Will Middlebrooks wasn’t about to let the Express lose any momentum.
The veteran third baseman hit a walk-off double to deep center field in the bottom of the 11th inning, leading the Round Rock to a 7-6 win against the El Paso Chihuahuas Monday night for their fourth straight win.
“Most pitchers in that situation is going to try and get ahead with some offspeed stuff,” Middlebrooks said. “He missed with it and got to 2-0. I knew he didn’t want to go to 3-0 after walking two guys, so I was looking for a heater over the plate and he put one right there for me.”
Round Rock starter David Ledbetter (2-2, 4.15 ERA) lasted 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Joely Rodriguez (2-0, 6.98 ERA) picked up the win, striking out two and allowing one run in two innings of work.
The Chihuahuas got the board first in the fourth inning. With runners on the corners, El Paso grounded to shortstop where Luis Marte was forced to get the out at second base instead of risk throwing home.
Round Rock tied things quickly when Jimenez launched his sixth home run of the year with one out in the bottom of the inning. He extended his hitting streak to seven games with the solo shot to left field.
The Express followed up the dinger with six straight hits, highlighted by RBI singles by Marte and Jared Hoying and a double by Drew Stubbs that scored a pair of runs and gave Round Rock a 5-1 lead.
“Anytime you can put together a big inning in any game, it’s awesome because other teams can do it too,” Middlebrooks said. “Preferably in later innings it’s nice, but timely hitting makes or breaks a team and lately that’s been good for us.”
Chase d'Arnaud hit a solo home run in the sixth that would all but end Ledbetter’s night. The Chihuahuas got one more run back in the seventh on a sacrifice fly and cut the lead to one run when Kozma misplayed a ball in left field.
Preston Claiborne has been lights out in the ninth inning for the Express this season, but Monday he was uncharacteristically off kilter, allowing a walk a one-out double to blow his fifth save of the season. He allowed three runs in eight innings in the month of July.
Tony Cruz took Rodriguez deep on a solo shot in the 11th inning. But a Stubbs single and a two-out walk by Ronald Guzman brought Middlebrooks to the plate with the pressure on. And the former World Series Champion delivered.
The Express won the first two games of the series in dominant fashion, beating the Chihuahuas 9-2 on Saturday night before A.J. Jimenez’s two-RBI night lifted them to a 7-3 win in Game 2 on Sunday.
Round Rock wraps up the four-game series Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. The Express have yet to name a starter for the series finale. The Express have an off day on Wednesday before beginning a four-game series against the Albuquerque Isotopes on Thursday.
The Express have turned Dell Diamond into somewhat of a fortress of late, winning their last nine games in the friendly confines. With Monday’s win, they move to 32-22 at home but boast a lackluster 18-37 record on the road.
“For a lot of the guys with families and kids, they get to be around them every day,” Middlebrooks said. “That’s the most important part. Other than that, there are great fans and it’s a great stadium. We love playing at home. You can’t really beat it.”