GREAT FALLS - This is getting serious.
The Missoula Osprey are still without a Pioneer League baseball victory after a pair of Great Falls pitchers blanked them 6-0 Wednesday night.
Andres Astacio and Edgar Lizarraga combined on a three-hitter on a warm night at Legion Field as the Dodgers handed the flailing Osprey just their third shutout in the last two seasons.
Missoula was blanked last Aug. 23, by a 3-0 score. That was also in Great Falls, and it extended the O's losing streak to four games. The skein reached a team-record six a couple of days later, a mark the Osprey of 2001 are perilously close to. They finish out their season-opening, six-game road tour in Great Falls Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Great Falls, which won its fourth straight to stay within a game of unbeaten Billings in the North Division, scored its six runs in five separate innings. The Dodgers' biggest clump came in the fifth inning, when 6-foot-7 first baseman Derek Michaelis, a former basketball player at Rice, hit an opposite-field double to score two runs.
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Dodger shortstop Josh Canales, making his professional debut after batting .376 for UCLA this season, was 2-for-2 with two runs scored in the No. 9 hole.
But Missoula's biggest problems were Astacio, Lizarraga and itself.
In each of the first two innings Osprey leadoff hitters reached second base - Kevin Brand on a single and a fielding error, Craig Nevels on a double. In both cases, Astacio retired the next three hitters.
The Osprey got just one more hit, a single up the middle by Scott Hairston in the third inning as their team batting average dropped to .179. Lizarraga, one of 13 Dodgers who played at Great Falls last year, took over for Astacio in the fifth inning and didn't allow a hit.
Missoula threatened in the sixth when Jose Cota and Nevels reached on errors with one out and Dustin Vugteveen was hit in the shoulder to load the bases. But Javier Boll, among the league leaders with a .400 batting average before Wednesday, grounded to Canales, who ignited the game's only double play.
The Osprey committed five errors for the third game. They've had at least three in every outing.
Two of the errors were on pickoff throws by starter Greg Perkin, making his first start for the O's after suffering a midseason injury last year. Both errors were on throws to first. Both runners advanced to third and eventually scored.
First baseman Jose Cota dropped two throws on back-to-back grounders in the fifth inning before exchanging gloves. Those baserunners were the two Michaelis drove in with his double.
Missoula, now through its rotation of five starting pitchers, goes with Game 1 starter Franklin Medina on Thursday. Medina pitched six strong innings at Billings on Saturday and left in the seventh with a 6-2 lead. The Mustangs rallied from four down in the ninth to win 8-7.
The Osprey open a six-game home stand at 7:05 p.m. Friday against Medicine Hat.
Bird songs: Lyle Overbay sparkled in the pre-game home run derby and Jose Valverde turned in the pitching performance of the night as the West beat the East 6-2 Tuesday in the Texas League All-Star game in San Antonio. Overbay (Missoula '99) and Valverde (Missoula '00) both represented Double-A El Paso in the all-star match. Overbay didn't win the derby, but he had the best set, hitting six dingers in the first round. Valverde faced six batters in a relief stint and struck five of them out.
Valverde also became the first ex-Osprey selected to play in the All-Star Futures game. He'll pitch for the World team in the third annual affair at Safeco Field in Seattle on July 8.
Another former Osprey at El Paso, outfielder Doug Devore, has been named co-player of the month in the Diamondbacks organization. He hit .360 in May, with a team-high seven home runs, 25 runs batted in and a .719 slugging percentage.
Great Falls 6, Missoula 0
|Brand ss||4||0||1||0||Pierce cf||4||1||1||0|
|Lopez 3b||4||0||0||0||Cordova 2b||2||2||1||1|
|Hairston 2b||4||0||1||0||Escalera lf||3||0||0||1|
|Cota 1b||4||0||0||0||Michaelis 1b||4||0||1||3|
|Nevels dh||4||0||1||0||Garcia rf||4||1||1||0|
|Vugteveen lf||3||0||0||0||Nickerson 3b||4||0||1||1|
|Boll rf||3||0||0||0||Malone dh||4||0||0||0|
|Sherlock c||2||0||0||0||Diaz c||4||0||1||0|
|Garcia cf||3||0||0||0||Canales ss||2||2||2||0|
E-Perkin 2, Brand, Cota 2, Garcia, Nickerson, Canales. DP- Great Falls 1. LOB-Missoula 8, Great Falls 5. 2B-Nevels, Cordova, Michaelis. CS-Diaz. SF-Escalera.
|Perkin L, 0-1||7||8||6||3||2||3|
|Lizarraga, W 1-1||5||0||0||0||0||5|
HBP - Canales (by Perkin), Vugteveen (by Lizarraga), Sherlock (by Lizarraga). Balk - Astacio.
Umpires-Joe Penna, Jacob Uhlenhopp. T-2:10. A-2,043.
Know your O's
Third-round pick from Tucson, Ariz.
Age: 21 Size: 6-1, 180
Hairston signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks last week for a $400,000 bonus and worked out in Bank One Ballpark on Friday. He joined the Osprey in Billings for their opener the next night, and was hitting .187 (3-for-16) through five games. "My dad (Jerry Sr.) was drafted in the third round, but no one else in my family had gone that high until now," Hairston told the Arizona Republic. "I got a lot of phone calls."
Background: An 18th-round selection of the Chicago White Sox in 1999, Hairston instead went Central Arizona Community College. He committed to University of Nebraska, a College World Series entrant, before signing with the Diamondbacks. Hairston won his league's Triple Crown at Central Arizona this season, batting .509 with 17 home runs and 81 RBIs in 56 games. He also stole 25 bases and had a slugging percentage of 1.006.
Hairston's grandfather, Sam, was the first American-born black player signed by the White Sox and played briefly in the majors. As a Chicago scout, Sam signed his son Scott's father, Jerry, in 1970. Jerry played mainly for the White Sox and ranked 12th in major-league history for pinch hits when he retired in 1989. He manages the White Sox rookie league team in Tucson. Scott's uncle, John, played briefly for the '69 Cubs. Scott's brother, Jerry Jr., is the everyday second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. The Hairstons are one of three third-generation families of major leaguers. The others are the Bells and the Boones.
Baseball blood: "I was very fortunate growing up, in the lifestyle - my father being in the clubhouse, talking to players - really helped me out a lot. Knowing what to expect in baseball makes it a lot easier. In the minor leagues you have your ups and downs and that's the way it is, you struggle at times. You've got to handle it like a professional."
- Kim Briggeman, Missoulian
Billings 4, Medicine Hat 2
Provo 16, Casper 3
Great Falls 6, Missoula 0
Ogden 9, Idaho Falls 7
Billings at Medicine Hat
Casper at Provo
Missoula at Great Falls
Ogden at Idaho Falls
Great Falls at Billings
Idaho Falls at Casper
Medicine Hat at Missoula
Provo at Ogden
Billings 4, Medicine Hat 2
Collins, Fuller (4), Taylor (6) and Peterson; Costello, Childress (6), Cotton (8) and Yepes. W-Collins (1-0). L-Costello (0-1).
Provo 16, Casper 3
Mitchell, Ferrand (1), Gonzalez (3), Grandos (7), Beckstead (8) and Ingram; Dennis, Amico (5), Luther (7), Smith (8), Sutton (9) and Corbeil, Del Chiaro (6). W-Amico, 1-0. L-Mitchell, 0-1. HRs-Provo, Welch (1), Gray (1).
Up next: Tonight Missoula (Medina 0-0) at Great Falls (Rodriguez 0-0) , 7 o'clock, KGRZ (1450 AM)