Manager Barry Moss and Trapper Greg Ehmig still aren't on speaking terms, but the first baseman let his bat talk again Wednesday night, and Moss was glad to mention Ehmig's 13th homer as the big hit of the game.
Considering the Trappers had 21 hits in a 16-4 romp over Billings, with 9,265 watching at Derks Field, Moss had plenty of hits to choose from.Like the four each from Tommy Boyce and Marty Peralta, or the three each from Kelly Zane and Mando Verdugo.
But he chose Ehmig's.
"The biggest hit was Ehmig's three-run homer in the first," said Moss, reasoning that it took a 2-0 lead to 5-0. "That sure makes it a different game early, and if he gets out, that's the third out of the inning and a 2-0 game. I'd say that was a very big home run," Moss said.
With it, Ehmig tied Verdugo for the franchise record of 13 and moved into a tie for the Pioneer League lead with Verdugo and Helena's Oreste Marrero.
"No," admitted Moss, "we're not speaking yet."
Ehmig's slump last week prompted Moss to bench him for three weekend games. Ehmig quit talking to Moss, but when he returned to the lineup Monday, he had a single, double and home run. Tuesday he was 0 for 5, but Wednesday he doubled and scored in the third and walked twice, including once with the bases loaded, and had four RBI.
"Well, he's responding," was Moss's answer to the silent approach, "so I'm not going to be his buddy. I was his buddy when he was in a slump."
The man who most rose above himself was Boyce, who had never had more than two hits in a home game and whose best outing was 3 for 5 at Medicine Hat just before he got hurt in mid-July.
Boyce had two doubles, two singles, a walk, four RBI and a run scored.
"I knew we were slumping," said Boyce, trying to explain his outburst. "We've got a lot of injuries; we lost Kerry Shaw yesterday, who I think is one of the better hitters in the league, if not the best."
Shaw got hit by a pitch on the inner calf of one leg Tuesday and was on crutches Wednesday but hoped to play tonight, when the Trappers conclude their homestand. Billings is again the opponent, and the Traps have taken two straight from the Mustangs after losing seven straight to Great Falls.
With Shaw out, Boyce moved up in the order from fourth to third. It made a difference. "To me, it does," he said. "I like to do things when I'm playing. I usually just try to get on base and let Mando or Greg hit most of the people in," Boyce said.
But his third-inning single scored Pat Waid from second; his fifth-inning double scored Zane from second; and his sixth-inning double scored Chris Sloniger from second and Waid from first, leaving only one RBI for team leader Verdugo - his 52nd.
The Trappers had scored only 14 runs in their previous eight games and were held to just one run four times in seven games against Great Falls. They broke loose for five runs on five hits each in the first and third innings Wednesday. They added three runs on four hits in the fifth. Much of the scoring was through aggressive baserunning - six runners scored from second on singles, some of them shallow hits. Moss said Mustang outfielders usually throw better than they did Wednesday.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Willie Ambos had a no-hitter through four innings and a shutout through five, but his bad shoulder did him in. When Danny Perozo singled to open the fifth and Scott Sellner took a walk, Ambos left. He's battled muscle spasms in the rhomboid muscle on his pitching side all year, and this time the between-innings rubdowns from trainer Jeff McFarlane weren't enough to keep him going.
"It was getting progressively worse each inning, and we couldn't keep it under control," said Ambos, adding it was the worst it's acted since June.
Bobby Edwards relieved Ambos and gave up a run-scoring single to Mike Mulvaney and RBI groundouts to Mike Songini and Dwaine Mullville. Two runs were charged to Ambos.
"All we've got to do is win," shrugged Ambos. "The individual stuff doesn't mean much. We're in a pennant race. A W is a W."