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Corpus Christi 3 Midland 0

 
Light-hitting Osvaldo Fernando hit a clutch two-out two-run triple in the fourth, and three Corpus Christi pitchers combined to retire the last 19 Rockhounds they faced, as the Hooks defeated Midland 3 - 0 Tuesday in the opener of the two teams' Texas League Division Series matchup.

Starter and 40-Man roster denizen Juan Gutierrez gave up a Midland double in the first, a single in the second, and then scattered three walks and nothing else through six.

It was quite a start for Gutierrez and quite a game for Corpus, considering that Gutierrez had missed much of the summer with a mysterious "tired arm," and that he had only returned four turns ago and had pitched only under very controlled conditions since.

The victory was special for Corpus Christi simply because they enter the series as an underdog, because Midland won the second half by 7-1/2 games, and came in having won 10 of 11.

But Gutierrez' tired arm and Midland's hot streaks are things of the past, at least for now.

Fernando is the player who took over at CC for Ben Zobrist after Zobrist was sent to the D-Rays in the Aubrey Huff deal, and the defensive whiz was hitting all of .220 with 7 RBI's and an ISO of .034 in 177 at bats coming into the playoff opener. But with two outs in the fourth, and Jonny Ash having failed to score Jorge Cortes from third with one out, Fernando hit a worm burner into the Whataburger left field corner to plate Cortes and one other.

An inning later, Hunter Pence drove in Tike Redman with a line drive to centerfield, although Pence himself was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.

And that was all the offense, really. It was kind of like an Astro game in that regard.

And, like an Astro game, it had a seventh inning guy named Chad, too. This one has the last name Reineke, and he came in and pitched two perfect innings in relief of Gutierrez, and then Paul Estrada, who walks too many, but strikes out almost 14 every nine innings came in and got the Rockhounds 1-2-3 to grab the save.

Again, it kind of reminded me of Houston: evidently Estrada has a slider that breaks sharply downward a la Brad Lidge, and Corpus manager Dave Clark removed starting catcher Brian Peterson to bring in backup Kevin Davidson, who is said to handle Estrada's slider with more confidence, and it reminded me of all the histrionics you heard earlier this year about how Munson shouldn't be catching Lidge.

And then Estrada went 3 - 0 to his second batter, and Hooks pitching coach Joe Slusarksi had to come out, I guess everyone worried a flurry of walks was about to ensue.

Like I say, just like an Astro game, except nothing bad happened.

You can check out a more detailed log at MiLB.com, and a box is here.

The teams play again tonight in Corpus, while three other Astro affiliates get their series started as well.