It was only a fly ball, decently high, reasonably deep, eminently catchable.
Scott Hairston hit it Friday night for the Missoula Osprey in the first inning of their game against Idaho Falls at Lindborg-Cregg Field. The Padres' Ruben Mora caught it in right field.
Mike Lopez tagged up and scored from third.
And that, as they say, was the ballgame.
Turns out the O's didn't even need Jeramy Janz's run-scoring single a few moments later. Four Missoula pitchers combined on a four-hit 2-0 shutout - the second whitewash of the year for the Osprey staff.
"It's nice to have quick innings and fly through a game like that," Janz said.
Missoula, which also blanked Billings 3-0 on July 3, won its fifth straight game and eighth in 10 outings. The Osprey (16-11) swept their three-game home series against Idaho Falls and completed their season series with the defending league champions with a 5-1 record.
The O's crept a half-game closer to Billings for the North Division lead. The Mustangs (18-8) had a home contest against Ogden rained out, leaving them 2 Þ games in front of the Osprey. The season's first-half ends on July 24, and the divisional champions clinch playoff berths in September.
"We're just trying to win every game," manager Chip Hale said. "Obviously we're looking to see what Billings does after the game. That's natural for anybody. If they say they're not they're lying."
Osprey pitching coach Mark Davis' staff has surrendered just seven earned runs in the five-game winning streak. This one wasn't the smooth-sailing brand of shutout that involved long strings of hapless Padres batters flailing away, but it had the same effect.
Missoula starter Justin Wechsler, who got the win, threw 29 pitches in the first inning, 11 of them to leadoff hitter Ruben Mora before striking him out. Two Padres walked in the inning before Wechsler knocked down a liner off David Giorgis' bat and threw him out at first.
Wechsler (1-1) went five innings, threw 85 pitches and allowed just two hits. One of the raps was a double by Eddie Serrano, who tried to make it a triple and was thrown out for the final out in the third inning.
Wechsler pitched out of a jam in the fifth when the first two batters reached on a hit-by-pitch and the O's lone error of the past two games. The next three Padres flew out, popped out and struck out, respectively. Wechsler ended the threat when he fanned Serrano.
Wechsler's first relief man, Roberto Medina, immediately found himself in a pickle as well. He gave up two quick singles - half the Padres' total for the evening - to Joe Hastings and Giorgis.
Medina, a Mexico native pitching in front of the family from Thompson Falls that hosted him in his senior year of high school in 1998-99, then struck out the next three Padres, two of them on three pitches.
His problem, he said, had been gripping the fastball too tight.
"My curveball was better than my fastball, so I started throwing curveball after curveball. Once you get up in the count it's a lot easier," Medina said.
That was the Padres' last peep.
Corby Medlin took over in the seventh for Missoula and Idaho Falls went three-up, three-down twice against him. Medlin, a powerful Texan, has made seven appearances and allowed just one earned run.
He turned it over in the ninth inning to the Missoula closer, Jesus Silva, who whiffed two and got the final out on a soft liner to Craig Nevels at third.
Missoula had little offensive success after the first inning, which started when Lopez clouted a leadoff double. Three of the Osprey's five hits came off Padres starter David Pauley in the first frame. The home team loaded the bases in the fifth inning on Sammy Montilla's single and two walks, but Idaho Falls' John Richards, making his first professional appearance after being signed at a tryout camp in Portland last week, struck out Hairston on three pitches to escape.
"I think we've got a great thing going on right now," said Janz, who finished 2-for-4 in front of his family from California that includes parents Gary and Becky and brothers Jake and Mikey. "You don't see any real bad attitude guys and we're getting along real well. It seems like anybody you put in the lineup comes through.
"Hopefully Billings will drop some games and we'll keep on winning."
Lino Garcia won't supply any game-winning hits for the next week or so. The 17-year-old Osprey center fielder is out with a left wrist injury. He left Wednesday's extra-inning win over Idaho Falls after scoring a run in the first inning. Garcia, batting leadoff, was hit in the left hand with a pitch. He then stole second but jammed the wrist on his slide. Garcia, who has had three last-inning, game-winning hits, was batting .264 with a team-high five steals.
