Jonathan Villar took extra batting practice before Friday’s game with the intent of fixing some things.
It paid off for the Oklahoma City shortstop as he came up with a game-winning two-run single in the eighth inning to lift the RedHawks past the Iowa Cubs 4-3 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, snapping a three-game losing streak.
“I’m very happy for the team,” Villar said. “I feel good and I’m ready to go.”
The hit was also a big moment for Villar as he tries to regain the form that made him the starting shortstop for the Houston Astros until he was optioned to Oklahoma City earlier this week.
“Once he gets going, he’s a five-tool guy,” RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “I think he’s got speed, he’s got power, got a plus arm and can run. That’s a nice combination to feature.”
A season-high 11,856 fans saw the RedHawks rally from a three-run deficit in the eighth inning as they moved within two games of the Cubs in the American Northern Division.
RALLY COMES AFTER CHANGE
Iowa left-hander Eric Jokisch was nearly unhittable.
“Locating his fastball, changing his speeds on us,” DeFrancesco said. “He shut us down and did a hell of a job.”
Jokisch allowed just two hits over seven innings, striking out seven and facing the minimum 21 batters. But he was pulled before the eighth inning.
That’s when things turned for the RedHawks.
Oklahoma City’s first three batters reached on Arodys Vizcaino when Austin Wates opened the eighth with a single just off the glove of Javier Baez, Preston Tucker walked and Matt Duffy singled.
The Cubs then brought in Marcus Hatley, who struck out Carlos Perez before Joe Sclafani and Ronny Torreyes each drove in runs. Two batters later, Villar delivered an opposite-field single.
WOJO, BULLPEN SOLID
RedHawks right-hander Asher Wojciechowski was solid in his fourth start since returning from an injury.
He allowed three earned runs over five innings.
He did struggle with the Cubs’ top prospects, though.
Baez hit a two-out solo home run over the video board in left field in the first inning. Third baseman Kris Bryant later hit a homer to right field to open the fourth.
Jason Stoffel (2-2) earned the win with 1 2/3 strong innings in which he struck out four. Kevin Chapman retired the final hitter for his third save.
The RedHawks (46-43) look to make it two straight wins Saturday night with Paul Clemens (3-0, 1.38 ERA) on the mound.
The Cubs (47-40) counter with right-hander Carlos Pimentel (1-4, 4.79), who was dealt a no-decision in his last start on June 30 against Omaha. He allowed four runs over five innings.
Clemens allowed two runs over four innings on June 28 against Omaha.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. There will be a fireworks show following the game, an addition to the RedHawks’ promotion schedule earlier this week.