Rock Shoulders’ name went a long way this season, winning a fan-driven vote for best moniker in minor league baseball.
But it didn’t go nearly as far as the ball he hit against Tri-City starter Peter Tago on Saturday at Gesa Stadium.
Boise’s sturdy first baseman crushed a first-pitch fastball from Tago with the bases loaded in the top of the third to highlight the Hawks’ 8-2 Northwest League win over the Dust Devils in front of 3,013 fans.
“I’ve been chasing a lot, but that dude (Tago) throws a lot of fastballs. I was just looking for one I could hit,” Shoulders said of his ninth home run of the year, tying him for fourth in the NWL.
The win completed a three-game sweep — Boise’s first on the road since 2004. The Hawks (30-33 overall, 17-8 second half) increased their East Division lead to six games with Yakima’s 9-0 loss to Spokane. Tri-City (27-36, 9-16) fell into last place, eight games out of first with 13 left to play.
Shoulders drove the ball to the deepest part of center field, and Tri-City center fielder Kyle Von Tungeln made a valiant chase to the base of the wall before watching it carry over the batters’ eye for a grand slam.
“That was the turning point. We usually don’t see players hit the ball that far,” Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio said.
That turned a 1-0 game into a 5-0 blowout, and Boise kept pouring it on, adding another run in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Tri-City couldn’t find a rhythm offensively against Hawks’ starter Jose Arias, managing just one hit in five innings against the Dominican native. Arias (4-2) struck out five and allowed just three runners — one of them on an infield error — to reach base.
“They dug us a hole and we couldn’t get out of it. One hit through eight innings, and it was a bloop two-strike hit,” Ocasio said. “Give credit to their pitchers, though.”
Tom Murphy provided the only Dust Devils highlight in the ninth inning when he drove a 3-2 pitch off Boise reliever Hayden Simpson over the left center field wall for a two-run home run, his third of the season.
Hawks’ third baseman Stephen Bruno went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run triple in off Carlos Martinez in in the top of the sixth.
Tago (2-6) watched his ERA rise to 5.34 in suffering his third loss in his last four decisions.
Notes: Tri-City RHP Shane Broyles (4-2, 2.61 ERA) will get the start today as the Dust Devils open a five-game series against the Emeralds at PK Park in Eugene. ... Martinez made his first appearance for Tri-City after a recent promotion from the Colorado Rockies’ Dominican Summer League team. Martinez, a 5-foot-11 right-hander, threw two innings and allowed two runs on two hits. ... The Dust Devils put two players on the disabled list — OF Jarod Berggren and RHP Adam Paulencu
Dust Devils alumni update: OF Charlie Blackmon (2008, 2012) was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday, replacing OF Carlos Gonzalez, who was placed on bereavement leave. Blackmon went to work immediately, going 0-for-1 with a strikeout in a 6-5 home loss to Miami. w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org