The Lincoln Saltdogs may have found the missing piece to their hitting puzzle.
Brennan O'Brien signed with the Saltdogs on Saturday and batted leadoff later in the evening in Lincoln's 7-1 victory over the Cleburne Railroaders at Haymarket Park.
O'Brien introduced himself to his new ballclub with a 2-for-3 performance and a walk, and scored the Saltdogs' go-ahead run courtesy of a Brandon Jacobs two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Lincoln's win snaps a five-game losing streak and is the first home victory for the Saltdogs this season.
“This is what we have been missing a little bit,” manager Bobby Brown said. “Getting guys on base in front of Brandon (Jacobs) and Curt (Smith) and putting pressure in the other guy's hands on the mound.
“You get some guys on base for big guys and it starts to put some pressure on the other team.”
Jacobs capitalized in a big spot with O'Brien on base in the sixth inning, blasting the two-run shot to right-center field to give the Saltdogs their first lead of the four-game series.
The Saltdogs left fielder finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs. His homer kick-started a productive Lincoln offense.
“Brandon is one of my favorite players,” Brown said. “He is such a quiet guy, and goes about his business and is such a pro. You know one game is going to break him out at some point, and hopefully it was tonight.”
O'Brien, Jacobs and Cesar Valera all had two hits apiece as the Saltdogs pumped out 11 hits as a team. Smith and Jacobs also added two runs apiece.
“It was a tough start for us,” Smith said. “We haven't been hitting even though we have a really, really good lineup.
“Today you could tell a lot of hitters were making adjustments, hitting the ball better, and it gave us results.”
The Saltdogs relievers did their part again, picking up after a solid five innings from starter Matt Portland.
Portland allowed just three hits and one earned run through his body of work and struck out seven Cleburne batters.
“Matty was fabulous,” Brown said. “He has been a guy that has been a starter and reliever throughout his career in college and two years with the Royals. His stuff was absolutely electric tonight."
The combined effort of Leuris Gomez, Fabio Martinez and Michael Wagner shut the door again. Saltdogs relievers have not allowed a run in the last nine innings.
“Our (relief pitching) has been phenomenal, phenomenal,” Brown added. “They've kept us in games in almost every night except for maybe one game. They are the unsung heroes of this ballclub right now, and if we can match the offense with those guys, it should be OK.”
Lincoln and Cleburne complete their four-game series Sunday at 2 p.m.