. Erceg is 3 for 13 on the homestand.
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