ROUND ROCK - Apparently, the Hooks and Express heard Wednesday's game was an exhibition and pulled a Dez Bryant. Only, instead of forgetting their shoes, the two teams forgot to bring the bats.
For a second straight day, Corpus Christi and Round Rock combined for 12 hits. After the Express won a 2-0 game on Tuesday, the Hooks got their payback with a 2-1 victory over Round Rock on Wednesday at the Dell Diamond.
A crowd of around 2,000 people snuck out of work to watch as the Houston Astros' top two affiliates battled in their final exhibition game before the regular season begins on Thursday. Round Rock will travel to New Orleans to open the 2010 season while Corpus Christi will play at the Tulsa Drillers.
"[Our] pItching did a good job," Round Rock manager Mark Bombard said. "Wilton [Lopez] didn't pitch over the error. Sometimes you have to do that. Then Koby had the big RBI single. Wesley [Wright] threw five innings, looked good. They played good. We hit into three double plays that killed the innings. Overall, our defense has been good over these two days and our pitching has been good as well, so that's something we can build on."
Fans were treated to a pitcher's duel throughout the game as starters Wesley Wright and Jeremy Johnson traded zeroes early. Round Rock got on the board first in the bottom of the first. Oswaldo Navarro took a one-out walk after leadoff hitter Jason Bourgeois flied out to center field. Right fielder Brian Bogusevic drilled a ball down the first base line that skipped past Hooks first baseman Koby Clemens and ended up in the right field corner.
Navarro couldn't score on the play, however, leaving men on second and third. Andrew Locke hit a slow roller to third, which scored Navarro for Round Rock's only run of the game.
Wright had an excellent outing in his debut as a starter for the Express. Wright pitched five innings, giving up two hits and one walks while striking out two. The 25-year old threw 63 pitche, including 39 strikes.
"He pitched very well today," Round Rock pitching coach Burt Hooton said. "He's got three, four good pitches that he can throw for strikes. That's what he needs to learn to do, be consistent with them. Basically, all he needs to do is get stretched out to go seven, eight, nine innings and stay strong. I think he can be a pretty good pitcher."
Right-hander Wilton Lopez relieved Wright and ended up getting tagged with the loss. After an infield single by Hooks shortstop Wladimir Sutil, Brian Bogusevic dropped a fly ball in right field, putting runners on first and second.
T.J. Steele bunted them over to second and third. After a pop out by German Duran, Koby Clemens lined a single to left field, letting both Sutil and J.B. Shuck score. It was all the support Corpus Christi's pitchers would need.
Jared Wells followed Johnson, the first of three relievers who closed out the game for the Hooks. Wells and T.J. Burton each threw perfect innings, while Matt Nevarez threw two innings, getting four grounders while facing seven batters. Only Chris Shelton and Jason Castro managed hits off the Hooks bullpen, as Castro lined a single off Nevarez in the eighth and Shelton hit a single into the game in right center in the ninth. Both were stranded. Burton picked up the save.
In a game full of good defensive plays, T.J. Steele probably made the best. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Jason Bourgeois ripped a long fly ball to center. Steele had been cheating up on Bourgeois all game and had to run a long way behind him to track the ball down. Steele caught it on a full run, extending his arm to the ball while still facing away from home plate.
It wasn't Willie Mays in the World Series, but the astounding thing about the play was the amount of ground Steele was able to cover to get there. Steele's sterling defensive effort made up for a lackluster game at the plate. The 23-year old was 0 for 3 with a sac bunt and two strikeouts.
Also of note, Oswaldo Navarro was placed on Round Rock's 7-day DL with a strained quadriceps. Bombard said it's an injury Navarro has been nursing since spring training and it's about 75 percent healed, but "it wouldn't be fair to Navarro to keep him out there." Bombard says the injury affects Navarro on the explosive plays, like running out of the box and playing shortstop. Bombard also said that Jason Bourgeois is completely recovered from his strained hamstring and shouldn't miss any time.