SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Sioux City Explorers (3-0) got another solid outing from Austin Drury (2-0) and put up 17 hits on the way to an 8-1 win over the Kansas City Monarchs (2-1) Monday night at Mercy One Field at Lewis and Clark Park. The win gives the Explorers a 1-0 lead in the best of three game series in the American Association West Division Championship Series.
Drury, who held the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks to one earned run on nine hits in his first postseason start last week, was even better Monday. The lefty held the league’s top offense during the regular season to just two hits and one earned run in getting the win. The lone run came in the first with two outs, when Brian O’Grady gave Kansas City the lead 1-0 on an RBI single. The lead would last until the bottom of the frame, when Sioux City would tie the game. With two outs and runners at first and second, Wilfredo Gimenez reached on an infield single, but an errant throw from third baseman Taylor Snyder allowed the tying run to score.
Drury retired the side in order in the second, fourth and fifth innings adding eight strikeouts on the night. Sioux City would take the lead off starter and former Big Leaguer, Zac Grotz (0-1) in the bottom of the fifth. Chase Harris would single to start the inning. Daniel Lingua reached on a single to put runners at first and second. Scott Ota then hit a short pop toward the left field line that dropped in for a hit to bring home Harris, to give Sioux City the lead at 2-1. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
In the sixth Drury would hit Jan Hernandez with a pitch for the first lead off batter to reach on the night. After a pop out to short by Chris Herrmann and a strikeout of Micker Adolfo it looked like Drury would have a chance to go six innings. O’Grady would single to put runners at the corners forcing the X’s to bring in reliever Parker Caracci into the game. The righty would strike out Snyder to end the threat.
The Explorers would score another run in the bottom of the sixth. Gimenez would single and with one out Kyle Kasser would double. It was one of only two extra base hits on the night for Sioux City, but it would set up the X’s Harris. The veteran would ground out, but his fielder’s choice scored Gimenez to make it 3-1 Sioux City.
Kansas City would have one more chance in the top of the seventh. Caracci hit Gavin Collins with a pitch and surrendered a single to Jacob Robson to put runners at first and second. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base, but Caracci would strike out L.J. Hatch for the first out of the inning. Max Kuhns was summoned from the pen to face Justin Wylie. Wylie hit a shallow fly ball to right toward the right field line for out number two. Ota would throw the ball back to first baseman John Nogowski, who threw to second to double up Robson.
The X’s added another run in the bottom of the seventh on a wild pitch from reliever Grant Gavin, then put the game away in the eighth. Sioux City scored four runs in the inning on six hits getting RBI singles from Lingua and Ota and a two RBI double from Gimenez off lefty Trey Jeans to push the lead to 8-1.
Gimenez went 4-for-5 and drove in a pair, while Ota and Nogowski both had three hit nights. The bull pen worked 3.1 innings of scoreless ball in the game and have not given up a run in the postseason. The Explorers pitching staff would strike out 13 Monarchs in the game. With the win the Explorers need one more victory to clinch the series and move on to the American Association Championship series and play for the Miles Wolff Cup.
The Explorers will be off Tuesday, September 12, and travel to Kansas City for game two of the best of three game series Wednesday, September 13. Game two is set for 7:00 p.m. from Legend Field in Kansas City, Kansas. Tickets for the postseason can be purchased online at XSBaseball.com, in person at the Lewis and Clark Park Box Office or by calling 712-277-WINS. You can catch all the X’s action on aabaseball.tv and on radio at KSCJ 94.9 FM and 1360 AM with the pregame beginning 30 minutes prior to first pitch.