Jose Cardona hit his first home run since August of 2016 on Tuesday night, a shot to left center that gave the RoughRiders a 4-2 lead in the 1st inning but was otherwise meaningless in a 10-4 loss to the Oakland affiliate Midland Rockhounds.
Wednesday afternoon Cardona hit his second home run in less than 24 hours, this one carrying much more weight as it pinged off the fence behind the left field wall and gave the Riders a 3-run lead in the 8th inning that they would hang on to for a 7-4 win.
Yohander Mendez took the bump for the RoughRiders in what was so far the summery-est game of 2017 and continued his troubling trend of allowing opposing hitters to hit the ball really far. Mendez allowed 3 home runs on Wednesday, one in the 4th, then back-to-back homers in the 6th to knot the game at 4. The second of those splashed perfectly into the Lazy River in right and made about 10 thousand people wish they were doing the same. It’s only the third multi-dinger game of his professional career, the second being his April 30th start where he allowed 4 versus Corpus Christi.
That’s 8 home runs given up in the last 4 games, his Friday start in San Antonio where he took a no-hitter into the 7th serving as the bright spot in an otherwise iffy couple of weeks. Mendez sat at 90-92 with the fastball but was struggling to hit spots at times. He was (and usually is) at his best when he’s working quickly, and he showed flashes of potency at times, striking out the side in order in the 5th. He wasn’t any better or worse than his line, though, and this was the third or fourth time this season where it appeared he was having to labor through the opposing lineup without having his best stuff. Yo made it through 6 and didn’t come out for the 7th, striking out 6 and allowing 4 runs on 5 hits, 2 walks, and a HBP.
Meanwhile the back half of the Rider bullpen continues to solidify, the combination of Adam Loewen, Sam Wolff, and Reed Garrett pitching an inning each to close out the game. Sam Wolff took the cake today, striking out 3 of the 4 batters he faced while firing 96 and 97 mph fastballs and hitting 98 a time or two, as well. Garrett continued his success since converting to a late-arm role, posting similar fastball velocity and earning the save with a pair of Ks and a sky-high pop-up that catcher Jose Trevino tracked and squeezed for an inconspicuously difficult final out of the game.
The Frisco bats were carried by the two best offensive players of their young season, the previously-mentioned Jose Cardona going 2-4 and scoring 2 runs to go along with that game-winning 3-run bomb. Cardona is now hitting .312 on the year. Scott Heineman had himself another day as well, leading off the Riders’ first with a triple to center (on a ball that twisted the centerfielder into about 5 different directions) then scoring on the following groundout to short by Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Heineman followed that up with a majestic stroke to left field that sailed over the wall for his 5th home run of 2017.
The other 2 runs came from a triple off the bat of Michael De Leon on what might have been one of the hardest-hit balls all season by the switch-hitting shortstop, no doubt taking advantage of the feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness after Midland pitcher Brett Graves’ belt snapped in the middle of the at-bat.
It was a surprisingly packed house for the 11 o’ clock first pitch, the majority of the seats being filled with youngsters on field trips with their schools or camps. It was the first game of the year where heat may have played a factor. Possible fakenews alert on the 74 degree first pitch; it was hot.
The win brings Frisco to 17-22 on the year, the RoughRiders starting their week-long homestand by taking two of the first three from Midland. The Rockhounds are in town for one more tomorrow night when Collin Wiles and the Riders will attempt to clinch a series win before hosting the Astros-affiliated Corpus Christi Hooks for a 4-gamer this weekend and Monday.