Trying to Rebound from a Lost Weekend
On a day his team returned home from a lost weekend at Oklahoma City, Missions manager Rick Sweet tried to offer perspective.
"We actually didn't play that bad," Sweet said Monday afternoon. "I've said before, you catch teams at good times or bad times.
"We caught them at a very, very bad time, for us, because of how good they're hitting. I mean, their offense right now is absolutely outstanding. For our pitching, it was a bad time."
Feasting on the Missions' suddenly vulnerable starters, Oklahoma City hammered 11 home runs in winning 11-3, 9-8 and 12-8.
To make matters more concerning, veteran Missions starter Burch Smith has been called up to the major leagues just as the Iowa Cubs arrive in San Antonio.
A three-game series between division leaders in the Pacific Coast League will commence on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at Wolff Stadium.
Once a strength, starting pitching has emerged a major concern for the Missions.
"We're very thin," Sweet said. "We've got a lot of stuff going on. You know, (Burch) Smith was coming back (to us). Now, he's gone. We're trying to keep our pitching together."
When the Missions last played at Wolff, they swept a homestand, basically hitting their way to back-to-back 4-0 sweeps over the Omaha Storm Chasers and Nashville Sounds.
After polishing off the Sounds, the Missions' lead in the PCL's American Southern Division had ballooned to a season-high five games over the second-place Round Rock Express.
At 26 games over .500, their chances of winning the division, to qualify for the playoffs, seemed pretty strong.
But after the series against Kyle Garlick, DJ Peters and the resurgent Dodgers, the Missions' lead over the Express had been reduced to 3 and ?1/2 games.
Up next is a series against Iowa, a team from the American Northern Division.
The Cubs hold a 6-3 edge over the Missions this season, including a 3-2 series victory at Wolff three weeks ago..
In a telephone interview, Sweet said he still feels "very good" about the Missions' standing in the division race.
"I know we've got 39 left," he said. "But I don't look that far ahead, because of all the changes that keep happening. And there's going to be more."
Since the middle of June, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers has been up and down.
At one point, the Missions rolled to seven straight wins. Then they turned around and lost 9 of 14. They followed with a 10-1 surge, only to be saddled with the three consecutive losses in Oklahoma.
"...We've gone through some short stretches where we've lost some games, when we were thin (with pitching)," Sweet said. "We're in one of those stretches now. We're trying to rebound and get movement (on the roster).
"That's why I've been on the phone all day today with my bosses, trying to get things shaped up."
American Southern Division - San Antonio 62-39, Round Rock 58-42, New Orleans 53-47, Oklahoma City 46-54.
American Northern Division - Iowa 56-45, Omaha 46-55, Nashville 42-58, Memphis 41-60.
Officials have announced that Zack Brown will start for the Missions Tuesday night, followed by Thomas Jankins on Wednesday and Aaron Wilkerson on Thursday. The Cubs are expected to counter with Tyson Miller, Matt Swarmer and all-star Colin Rea, respectively.
Brown (2-6, 6.01 ERA) hasn't pitched since July 3. He has been in Arizona during that time, working on his technique, Sweet said. Brown, considered one of the top Brewers' pitching prospects, has had a tough time with his control. He has walked 49 in 82 and 1/3 innings.
Sweet said it's possible that Milwaukee Brewers veteran Jimmy Nelson could join the team on what would be his second Triple-A rehabilitation assignment of the season.
"He won't start," Sweet said. "He's only going to work out of the pen. That's what (Brewers manager Craig) Counsell has said."
Veteran infielder Travis Shaw blasted three home runs and produced five RBI in the last two games of the series in Oklahoma City. For the season, the 29-year-old Shaw is hitting .291 with nine home runs and 22 RBI. He has played for the Missions in two stints, in 26 games overall.
No 'statements' this week
Sweet brushed off a suggestion that the Missions could make a playoff statement with a strong showing this week against the Cubs.
He said the series can't be viewed in those terms because roster changes could affect both teams dramatically by the time the PCL playoffs start in the first week of September.
"You know, if we were in the big leagues, yes, that stuff works," Sweet said. "In A ball and Double-A, that stuff works. But in Triple-A, our roster changes so much, that, by the time you get ready to play them, a third of the players on both teams won't even be around."
Both the trade deadline (July 31) and the major league roster expansion (Sept. 1) could play major roles in shaping Triple-A rosters in coming weeks.
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