CLEBURNE, Texas | Hobbs Johnson and the Sioux City Explorers deserved a better fate Monday night.
Even with the five walks the Explorers’ left-handed pitcher issued, Johnson threw one of his best games of the season, allowing just four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Two of the Cleburne Railroaders Johnson walked crossed home plate and the South Division squad won the first-ever American Association game between the two teams, 3-2 at The Depot at Cleburne Stadium.
Maikol Gonzalez reached with a walk to lead off the bottom of the first inning for Cleburne (32-43) and was one of two to score on Geraldo Valentin’s double. Alex Polston received a two-out walk in the seventh and scored on Mitch Glasser’s ground-rule double to snap a 2-all tie.
Johnson (3-6) was looking for his first win since June 27 when he pitched 7 1/3 innings in an 8-1 win at St. Paul. Manager Steve Montgomery’s squad had tied the game in the sixth inning when Jayce Ray scored on LeVon Washington’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Johnson retired the Railroaders in order in the fifth and sixth innings. Mitch Abeita grounded out to Explorers’ shortstop Tanner Vavra to begin the seventh and K.C. Huth became Johnson’s third strikeout victim of the night.
Nine straight Cleburne batters had been retired before Johnson walked Polston for the second time in the game. Following a walk to Gonzalez, Johnson was replaced by reliever Brad Orosey, who on his first pitch, yielded Glasser’s second hit of the game, the ground-rule double towards right field.
Sioux City (36-38) had a 9-5 hits advantage, paced by Washington's three and two from Ray. Johnson also coaxed Huth to ground into a 6-3 double play in the fourth inning.
Sioux City, which was coming off a 3-1 weekend series against South Division leader Wichita, also took advantage of a first-inning error. Joe Bennie doubled and scored when right fielder Axel Johnson bobbled Ray’s single. However, Johnson threw a strike to shortstop Polston, who was covering second base, denying Ray a double.
Washington, the Explorers’ leader with three hits, hit an infield single off Cleburne closer Winton Abreu to begin the ninth inning. Washington was caught stealing and Abreu, a 40-year old who had pitched for four Major League teams (Baltimore, Washington, Tampa Bay, Cleveland) from 2006-09, got Michael Lang and Dre Gleason to ground out to end the game.
Kramer Sneed (4-2) will get the pitching start Tuesday night as the Explorers continue the three-game series. Patrick Mincey (6-6) will pitch for Cleburne.