By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
ROUND ROCK A bloop and a blast did in the Round Rock Express on Thursday night.
Following a 15-foot swinging-bunt single by Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Morse ripped a two-run home run into the Express bullpen in the seventh inning to give the San Antonio Missions a 2-1 win before 9,140 fans at Dell Diamond.
"Right now, we're struggling about as bad as we can get with the bats," Express manager Jackie Moore said. "Anytime you're having trouble scoring runs, it puts pressure on a lot of different players. Right now, we're just hoping to find a hot bat or two and build from there."
It was the fifth straight loss for the Express (63-48, 18-23) which now drops five games in back of the first-place Missions (52-57, 22-17).
"I guess the key word here is patience," Moore said. "Unfortunately, we're falling farther and farther behind and there's not too many games left."
Both starting pitchers set the tone of the game right from the opening innings.
Round Rock righty D.J. Houlton allowed only one hit through five innings, while San Antonio righty Rich Dorman matched scoreless frames with Houlton until the bottom of the fifth.
That's when Junior Zamora walked with one out, went to second on a balk and scored on a two-out single to left by Jon Topolski, whose liner barely eluded the glove of Missions shortstop Michael Morse.
But that was it for the Express offense, which entered the game hitting a microscopic .122 in August.
"We know we can do it," Moore said. "We did it the first half of the season."
Dorman (5-3) pitched seven strong innings, allowing two hits and one earned run. He walked three and struck out 10.
"I was able to mix up my pitches well and I was able to execute my game plan," Dorman said. "Round Rock has a very potent offense. They're aggressive and they run the bases well. It's a very good win for us."
Following a scoreless eighth inning of relief by Aaron Taylor, Missions closer Rick Guttormson pitched a run-free ninth for his 20th save.
Houlton (8-4) took the loss despite allowing only two earned runs on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings.
"D.J. busted his tail out there tonight," Moore said. "But D.J. knows that everyone out there is busting their tails, too, but the results just aren't there right now.
"He (Houlton) did a great job of locating his pitches inside and outside the entire game. He struggled witht that in his previous outing."
The Express and Missions will resume their four-game series tonight at 7:05 at Dell Diamond. Probable starters are Chris Buglovsky (5-4, 3.52 ERA) for San Antonio and Jared Gothreaux (7-6, 4.16 ERA) for Round Rock.
EXPRESS NOTES: The Express were swept in a four-game series for the first time all season following Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Midland. It was the second-latest point of the season in which Round Rock was swept. ... The second annual Round Rock Express Charity Bowling Tournament is scheduled for Aug. 27 at Interstate Lanes in Round Rock. All proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics. The tourney will kick off at 11 a.m. and the fees are $50 per player or $225 for a team of five. All participants will receive lunch, a T-shirt and a chance to bowl with an Express player or coach. To register for the event, contact Mark Swanson at (512) 238-2213 or go to the team's Web site at www.RoundRockExpress.com.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org