HELENA - The Missoula Osprey must be excellent Monopoly players because they seemed to have a stack of "Get Out of Jail" free cards handy Monday night in their 7-4 victory over the Helena Brewers.
Despite putting the leadoff runner on base in seven of nine innings, Missoula pulled out the Pioneer League victory, its ninth straight, at Kindrick Field with some clutch hitting and pitching. Brian Matzenbacher came in to pitch for Missoula with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning and ended the inning with a strikeout. Matzenbacher then pitched himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning with two outs to earn his league-leading fifth save of the season.
Left-hander Mark Gentile (2-1) turned in another strong performance for Missoula, going seven-plus innings to earn the victory despite little run support for his third consecutive start.
Missoula, which improved to a league-best 11-2 with the win, couldn't seem to put any runs up early despite coming into the contest averaging almost nine per game. Helena starting pitcher Kevin Grater threw well, allowing just two runs in five innings of work. The Brewers, trailing 2-1, tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Eduardo Reyes hit a leadoff double and scored on a single by Eliser Rojas.
The Osprey got the lead back for good in the eighth inning when J.D. Closser cracked a two-run home run and Lyle Overbay, who had homered in the fourth, scored later in the inning. Closser's clout was Missoula's league-leading 20th home run of the season. The runs came off Helena reliever Carlos Aponte (0-2) who picked up the loss in four innings of relief.
Helena threatened to take the lead back in the bottom of the eighth when a pair of errors by Missoula shortstop Corey Myers allowed the first two Helena batters on base. Gentile, who got just two runs of support in his first outing and three in his second, left the game following the errors to end his solid outing. Ryan Knox eventually scored for Helena in the inning, but following two outs from reliever Jim Wollscheid, Matzenbacher killed the Brewers' rally.
The Osprey put another pair of runs up in the top of the ninth inning on a two-run double from Overbay. Matzenbacher closed out the contest after allowing the final run.
Overbay had another strong performance at the plate, finishing 3-for-5 with a double, homer, three RBIs and a pair of runs scored. With the three RBIs, he took the team lead with 17. It was Missoula's ninth consecutive win, and the Osprey are now 8-0 when they score the first run.
Jose Brazoban went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs and a double to lead the Brewers, while Reyes also had a nice game by going 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI.
The Osprey finish their series in Helena Tuesday night with P.J. Bevis (1-0) expected to start. Missoula returns home Wednesday to begin a six-game home stand.
Tuesday - 6/29/99