Preston Tucker drove in two more runs to help lead the RedHawks to a 6-3 win over the Albuquerque on Sunday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Running his season total to 92 RBIs, more than any hitter in the Houston Astros organization, Tucker supplied an RBI single in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Matt Duffy was the catalyst, going 3-for-3. Duffy scored three runs. Domingo Santana reached safely in all four at bats. Catcher Carlos Perez stroked a two-run single in a three-run second, and L.J. Hoes slammed a solo homer in the fourth.
Richard Rodriquez, who bailed out starter Luis Cruz out of a fifth-inning jam, picked up the win. Jason Stoffel retired all seven hitters he faced to record his 11th save.
OKC STILL IN THE HUNT
With Sunday’s win the RedHawks moved to within 11/2 games of division-leading Omaha, pending the Storm Chasers late game at Reno.
The RedHawks have seven games remaining on the schedule, Omaha nine, including Sunday’s late game. Omaha had a game rained out earlier this season that will not be rescheduled assuring the race won’t end in a tie.
CRUZ HAS ROUGH 5TH INNING
Cruz, who was promoted from Double-A earlier this month, was throwing his best game in four starts with the RedHawks before he ran into trouble in the fifth, preventing him from going the necessary five innings to qualify for the win.
Cruz, who was 7-6 with a 3.14 ERA at Corpus Christi, tossed four shutout innings, including striking out five of the first seven hitters he faced. In the fifth, Trayvon Robinson’s two-run triple on a misplayed ball in right field was the key hit.
Albuquerque reliever Red Patterson pitched 22/3 innings for the Isotopes. Patterson, who pitched at Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, made his Major League debut earlier this season with the Dodgers.
Joe Sclafani was hit by a pitch in the first inning to extend his streak to 39 consecutive games he’s reached base safely...The streak is the longest in the PCL this season... The RedHawks’ four triples in Saturday’s win over El Paso was the first time all season a PCL team has collected more than three in a game... The RedHawks lead all of minor league baseball with a .318 team batting average in August.
In the second game of a four-game series, the RedHawks final home series of the regular season, OKC will start Asher Wojciechowski (3-4, 5.09 ERA). The Isotopes will counter with right-hander Matt Magill (7-5, 4.98). The RedHawks close out the regular season with a four-game road trip to Iowa.
RedHawks catcher Carlos Perez isn’t one of the Astros’ top prospects. His stats won’t wow you. But the 23-year-old Venezuela product the past two seasons has shown he can hold his own at the Triple-A level, one stop away from the majors.
“I try not to look at that,” Perez said. “I’m here in Oklahoma City to do my job. The only thing you can control is to be prepared every day, play hard and do the most I can to get better.”
A career .279 hitter in seven minor league seasons, starting his pro career at age 17, Perez owns a career .360 on-base percentage.
“Carlos has been one of our most consistent players, especially lately when we’ve been playing really good baseball,” said manager Tony DeFrancesco. “He battles every bat, can hit-and-run and catches a great game. He throws runners out. He does a lot of good things. We’ve been very pleased.”
Perez, who supplied a pivotal two-run double in the RedHawks game against Albuquerque Sunday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is hitting .264 with six homers and 31 RBIs and a .327 on-base percentage.
“The way I see it my (statistics) this year are not really good, not what I expect,” Perez said. “I think I can give more than that. I know I can hit better.”
Catchers also are evaluated differently than most position players. Playing top-shelf defense and handling a pitching staff, nursing pitchers out of jams, are qualities greatly valued by Major League teams.
“I feel my defense and game-calling are really good,” Perez said. “My No. 1 focus every day is to be on the same page as our pitcher. As a catcher you have to work on a lot of things. It’s been good to be here with catching coach (Jeff Murphy) because he’s seen a lot of baseball he passes along to us.”
Major League teams usually call up an extra catcher when rosters expand in September but Perez’s teammate Max Stassi is a Triple-A All-Star who is fourth among PCL catchers with 44 RBIs.
Another variable is Stassi already is on Houston’s 40-man roster. To make room for Perez, the Astros would have to expose a player to waiver claims.
“I just try to work hard at my job and what other things happen will happen,” Perez said. “If I were to go up that would be good for me but I know we have a lot of really good catchers. All I can do is play hard and do my thing.”
The Astros are stacked at catcher.
Jason Castro, 27, represented the Astros at the 2013 Major League All-Star Game. Backup Houston catcher Carlos Corporan has been a nice complement. Stassi appears to be ready following a brief Major League audition last year.
“This is a good organization to be in with a lot of good young guys,” Perez said. “We all would like to be part of that when the Astros get really good. This is a very good team to be with right now. It’s fun when you play with a lot of really good players. I just try to play hard every day and improve.”