Middlebrooks powers Express past Redbirds


Will Middlebrooks continues to rake.

The veteran third baseman hit his third home run in two games, leading the Round Rock Express to a 7-3 win against the division-leading Memphis Redbirds Saturday night at Dell Diamond.

“We’ve got a good core group of guys that have been around and the main thing for us is having fun,” Middlebrooks said. “We come to the field ready to work and that’s paying off.”

The two-run shot was his 10th homer of the year, tying for the active team lead. Drew Stubbs finished the game 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Ronald Guzman went 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Adam Loewen (3-0, 4.91 ERA) earned the win, pitching four innings in relief and allowing one run on four hits with one strikeout. With starter Allen Webster on the disabled list, James Dykstra made his first spot start out of the bullpen and allowed two runs on five hits with three strikeouts in four innings.

Dykstra was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in December 2016 and appeared in eight games for AA Frisco this season, boasting a 1.46 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.

“He did a fantastic job in the four innings he gave us,” Express manager Jason Wood said. “He had a few starts in AA. I thought his stuff was crisp. Who knows, he might step into that starting role.”

Middlebrooks opened the scoring in the first inning when he parked the first pitch he saw. It was his third home run in as many at-bats. Round Rock loaded the bases the next frame and Jurickson Profar plated two with a double to the gap.

Memphis used a four-hit fourth inning to score two runs and cut the lead in half.

But the Express loaded the bases again in the fifth thanks to three straight singles from Jason Martinson, Guzman, and Travis Snider. Stubbs then smoked a two-out double to left that cleared the bases and extended Round Rock’s lead to five runs.

“When the bases were loaded with two outs, Stubbs had a huge at-bat,” Wood said. “That at-bat was key. You’re not alway going drive those runs in. We’ve found a way to take advantage of having runners in scoring position. There’s no rhyme or reason, it was just a mix of the lineup.”

Memphis joined then home run party with a solo shot in the sixth inning.

The Express loaded the bases three times in the game and scored four runs, but left 10 men on base in total.

“I’m more aggressive with the bases loaded,” Middlebrooks said. “The pitcher knows you’re going to be more aggressive. Their starter didn’t have overpowering stuff and those are the guys where you can be more aggressive and you hone it in against those guys.”

Round Rock and Memphis face off in the second of their four-game set Sunday at 1:05 p.m. The Express are expected to start Eddie Gamboa (5-5, 6.62), while the Redbirds will see lefty Marco Gonzales (1-3, 3.26) take the mound.

Fresh off an 11-game, 12-day road trip, the Express will play their next seven games at home after Saturday. They finished that road trip 6-5, the first time they finished a trip with a winning record this season.

“That was the start of it,” Wood said. “This is a group that is starting to come together and understands one another night in and night out. We have a lot of transactions this time of year, but the core of the group welcomes them in and we keep it rolling.”