July was a cold month for the Lincoln Saltdogs and hitting home runs.
But the team has heated up in August, including Friday, when the Saltdogs belted four in a 16-6 victory over the Texas AirHogs at Haymarket Park.
“I think it's huge,” Saltdogs veteran Curt Smith said. “Everything goes through the season, there is a period of time where you can't figure it out and we did now and are playing good baseball, win or lose.
“That's a good sign that we are getting back on track.”
Lincoln's four home runs pushed the Saltdogs' season total to 90, leading the American Association, and on pace for 116 this season. That total would be 12 shy of the league record set by Lincoln in 2010.
After scoring six runs in the bottom of the first inning and chasing AirHogs starter Miguel Roario without recording an out, the Saltdogs poured it on the rest of the way.
“Honestly we just need to take the positives we did today,” Smith said. “We scored the first six runs off one hit, so we have to take the positive things you know; we walked a lot today, and that shows we have great plate discipline and we gotta keep doing that and good things will happen.”
The Saltdogs walked 11 times, having led the American Association in bases on balls going into Friday's contest. Lincoln also moved to 16-7 when hitting at least two home runs.
Lincoln built a 6-1 lead off just one hit, a Brandon Jacobs two-run blast, in the bottom of the first before Texas rallied for four runs in the third inning to make it a 6-5 game. Jacobs and Randolph Oduber added RBI singles to push the lead to 8-6 and Curt Smith wasted no time with Texas reliever Du Yonghui, hitting the first pitch for a grand slam.
“I knew we had been hitting their fast balls all day and I know the pitcher kept shooking (off) his pitch,” Smith said. “I just sat on something soft and got it, and it did the job.”
Alex Glenn and T.J. Bennett continued the slugfest as Glenn hit a solo shot in fourth and a two-run blast from Bennett to give Lincoln the 16-5 advantage.
Lincoln's big lead was more than a stat line, it was an opportunity for Dan Johnson, who turned 39 Friday, to pitch four innings of relief and pick up his first career save.
“Yeah!” Johnson said. “I should have grabbed the ball.”
The knuckle-baller went four innings, allowing three hits and a run scored while walking five.
Derek Gordon picked up the victory after two innings of work, relieving Brad Thoutt, who lasted just three innings on the mound.
Lincoln and Texas continue the four-game series at 7 p.m. Saturday at Haymarket Park