An MRI performed on O's pitcher Greg Perkins' right arm had encouraging results. Perkin, who said he has a fractured forearm that was misdiagnosed last season, began throwing again on Friday. No date has been set for his return. Reliever Henky DeJesus, who hasn't pitched since June 21, is on a throwing program after suffering a strained biceps when he fielded a batting practice grounder and threw it full speed. That aggravated an arm made sore when DeJesus slept wrong on it coming home from Great Falls after the first road trip.
Jon Sherlock, who made his first home start at catcher on Thursday night and rapped his first two hits of the season, was hit in the knee during Ruben Mora's long opening at-bat on Friday. Mora fouled off six straight pitches after the count reached 2-and-2, the sixth catching Sherlock in the knee. Mora then struck out, and Montilla replaced Sherlock behind the plate in the second inning.
Idaho Falls catcher Omar Falcon, ejected from Wednesday's game in Missoula in the 10th inning after bumping umpire Todd Waters from behind, will be fined - and perhaps more. "He'll get the regular ejection fine of $10 and $5 for use of profanity," Pioneer League administrator Teryl MacDonald said. "Because he made physical contact with an umpire he can be fined up to $50." League president Jim McCurdy also has the discretion to suspend Falcon if he considers the bump "on-field violence" but MacDonald doubts if that will happen. Both Falcon and Idaho Falls manager Jake Molina, who was ejected just before Falcon for arguing a called ball that forced in the tying run of Missoula's extra-inning win, will be reprimanded by the league, MacDonald said.
"It's funny," she added. "We had no ejections for the first two or three weeks, then all of a sudden we've had seven in a week. I think it's been hot and everybody's tempers are short. Plus you get closer to the end of the (half season) and things happen."
Provo, which has run roughshod through the league so far, was forced to reassign six players at the end of June because of league age restrictions. Five were sent elsewhere and another was placed on the disabled list.
Pioneer League rosters can have no more than 17 players who turned 21 on or before June 6 and no more than two 23-year-olds. The Angels started their first season with 25 players age 21 or older. They had just two 23-year-olds, but four other players will turn 23 during the season.
Missoula's current roster has 10 players 21 or older. Third baseman Mike Lopez is the only 23-year-old.
Osprey 2, Padres 0
|Mora rf||4||0||0||0||Lopez dh||4||1||1||0|
|Aquino ss||3||0||0||0||Jacobo ss||3||0||0||0|
|Serrano 2b||4||0||1||0||Cota 1b||3||1||1||0|
|Hastings 1b||3||0||1||0||Hairston 2b||2||0||0||1|
|Giorgis lf||4||0||2||0||Janz lf||4||0||2||1|
|Baez 3b||4||0||0||0||Nevels 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Klatt dh||3||0||0||0||Vugteveen rf||3||0||0||0|
|Moore cf||2||0||0||0||Sherlock c||0||0||0||0|
|Olson cf||1||0||0||0||Montilla c||2||0||1||0|
|Falcon c||3||0||0||0||Chilsom cf||3||0||0||0|
E-Aquino, Nevels. DP-Idaho Falls 2. LOB-Idaho Falls 8, Missoula 7. 2B-Serrano, Lopez. SB-Moore (4). CS-Montilla. SF-Hairston.
IP H R ER BB SO
|Pauley L 1-3||4||3||2||2||1||3|
|Wechsler W 1-1||5||2||0||0||3||3|
|Silva S 4||1||0||0||0||0||2|
Balk-Richards. HPB-by Wechsler (Moore). Umpires-Todd Waters, Bojo Morris. T-2:21. A-1,376.
Casper at Medicine Hat (n)
Provo 4, Great Falls 0
Missoula 2, Idaho Falls 0
Ogden at Billings, ppd, rain
Casper at Missoula
Great Falls at Idaho Falls
Medicine Hat at Billings
Provo at Ogden
t Friday's game
Provo 4, Great Falls 0
G. Falls 000 000 000 - 0 2 4
Provo 001 011 10x - 4 6 0
Gonzalez, Hickman (7), and Diaz; Woods, Allen (8), Bowles (9) and Corbeil. W-Woods (1-1). L-Gonzalez (1-3).