A year ago today, the Salt Lake Trappers made professional baseball history by winning their 28th straight game. This 1988 bunch of Trappers also has a streak, a more modest one, going. They won their sixth straight Sunday afternoon.
And it hasn't seemed to matter whether they're playing 3-31 Medicine Hat or 19-12 Helena. The runs flow.Sunday, against some of the Pioneer League's top pitchers, the Trappers rode five runs batted in from Mando Verdugo and four from Marty Peralta to a 15-4 win over the Brewers in Derks Field.
The Trappers, now 24-10, and Helena tee it up again tonight and Tuesday night at Derks.
Salt Lake has outscored opponents 71-17 in its last six games, and, on Sunday, the big inning was back. After scoring two in the second, four in the fourth and one in the sixth, they sent 16 batters to the plate and scored eight runs in Sunday's seventh. It was their second eight-run inning of the week, and they had one of 13 runs on Thursday.
"Our hitters are on fire," said relief pitcher Sean Johnson, who had just entered Thursday's game in the top of the inning and then saw his teammates score him 13 runs. Sunday, Johnson walked to the mound in the sixth and was still pitching in the seventh when the eight-run tantrum hit.
"It's like they're waiting for it to happen," he said, adding it makes it easy for him to come on and just throw strikes, something that had been a problem for him earlier in the season.
For Verdugo, this series is a chance to prove the Brewers were wrong two years ago when they let him go after using him as a backup catcher. The catcher he played behind then is in Double A ball now, but Verdugo's showing he, too, is a worthwhile player.
He drove in the Trappers' first run of the game to tie it 1-1 in the second inning with a sacrifice fly and, following a fourth-inning homer by Helena's Stewart Lee that tied it again at 2-2, Verdugo hit the longest Derks Field home run of the season in the fourth to put the Traps ahead for good.
It drove in Kerry Shaw, who had walked, and put the Traps up 4-2. It went over the 405-foot sign in straightaway center field, clearing a 20-foot fence on its way out. "I didn't think it would go out," said Verdugo. "That fence is really high, but I looked, and the guy just looked up, and then I heard the crowd."
It was Verdugo's 10th homer, tying him with teammate Greg Ehmig again for the Pioneer League lead. It came off Ron Jefferson, whose 2.70 ERA was second in the league.
After Tommy Boyce singled, Chris Sloniger reached on an error and Pat Waid hit one of his four singles, the Trappers ousted Jefferson and faced the league's No. 4 pitcher, Angel Meranda, Peralta hit a two-run single off him to make it 6-2.
With his five RBI - Verdugo had a two-run single in the eight-run seventh - the Trapper catcher took over second place in the league with 36 total.
The eight-run inning started with a walk and Sloniger's infield hit, then continued with four more singles, a walk, two singles, a walk, a hit batsman and a walk before a forceout at third ended it.
"The whole team is on a tear," said Verdugo, noting his roommate, Waid, had four hits Sunday and three Saturday.
Meanwhile, Sloniger was doing his best to earn the full-time shortstop's position now that Ray Karczewski is out with a jaw broken in Saturday's game. On Sunday, the Trappers wore pieces of tape on their sleeves with "Ski" written on in felt pen - there wasn't time for a stitched-on tribute.
Sloniger made two outstanding plays in the ninth, diving for a line drive and then making a tough groundout look easy, and he played errorless ball while adding a hit and two runs scored. "I know I can play short," he said, mindful that Trapper management is looking for a true shortstop. "This is my opportunity to show my stuff. I feel (the job) is mine."