Third baseman Joey Gallo hit three home runs and center fielder Leonys Martin two, as Round Rock took a 2-0 lead in the series Thursday night at Zephyr Field.
The loss was the eighth in nine games for New Orleans (50-63), which played its seventh of 18 consecutive games against first-place teams in the Pacific Coast League.
Martin set the tone, leading off the game with a shot to right-center field against Craig Stem, who was making his Triple-A debut. Gallo hit a high, two-run shot.
Martin hit a solo shot in the fifth, giving the Express (63-48) a 4-1 lead. In the sixth, Gallo hit a low pitch by Tyler Bremer over the hill behind center field in the fifth, giving the Express (63-48) a 4-1 lead. In the sixth, Gallo hit a low pitch by Tyler Bremer over the hill behind center field, one of the longest hit in Zephyr Field. He hit another one to center field with one out in the eighth against Greg Nappo.
Martin was optioned to Round Rock on Tuesday after hitting .190 in his past 30 games. Gallo, who doubled in Wednesday’s opener, came into the game batting .182 in 29 games with the Express.
When the Miami Marlins sent starting center fielder Marcell Ozuna to the Zephyrs on July 8, it had the look of a top player coming down to work on his hitting mechanics and build up his confidence.
Ozuna was hitting .249 with four home runs as a Marlin and had gone through a 1-for-36 slump. However, even media reports from Miami speculated he’d be in New Orleans about 10 days and return soon after the All-Star break.
Well, Ozuna is still in New Orleans, despite batting .313 with four home runs, 18 runs and 10 RBIs in 28 games. At one point, he was hitting .353.
“I’m mad,” Ozuna said before Thursday’s game. “How would you feel about it?
At the heart of Ozuna’s angst is that if he is kept in New Orleans past Saturday, it will cost him a year of major league service, meaning he will have to wait until next year to be eligible for arbitration and a bigger salary.
“They sent me here to get my feeling and get my work in, but now I have to think they sent me here for service time,” Ozuna said. “(Agent Scott Boras) said he talked to them and asked them, ‘Why they keep me here? I was second in home runs and RBIs on the team last year.
“I thought I’d be called up after 10 days. I was waiting for that moment because I was doing a good job. Minor League for me is like rehab league.”
Feeling his way back
Austin Nola, who injured his right hand in a game Sunday at Oklahoma City and hasn’t played since, took ground balls Thursday.
“He’s going to hit in the (batting) cage (Friday), then we’ll see how he feels after doing all that,” Haines said. “Hopefully, he’ll take (batting practice).”
Nola, who is batting .310, could return Friday.
“The best way to put it is: he’s day-to-day because we have to see how he responds (Friday),” Haines said.
Nola injured the hand diving to make a defensive play. An MRI on Wednesday came back negative, Haines said. Nola was wearing a brace, but the swelling in the hand has subsided.
Ranaudo up next
Former LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo will start for Round Rock on Friday vs. the Z’s.
In his previous start against in New Orleans on June 24, he was replaced at the beginning of the third inning in a 6-3 loss.
Ranaudo had been just sent down by the Texas Rangers. Since then, he has had two major league appearances spliced between three Triple-A outings. Against the Los Angeles Angles on July 5, he gave up two runs on two hits in four innings. On July 19 at Houston, he allowed five runs on five hits in three innings. He gave up a home run in both games.
Round Rock pitching coach Brad Holman said they’ve been working with Ranaudo on typical things.
“There’s been an emphasis on getting the ball down, using his changeup more and slowing things down,” Holman said. “He’s always gotten hitters out with high pitches, but you want him to get away from that.”
With Round Rock his season, he is 7-3 with a 3.87 ERA. In the majors, he is 0-1 with a 7.63 ERA.
“He tends to give up runs in lumps,” Holman said. “But that comes with maturing as a pitcher and learning damage control.”