Shaky Bullpen Holds 8-6 Win for Stars in Mobile Opener

(HUNTSVILLE) - Michael Brantley and Angel Salome each collected three hits and knocked in three runs as Huntsville's bullpen hung on in the late innings to hold an 8-6 victory for Steve Hammond at Joe Davis Stadium in the opener of a five-game homestand for the Stars vs. Mobile.

Brantley's 2-out, 2-run double gave the Stars a 7-1 lead, capping a four-run 6th inning, but David Johnson, in relief of Hammond, struggled through the 7th, giving up a 2-out RBI double to Bryan Byrne and a 2-run double to Rusty Ryal to cut the Stars' advantage to 7-4.

After Robert Hinton got through a scoreless 8th, leaving a pair of Mobile runners aboard, Juan Sandoval ran into trouble after walking Cesar Nicolas with one out.

Ryal hit his second double of the game, sending Nicolas to third, then walked Frank Curren to load the bases.

Cyle Hankerd singled sharply to left, scoring Nicolas to trim the Stars lead to 8-5. Then the Stars got a break.

Pinch-hitter Brandon Burgess bounced into a force out at second base. Alcides Escobar, taking the force play from 2nd baseman Michael Bell, alertly caught Curren too far off the bag at third, and threw to 3rd baseman Mat Gamel. Ryal scored easily from third on the fielder's choice, but it didn't matter. Gamel ran Curren down as he headed toward the plate, and tagged him out for the final play of the game.

The Stars, 14-2 at home, improve to 21-10, the best start in franchise history, and maintain their share of the lead in the North Division after a West Tennessee win over Mississippi, 13-3.

The BayBears drop to 15-16 but stay a game in back of Birmingham in the South Division.

Hammond, now the Southern League strikeout leader, had control trouble in the 1st inning, throwing only four of his 17 pitches in the 1st inning for strikes. After loading the bases in the 2nd, however, he settled down, striking out John Hester and Mobile starter, Brooks Brown, then getting shortstop Guillermo Reyes to fly out to left.

Hammond, with an early 2-0 lead, held Mobile scoreless until Ryal homered in the 6th for the Bay Bears' first run.

Alcides Escobar singled in a run in the 5th to give the Stars a 3-0 lead, but their breakthrough inning was the 6th when they scored four runs, all with two out, keyed by Salome's two-run single and Brantley's two-run double.

Hammond picked up the win to improve to 4-1. He allowed a run on 6 hits and 3 walks, striking out 6 in 6 innings. Brown (2-4) suffered the loss after allowing 5 runs on 9 hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Tuesday night, left-hander Derek Miller (2-1, 2.05) takes the mound against BayBears' right-hander Tony Barnette (2-3, 5.40).