Osprey Preview: Game #10
Who: Billings Mustangs (6–3) at Missoula Osprey (3–6)
Where: Ogren Park at Allegiance Field — Missoula, MT
When: 7:05 P.M. (MT) first pitch
How To Listen: ESPN 102.9 FM | TuneIn Radio App | MiLB.com
In the wake of losing 3 of 4 to Billings at Dehler Park to begin the season, the Osprey fell once more to the Mustangs on Tuesday night, dropping their all-time mark to 136–150 against Billings. Of those 285 previous meetings, the teams have met up in Missoula 143 times, with the Osprey enjoying a 75–68 advantage in such games. At home, however, the O’s have dropped their last three home games against Billings, dating back to 2016. Wednesday night’s contest marks the second of a four-game series with Billings and the sixth of 16 scheduled meetings in 2017.
Gavin Stupienski hit his first homer of the season to push the Missoula Osprey (3–6) to an early lead and the Osprey racked up 14 hits as a team, but Billings (6–3) rallied for nine consecutive runs spread across three innings to upend Missoula 10–5 on Tuesday night.
In the bottom of the second, shortstop Ryan Grotjohn pulled a ground ball single into right field to offer the Osprey an early lead, scoring Luis Lara from second base. One batter later, Stupienski smashed a two-run homer over the right-center field fence to push Missoula’s lead to 3–0 after two innings.
Stupienski, making his first start of the season, went 2-for-3 at the plate with a homer, a double, and 2 RBI. His multi-hit game was one of five scattered throughout the Osprey lineup, as every player stroked at least one base hit.
Beginning in the top of the third and spanning through the subsequent two innings, the Mustangs then piled nine consecutive runs on the scoreboard to surge ahead 9–3. With a two-run triple in the fifth, Mustangs’ designated hitter Zeke White jolted Billings ahead to a 5–3 lead. After adding two run-scoring singles before the close of the fourth, Billings opened the fifth with back-to-back homers to lunge in front 9–3 and knock Osprey starter Brady Muller from the ballgame.
Through four and one-third innings pitched, Muller surrendered nine runs (six earned) on 12 hits, including three home runs, while striking out four. With losses in consecutive starts, Muller’s record now rests at 0–2 on the year.
In the bottom half of the fifth, Missoula responded with a pair of runs on an RBI triple by third baseman Joey Rose and a run-scoring groundout by Luis Lara to cut their deficit to 9–5. In the following inning, however, Billings added a run against reliever Jhoendri Herrera to push the score to its final margin.
The Osprey hand the ball to 25-year-old right-hander Tyler Vail (0–0, 32.40 ERA) with designs on stopping their brief three-game skid. Vail, a veteran professional, is expected to start against Billings for the first time in 2017, also the first time in his career.
In his first outing of the season, Vail struggled through 1 and 2/3 innings in Missoula’s home opener, allowing six runs and taking a no-decision. Fortunately for Vail, the Osprey exploded for season-highs in runs (19), hits (21), and extra-base hits (10) that night to blow past Great Falls and reel off nine consecutive runs in the final three innings to win 19–16.
One item from his first start that Vail will work to mitigate on Wednesday is his surprising propensity for allowing home runs. A sinker-ball pitcher, Vail thrives when his pitches are low in the strike zone and forcing opposing hitters to hit grounders on the infield. Last Friday, however, Vail was beaten for three homers by Great Falls, all of which came in the span of a single inning. After Billings hit a trio of home runs last night against Osprey starter Brady Muller, it will be on Vail to tread lightly against the Mustangs.
At the plate, Missoula hopes to build on their success from last night’s game in which every batter in the Osprey lineup recorded at least one base hit. Five players posted multiple hits en route to 14 total base hits as a club — the second-highest total of the season for Missoula. They’ll square off against Mustang’s right-hander Aaron Quillen for the first time this season after missing his turn in the Billings rotation last week. In his first outing of the season, Quillen did not factor into the decision of an 8–5 win for Billings over Helena on June 23rd. In five innings on the bump, Quillen allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits, while striking out three.
NOTES: With three errors on Tuesday night, the Osprey now have a league-worst 24 for the season and at least one in all nine games to date…Gavin Stupienski’s second-inning homer on Tuesday snapped a streak of 35 and 2/3 innings between home runs for the Osprey…with two hits on Tuesday night, Keshawn Lynch now has hits in all four games he has played for Missoula, including multiple knocks in three straight…Luis Lara extended his on-base streak to seven games on Tuesday.