Amarillo Sod Poodles outfielder Stone Garrett has hit safely in his last 12 games. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
By Lee Passmore
If nothing else, over the last two weeks the Amarillo Sod Poodles got used to the idea of playing games at home.
Playing their longest homestand of the season thus far after playing 24 of their first 30 games on the road, the Sod Poodles completed 12 games over 13 days at Hodgetown over the weekend. The results were the same last week as they were the week before.
With an opportunity during a Father’s Day game Sunday to score their first series win of the season, the Sod Poodles came up a short, as they fell to the Midland RockHounds 13-3. That signaled their third straight series split at Hodgetown, as they also split with Midland in the first home series of the season and with Corpus Christi the week before.
But there were probably more positive signs for the Soddies (19-23) in their series this past week than in any other so far this season.
“After a year like last year where none of us played I think it was just great to play baseball,” Sod Poodles manager Shawn Roof said. “We would have gone to Antarctica and played the same team for 120 games straight. The biggest thing is we were able to get into a routine and get some work in which you’re not always able to get on the road. After a month and a half of the season guys finally feel like they belong here.”
The reason the Sod Poodles had a chance to pull off a series win was due to what might have been their most thrilling performance of the season Saturday night. Trailing by two runs heading into the bottom of the ninth, red-hot Stone Garrett began the inning with a solo home run, and Alek Thomas ended the game by drawing a bases-loaded walk to give the Sod Poodles a 12-11 victory before a crowd of 6,208 on Luau Night.
That marked a definite high point in the season at Hodgetown up to this point for the Sod Poodles. Sunday might have been the low point.
Midland took a 2-0 lead off Soddies left-hander Tommy Henry on Jeremy Eierman’s towering two-run homer in the top of the first. That was a highlight of a tremendous series at Hodgetown for Eierman, who hit four homers in six games.
J.J. Schwarz hit another two-run homer for the RockHounds in the third off Henry, who left the game that inning with his team trailing 6-0. It was a rough outing for Henry, who was winless but had been pitching better than his 0-3 record indicated for most of the season.
“We just left some pitches up today and (the RockHounds) took advantage of it,” Roof said. “Sometimes you see that when someone gets out to a hot start and the other team isn’t able to answer it. I don’t think it has anything to do with (Saturday’s game).”
Thomas was perhaps best proof of how fickle the baseball winds can blow.
In Saturday’s game where he was the hero, Thomas not only brought home the game-winning run but finished the night with a career-high five RBIs, including a homer. He had the polar opposite game Sunday, going 0-for-5 and making the final out of the series by grounding into a force play.
Appropriately, it was Jose Herrera who was responsible for all three of Amarillo’s runs. Herrera stretched his hitting streak to 10 games and drove in all three runs for the Sod Poodles, including a two-run homer in the eighth to conclude his team’s scoring.
In the sixth, Herrera tripled home Dominic Fletcher, who reached on a single to also extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Solid as a Stone
The Sod Poodles have three players who have double-digit hitting streaks going, and as impressive as what Herrera and Fletcher are doing, they pale next to Garrett.
Midland had to be happy Garrett sat out Sunday’s game because that’s the only way to cool him off at the plate. He’ll take a 12-game hitting streak on the road when the Sod Poodles start a six-game series at Corpus Christi on Tuesday.
Garrett began the series with Midland last Tuesday by extending his streak to eight games with a grand slam off Brady Feigl in the fifth inning which gave the Soddies the lead for good in a 6-4 victory.
“I got to face (Feigl) for a third time and he left a breaking ball up and I executed,” Garrett said. “I got the opportunity to come up with the bases loaded and I was looking for a pitch to do some damage. It’s easy to get pull happy, but if you do you’re going to start spinning off balls and not go the other way and teams are going to start finding your hole, so I try to stay up the middle and try to put a good swing on it, and the ball flies out of here.”
Ironically, Feigl started and got the win Sunday without having to face Garrett once.
Friday night fireworks have become a staple at Hodgetown. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Left-hander Tyler Holton had a game to remember Friday night for the Sod Poodles, as he picked up his first Double A victory with an 8-2 victory. Holton went six innings and walked none while scattering five hits.
Most impressively, Holton recovered from giving up a titanic solo blast to Eierman in the first inning to give Midland a 1-0 lead.
“I feel like I’ve had good pitches all year but you’ve just got to put them together pitch after pitch, inning after inning and I was able to minimize walks,” Holton said. “My catcher (Dominic Miroglio) told me I had to get my curveball in the zone and I was able to do that (after Eierman’s homer) and get ahead of hitters. It hasn’t hit me but whenever you win obviously it’s a great feeling.”
Coming and going
A pair of Sod Poodles got called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks Triple A parent club in Reno last week and a familiar face was back on the mound.
Thursday, right-handed reliever Mitchell Osnowitz was called up to Reno. Sunday, first baseman and designated hitter Michael De La Cruz was called up as well.
Osnowitz was replaced on the roster by right-hander Blake Rogers, who was a member of the Sod Poodles 2019 Texas League champion as part of the San Diego Padres organization. Rogers made his 2021 debut Saturday and struck out four in 1 2/3 innings of relief.
In six games with Midland, the Sod Poodles drew 33,224 fans to Hodgetown. Sunday’s game put the franchise attendance mark over 100,000 for the season, as 101,073 fans have crossed the turnstiles at Hodgetown.