Round Rock powers past New Orleans in series opener

Drew Robinson and Will Middlebrooks returned to Round Rock lineup and immediately made an impact.

Both hit a home run Thursday night in their first game back with the Express, leading Round Rock to a 3-2 win over the New Orleans Baby Cakes Thursday night. Middlebrooks has been out for nearly two months with a broken hand and Robinson returned after a short stint in the big leagues.

“I expect good at-bats from both those guys,” Express manager Jason Wood said. “Even with the long layoff Middlebrooks has had, he’s had plenty of time in extended spring training to get that (wrist) healthy. Drew has been pushed around a little bit, but came in here fresh.”

Will Middlebrooks was activated from the disabled list earlier on Thursday and hit his fifth home run of the year, tied for the active team lead. Drew Robinson finished 1-for-4 with 2 RBIs and Jurickson Profar finished 2-for-4.

Making his first ever appearance for Round Rock Adam Loewen (1-0, 9.00 ERA) picked up the win and gave up one run on one hit with three strikeouts in one inning. Starter Allen Webster (4-3, 6.28) earned a no decision after pitching five innings and allowing one run on four hits with seven strikeouts. Preston Claiborne earned his eighth save of the year.

The team ERA in both April (5.19) and May (5.16) has been over five. Round Rock has battled through having their hottest pitchers get called up, most recently Dillon Gee, who picked up a pair of wins and didn’t allow a run in back-to-back games.

“I’m confident in this pitching staff as I have been all year,” Wood said. “The results haven’t been there, but the guys are working hard. The starters are giving us length that wee need and the bullpen is fresh.”

This series is What Could Have Been Weekend for Round Rock as the Express transform into the Jackalopes with special jerseys, hats, and a specially designed logo. Last year, they were the FireAnts for a series as a memory to other possible names from when the team was founded in 2000.

It didn’t take the Baby Cakes long to get on the board. In just the second batter of the game, Steve Lombardozzi sent a 1-1 pitch into the field in right field. It was the 13th home run Webster has allowed this season, tied for the most on the team.

Round Rock struck back in the third inning when Middlebrooks launched a home to the porch in left field to tie the game.

New Orleans took the lead in the seventh inning when Loewen threw a wild pitch. The ball boy in the opposing dugout thought the ball was dead and picked it up. After a brief meeting, the umpires decided the runner that crossed the plate counted.

Preston Beck singled with one out in the bottom half of the inning and Robinson homered to center field to the Express their first and only lead of the game.

“He’s been on planes a lot the last four or five days and has done a lot of traveling,” Wood said. “It was nice to see him take advantage of a mistake that was up in the zone off a guy that was throwing a little hard.”

The Express couldn’t keep their little winning streak going last week as they went on the road and lost three of four games against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Their lone win came in the finale when Antony Bass, Clayton Blackburn, and Preston Claiborne combined to allow just four hits in the 2-0 win.

Round Rock continues its four-game series against the Baby Cakes Friday at 7:05 p.m. and host New Orleans at the same time Saturday before wrapping up the series Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

They then hit the road for nearly two weeks before returning to Dell Diamond on June 17 when the Memphis Redbirds come to town.

The Round Rock roster looked a bit different Thursday night with the departures of Cesar Puello and Josh Wilson.

Puello was granted his release as part of a June 1 opt-out clause. He was signed in December 2016 and ended his time in Round Rock with a .247 average, six home runs, and 27 RBIs in 47 games.

Wilson, who was signed from the independent York Revolution, was traded to the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. He finished his second stint with the Texas organization after appearing in 22 games and batting .329 with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

“(Wilson) came in here not knowing how long he’d be here,” Wood said. “We needed a body and he did an outstanding job. It’s tough to see him go. He’s been a long time friend of mine and a teammate. There’s are guys coming in that will fill that role and do great things.”