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Watson Deals in Relief and Matias Homers in 5-3 Win over Cardinals

September 16, 2021 - Double-A Central League (AA Central) - Northwest Arkansas Naturals News Release

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals scored three runs in the second inning and stayed ahead for the rest of the night, beating the Springfield Cardinals for the second straight night with a 5-3 win.

Starting pitcher Austin Cox (MLB Pipeline's No. 13 Royals' prospect) delivered two scoreless innings and struck out two, facing the minimum in his 15th start of the season. Cox was followed by Nolan Watson, who delivered his best performance of the season, as he pitched five innings with just one earned run allowed, not walking a batter while striking out five.

Stephen Woods Jr. followed Watson with a scoreless eighth inning and Josh Dye closed the door in the ninth, locking down his eighth save of the season, his first opportunity to save a game since June 30 in Springfield.

While the combined pitching effort was stellar, the offense backed up the pitching early on and added insurance as the night went on and as needed.

Seuly Matias started the scoring just one out into the second inning, as he sent his fourth home run of the Double-A season out of the ballpark, a solo shot to right field that put the Naturals up 1-0. Of those four homers with the Naturals, it was his third to the opposite field.

Two more runs crossed the plate in the second, as Brhet Bewley drove in Freddy Fermin on a sac fly and Jimmy Govern doubled across Brewer Hicklen for an early 3-0 lead.

The Naturals countered a Springfield fifth inning run with one of their own, as Meibrys Viloria singled home Vinnie Pasquantino (MLB Pipeline's No. 18 Royals' prospect). After the Cardinals added another in the seventh, Northwest Arkansas added one more in the eight, as Fermin singled hom Viloria for the fifth and final run of the night, important insurance in a two-run victory.

Viloria, Matias, Fermin and Hicklen each contributed two-hit efforts. Hicklen stole a pair of bases in the fourth inning, swiping second and third on consecutive pitches in the fourth inning after his second hit of the day. The steals brought him to 40, extending his Double-A lead and sending a single-season career best.

With the win over Springfield (43-73), a pair of losses for Frisco and a doubleheader split for Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas (62-53) is a game closer to the playoffs. The Naturals are tied with the RoughRiders for 3rd place in the Double-A Central, just a half game behind the Travelers for the second playoff spot with four games remaining in the season.

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