SIOUX CITY -- When they faced him before, the Sioux City Explorers went down to defeat for the first time this season.
Not only that but Lincoln Saltdogs righthander Mike Tamburino left that May 20 contest at Haymarket Park -- the fourth game of the year for both teams -- without surrendering a hit in 6 1/3 innings.
Clearly, the X’s had a better approach in their second encounter with the 27-year-old New Yorker.
Stringing together four consecutive hits in three different innings, the American Association’s winningest team hiked its remarkable record to 39-13 Friday night, cruising to an 11-3 win in the first game of a three-game series with Lincoln.
Coupled with a 4-1 loss to St. Paul for Kansas City, second overall in the league and also second in the South Division standings, the Explorers moved six games in front of the T-Bones, now 33-19.
The first of nine remaining games against the Saltdogs, all crammed into a 16-day span, the Sioux City frolic featured three hits each from Jay Baum and rookie first baseman Daniel Jackson.
In stark contrast to their earlier meeting with Tamburino, the Explorers tagged the Lincoln pitcher for 13 hits and 11 runs. He had put together a 2.92 earned run average, eighth best in the league, in 10 previous starts.
The rallies produced four runs in the second inning, three more in the third and then four in the seventh to promptly answer the guests’ first two runs of the night.
A 7-0 cushion after three frames made it easy for major league veteran Taylor Jordan, the Explorers’ ace, to improve his record to 7-1 in 11 starts.
Tyler Falwell, Parker Markel and Ryan Horstman mopped up, recording the last eight outs, including strikeouts by Horstman on all three batters he faced in the ninth.
Jackson, a former Long Beach State standout, was the league’s first player of the week for the season and was batting .373 through his first 18 games. In 32 games since then he’d gone 22 of 108, slashing his average to .263. Just 1-for-16 in his last four games, the No. 9 hitter in the order capped a three-hit night with a three-run single in the seventh-inning surge that blew it wide open.
“(Tamburino) really likes his fastball, he’s a great pitcher,’’ said Jackson. “I think that first game he located well against us and today he left some balls over the plate and we took advantage of it.’’
“He’s been a bright spot really all year,’’ said X’s Manager Steve Montgomery. “I know he’s been slumping over the last 30 games or whatever, but he’s a big part, a guy who has to turn the lineup over. We need him to get some big two-out hits and that’s what he’s done.’’
“At the beginning of the year, I was finding holes and lately I’ve been hitting the ball hard, it just hasn’t fallen,’’ said Jackson. “I’m just sticking with it and keeping at it every day. I’ve still got some work to do, but (Friday’s performance is) definitely a step forward.’’
Jose Sermo drew a one-out walk to start the first of Sioux City’s three big innings, the four-run second. Baum rapped a single, Dexture McCall had an RBI single and Dylan Kelly’s base hit drove in two more runs. Jackson made it four hits in a row and then a passed ball sent the lead to 4-0.
Jay Austin singled and Nate Samson doubled to start the home half of the third. Sermo singled home a run, Baum doubled home another and McCall’s infield grounder sent the margin to 7-0.
Tamburino managed three shutout innings, helping Lincoln, now 27-25, lighten the load on its bullpen. However, the Saltdogs couldn’t come up with timely hits after getting their first two batters on base in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
Finally, in the seventh, four of the Dogs’ first five batters collected hits, plating two runs, and that was the end of the night for Jordan.
The last of the Explorers’ four-hit spurts followed immediately, but Baum’s RBI single produced the only run until Jackson, stepping up with two outs and the bases loaded, chased all three baserunners home.
The only bad news for the winners was the end to a 20-game hitting streak for rightfielder Michael Lang -- just the fifth time in 52 games Lang has been held hitless.