We headed down to Little Rock for our second series with the Travelers, tied with Tacoma in first place in the PCL. News from Nevada is that the Dusters swept the New York Mets to end April in fine fashion, several games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL lead with a record of 20-7. They open the month of May with three more at the Polo Grounds against Casey Stengel's crew. The Dusters have five regulars hitting over .300, and five of the top ten home run hitters in the NL are Nevada players, too -- Billy Williams (8), Johnny Blanchard (8), Tom Tresh (7), Vic Power (6), Clete Boyer (6). Two of their starting pitchers, Tony Cloninger and Dave McNally, are off to a fine start with 4-1 records.
Some bad news coming out of the Columbus series, and I don't mean that we lost. Denis Menke, second baseman, is out at least a month with a ruptured knee ligament suffered during practice. That hurts us more than Denis, as there's little question he is just about ready for the big leagues and I don't think this mishap will have much affect on his progress. The Montana Wolves will send us middle infielder Felix Millan to fill in while Denis is on the mend. Millan hit .279 with no home runs and 24 RBI last year with the Wolves. I don't expect to start him much if at all, but we need someone to back up Cookie Rojas at second and Gene Alley at short.
DL: Denis Menke (2b), ruptured knee ligament, 37 days.
Arkansas Travelers: Adolfo Phillips (cf), Rich Barry (lf), Mickey Harrington (1b), Johnny Briggs (rf), Cal Emery (3b), John Herrnstein (ss), Gary Sutherland (2b), Del Bates (c), Paul Brown (sp)
Bakersfield 16-8 Arkansas 14-13
Game 1, May 1
Our staff ace, Ray Culp (3-0), faced Arkansas' Paul Brown in the first game of the series, and the two pitched well enough to keep the game scoreless through seven innings. Culp lasted six, allowing five hits and walking three while striking out six. Brown gave up just five hits in eight innings of work. The Travelers scored a run in the 8th off reliever Ron Reed but in the 9th the Travelers' Gary Wagner walked a pair before Cookie Rojas doubled down the first base line to bring the tying run home. Reed retired the side in order in the Arkansas half of the 9th, and in the top of the 10th Jesus Alou singled, Jose Cardenal bunted for a base hit, and Roger Repoz drew a walk to load the bases for Bob Bailey, who delivered with a two-run single. It was up to Dick Kelley to preserve our 3-1 lead in the home half of the inning, and though Gary Sutherland hit an RBI double the Bullets held on to win. Reed earned his first win of the season and Kelley was awarded his first save. Don Pavletich went 2-for-5, improving his average to .310, but Roger Repoz suffered a strained elbow ligament and would miss the next five games. We would miss his bat.
Lineup: Cardenal, Alley, Clendenon, Repoz, Bailey, Pavletich, Rojas, Blair, Culp
Bullets 3, Travelers 2
Game 2, May 2
We ran into trouble in the second game of the series -- and his name was Fergie Jenkins. Jenkins collected seven K's in the course of a complete game, with only one walk and six hits. The walks hurt our starter, Wade Blasingame. A walk in the 1st led to an Arkansas run, and two walks in the 3rd led to a bases loaded opportunity for John Herrnstein, who singled in a pair. Still, we hung in there, with an RBI single by Blasingame in the 3rd (our first hit), and a pair of doubles in the 5th, one by catcher Jerry Grote, who seemed the only guy in the lineup who had Jenkins figured out. (Grote finished 2-for-4 with a pair of runs.) With Arkansas leading 3-2 going into the 8th, Jose Cardenal singled, moved to second when Jenkins threw a wild pitch, and scored the tying run and scored on a Gene Alley single that went scooting into the right field gap. But in the bottom of the 9th Costen Shockley doubled off reliever Ron Herbel and later scored on a sac bunt by Rich Berry and we lost 4-3. Herbel took the loss. With Repoz out, Mack Jones started in the outfield and went 0-for-3 on the day, and Paul Blair, over in left, went 0-for-4. We're missing Tony Oliva.
Lineup: Cardenal, Alley, Clendenon, Bailey, Rojas, Jones, Grote, Blair, Blasingame
Travelers 4, Bullets 3
Game 3, May 3
Our hitting woes continued in the rubber game, as Bruce Howard (2-2) took on Pat Jarvis (3-1), and while Bruce pitched competently, we couldn't do much with the stuff Jarvis was throwing. They scored a run in the 2nd and we tied it in the 4th, but only due to an error on the part of Arkansas left fielder Rich Barry. That turned out to be our only run, too, while the Travelers tacked on another in the 5th. Jose Cardenal gave us a chance in the 8th when he singled and stole second, but Gene Alley grounded to third and Cardenal was tagged out; Donn Clendenon struck out and Alley stole second, but Bob Bailey made the last out. In the 9th we had a man in scoring position again, but Paul Blair flied out to end the game with the Travelers up 2-1. It was our second series loss in the row, but I was consoled by the fact that our pitching staff seemed to be doing a fair job of keeping it close. Howard took the loss while Cardenal went 2-for-4; Jesus Alou started in the outfield and, like Jones yesterday, finished 0-for-3. (Alou or Blair or Jones will have to step up or we'll be in trouble down the road.) We headed home for a three-game stand with the 89ers still tied for first place with the Tacoma Giants, who also lost today, thank God.
Lineup: Cardenal, Alley, Clendenon, Bailey, Rojas, Pavletich, Alou, Blair, Howard
Travelers 2, Bullets 1