Round Rock scored four runs in the fourth inning against Kelvin Marte, including shortstop Jason Martinson's two-run double to take a 6-3 victory over New Orleans on Thursday at the Shrine on Airline.
The Express (32-35) took a 2-1 series lead, assuring the Baby Cakes (23-42) will not have won a series in 17 tries this season. New Orleans has split nine and lost seven as it heads into Friday's final game.
The Cakes took a 3-1 lead in the third on a bizzare turn of events. With two outs, Destin Hood was injured while swinging at a pitch from Express starter Anthony Bass. Bass also was injured on the play.
Nick Noonan pinch hit for Hood against reliever Jimmy Reyes and lined a single to center field that scored Peter Mooney and KC Serna.
Claiborne keeps pushing
Former Tulane relief pitcher Preston Claiborne nearly pitched for New Orleans in the 2015 season.
He was on the Zephyrs' roster but sat out the entire season with a rotator cuff injury.
“I had a back injury in spring training with the Marlins,” Claiborne said. “My back stiffened, but I pitched any way. I woke up the next morning, and I couldn't throw or move it around. I stayed in Jupiter, Florida, the whole year and rehabbed it.”
Claiborne visited noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, and chose to have two stem cell injections instead of surgery. “I few months later, I was back throwing,” he said.
This year, Claiborne, a Dallas native, is having a stellar season in his home state as a closer with the Round Rock Express, a Texas Rangers affiliate. Coming into Thursday's game, he was 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 23 appearances spanning 23 innings.
“My arm feels as strong as it did when I was with the Yankees,” said Claiborne, who was drafted in the 17th round by New York in 2010 and appeared in 62 games with the Yankees in 2013 and '14. “The biggest improvement is that I locate my pitches better and my slider is a lot better.”
He has been both a set-up man and a closer, but said he likes the closer role because of the mentality. He developed that working with Tulane pitching coach Chad Sutter, he said. While with the Yankees, he watched Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. And, he has been mentored by former standout closer Lee Smith, the San Francisco Giants' roving pitching instructor, and veteran Major League closer Joe Nathan, who last season was with the Giants' Triple A affiliate, the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
It was last season with the Squirrels that Claiborne bounced back strong, with a 2.39 ERA in 45.1 innings. He followed that by pitching in the Dominican Republic Winter League, getting four saves and allowing one run in 12.2 innings, striking out 14.
“I came into this season very confident that my arm was strong,” he said. “So, we'll see what happens.”
Left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth was brought up from Double A Jacksonville on Thursday. Schlereth, son of former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth, had a 2.70 ERA, limiting batters to a .189 average (7-for-37) in nine appearances. … Outfielder Steve Lombardozzi (groin pull) and infielder Matt Juengel (wrist) are rehabbing at the Marlins' facility in Jupiter, Fla. Manager Arnie Beyeler said they could return in a week.