Osprey Preview: Game #29 — Osprey at Chukars
Who: Missoula Osprey (15–13) at Idaho Falls Chuckars (12–16)
Where: Melaleuca Field — Idaho Falls, ID
When: 7:15 P.M. (MT) first pitch
How To Listen: ESPN 102.9 FM | MiLB First Pitch App| MiLB.com
Since the inception of the Missoula Osprey in 1999, they’ve met up with the Idaho Falls clubs, under a multitude of different monikers, at total of 17 times, going 67–60. Since the club took on their current designation a the Chukars in 2004, the series has been about as balanced as possible, as Missoula owns a 47–45 lead in the true “Osprey” vs. “Chukars” series. On the road, the O’s have gone onegame under .500 throughout the series history, posting a mark of 32–33, including a 1–3 mark in 2016. Overall last year, Missoula took three of seven games against the Chukars, dropping the season series with Idaho Falls for the third time in the last seven years.
Francis Martinez smashed a towering two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to break a 5–5 tie and lifted the Missoula Osprey (15–13) to their fourth win in five games, sinking the Idaho Falls Chukars (12–16) at Melaleuca Field by a final score of 7–5 on Monday night.
After succumbing to a shutout loss on Sunday, the Osprey wasted no time in reintroducing themselves to the scorekeeper, scoring twice in the top of the first inning. After a leadoff single by Eduardo Diaz, outfielder Ernie De La Trinidad ripped a triple to the right field corner to score the game’s first run. Two batter’s later, a groundout by Andy Yerzy pushed De La Trinidad home to make it 2–0 after half an inning.
In the subsequent inning, the Osprey added to their lead after Joel Novas led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. With none out, Francis Martinez brought home Novas on a botched fielder’s choice by Chukar second baseman Jake Wakamatsu that resulted in the second error of the night for Idaho Falls.
Idaho Falls responded with two runs in each the second and the third innings, dropping the Osprey to their first and only deficit of the game. Two innings later, the Osprey jumped back in front on a two-run home run by third baseman Joey Rose, his fourth of the season and second of the series, to lurch ahead 5–4.
Starter Kai-Wei Lin bounced back from his difficult outing in Ogden to leave Monday’s game in line for a victory, pitching six innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits and a walk, while striking out four. Despite being relegated to a no-decision, Monday marked the first occasion on which Lin completed a start without surrendering a home run.
Following Lin’s exit, Idaho Falls tied the game at 5–5 in the bottom of the seventh, setting the stage for first baseman Francis Martinez to play the role of the hero. In the top of the eighth, Martinez launched a 430-foot home run to straight away center field to plate a pair and pull the Osprey ahead for good.
Leading 7–5, reliever Abraham Almonte entered the ballgame and retired six consecutive hitters to end the game, lifting the Osprey to a win and registering his fourth save in as many chances. The victory pushed Missoula into first place by itself for the first time this season, as the Osprey opened up a one-game lead on Billings.
The first-place Osprey attempt to clinch a third win in four games against the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night, which would simultaneously net the North Division leaders a record above. 500 on their 10-game road trip. With a freshly minted one-game lead over second-place Billings in the first-half divisional race, the Osprey hand the ball to left-hander Brady Muller, who has emerged as a force during the month of July. Since the turn of the calendar, Muller has gone a perfect 2–0 with a 2.41 ERA in three starts, allowing just five runs in 18.2 innings, including 17 scoreless innings in that span.
The Osprey have won three consecutive starts by Muller, most recently leveraging a five-inning outing in which Muller shutout the Ogden Raptors while notching a season-high eight strikeouts. As he’s established a degree of normalcy in his preparation and approach since joining the Osprey from the independent Windy City Thunderbolts, Muller has settled into a rhythm. On display in his most recent outing, Muller’s slider has the capacity to be a devastating pitch when he can complement it with consistent fastball command. One note of interest entering Tuesday’s game is that Muller will be caught by Dominic Miroglio, the catcher with whom it seems he has the best rapport. Muller is a perfect 2–0 with Miroglio as his batterymate.
At the plate, the Osprey will be tasked with facing Chukar starter Holden Capps, a left-hander who is expected to make his second start of the season for Idaho Falls. In his first Pioneer League outing, the Royals’ eighth-rounder took a no-decision after pitching five innings against Helena at Melaleuca Field and allowing two unearned runs on four hits, a walk, and a hit batsman, while striking out six. Capps adds to his resume a quartet of outings in the AZL, including a pair of starts. Between the two levels, Capps has pitched in a total of five games, starting three times, and going 0–1 with a 2.12 ERA maintained across 17 innings. With 17 strikeouts compared to just five walks, Capps boasts one of the more impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios of pitchers to face the Osprey.
After a day off on Monday, Keshawn Lynch returns to the lineup on Tuesday, carrying a .414 season batting average into the game. Among other notable items are that Joey Rose has homered twice in the series at Idaho Falls, including one last night. Dominic Miroglio, who owns 57 plate appearances, has yet to strike out and has multiple hits in three straight games, elevating his average from .300 to .340 in the process.
Outfielder Ernie De La Trinidad has enjoyed one of the most fruitful weeks in Pioneer League baseball, hitting .360 during Missoula’s road trip including two three-hit games in his last four outings.
On Monday night, first baseman Francis Martinez smashed a tie-breaking two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to give the Osprey a 7–5 lead. His first homer of the season, Martinez’s 430-foot blast was the longest hit by any Missoula player to date in 2017. Adding to his recent resume of success, Martinez has driven in nine runs in the last week, the highest mark in the Pioneer League during that window.