The Colorado Rockies have invested 12 months in Matt Argyropoulos, teaching the former Washington State standout the ins and outs of professional baseball.
During a 3-1 victory over the Yakima Bears on Tuesday night at Gesa Stadium, the Tri-City Dust Devils’ third baseman showed the 1,554 fans in attendance what it means to be a professional.
Argyropoulos overcame an early error to make a key double play and blasted a two-run home run in the eighth inning to help the Dust Devils snap a five-game losing streak.
“We played some close games in Vancouver and lost a tough one (Monday) night, so it’s nice to get back on that winning side,” said Argyropoulos, who finished 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. “When you’re losing, you don’t want that to become a normal feeling.”
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Argyropoulos didn’t get off to a great start, committing a first-inning error on a routine ground ball by Mike Lang. But instead of letting it affect his game, he kicked the dirt, took a deep breath and prepared for the next batter.
“Mistakes are part of the game. It’s not my first, and it won’t be my last,” Argyropoulos said. “The No. 3 hitter (Shaun Cooper) came up next and hit a line drive right at me, and I was able to turn the double play.”
Argyropoulos also scored the Dust Devils’ first run of the game after a one-out infield single in the fourth. He went to second on a walk to Robert De La Cruz and then scored on consecutive wild pitches by Yakima starter Bobby O’Neill.
“That was good to see. One thing we tell the players is to take one play at a time. Then you make the next one,” said Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio. “It was nice to see (Argyropoulos) get good wood on the ball. We’re going to need his bat.”
Meanwhile, Tri-City starter Josh Slaats was efficiently working his way through the Bears’ lineup, using a sharp curve to set up his fastball. The second-year right-hander out of the University of Hawaii pitched six strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits.
He was followed by reliever Brook Hart, who pitched two scoreless innings. Hart, a former Yale quarterback, hasn’t given up a run in five appearances this season. And he doesn’t give free passes, walking none in eight innings.
“Slaats made some great pitches. He threw mostly fastballs, but he set a lot of those up with his curve,” Ocasio said. “Hart has been solid, coming in and not walking hitters.”
Argyropoulos’ home run — his first since his final game at Casper (Wyo.) 11 months ago — came against Bears reliever Frank Santana with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and didn’t take long to leave the park.
“I was looking for a fastball I could drive. It was 3-1, and I knew his best pitch was a fastball,” Argyropoulos said.
Will Rankin came in to finish out the ninth inning after the go-ahead home run. The 6-foot right-hander out of Marietta, Ga., got the first two batters in the ninth before allowing back-to-back singles to Mark Ginther and Ronnie Freeman.
After a quick visit from catcher Michael Ramirez, Rankin got back on track and induced a soft liner to Yafistel Roja at second base to end the game. Rankin recorded his third save of the year and kept his ERA at a spotless 0.00.
“We were actually just making sure what our signs were,” Rankin said, explaining that the late-night shadows can sometimes play tricks on a pitchers’ eyes. “But when he came out, it helped calm me down.”
Santana (0-2) took the loss for Yakima, allowing two runs on three hits in one inning. Hart (2-0) picked up the win.
Today’s starters will be RHP Ben Hughes (0-1, 1.64 ERA) for Tri-City and LHP Alex Contreras (2-0, 1.50) for Yakima. ... Former Dust Devils LHP Edwar Cabrera will make his major-league debut today for the Colorado Rockies against the Washington Nationals. Cabrera joins a pitching staff that already includes five players who made stops in Tri-City: LHP Jeff Francis (2001), LHP Matt Reynolds (2007), RHP Juan Nicasio (2008), LHP Christian Friedrich (2008) and LHP Rex Brothers (2009).