By Pat Turner
Kyle Lloyd began the season in the Missions’ bullpen before moving into a starting role earlier this month.
After an impressive showing in Wednesday’s matinee, the righthander might have made a strong case to remain in the rotation.
Lloyd fired a two-hitter through six scoreless innings to help the Missions snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over Northwest Arkansas on Science Day at Wolff Stadium.
Lloyd made his first start this past Friday and received a no-decision as he allowed four hits and three runs with a season-high four walks.
It was an OK outing to get his feet wet, but start No. 2 went much smoother as he did not allow a walk.
“I did some things better than the last time,” said Lloyd, who struck out two batters. “I was able to work on stuff in the pen. I started more what I was going coming out of the pen as a reliever. My offspeed was a little crisper. It felt a lot better.”
Lloyd had a tough task in the second after giving up a single and double with two outs. However, an inning-ending strikeout seemed to light a spark. After the getting through that ordeal, Lloyd retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced.
“Getting out of that inning was big,” Lloyd said. “I was able to bear down and get the strikeout. After that I felt I got in a groove. My backstop (catcher Ryan Miller) was calling a great game. He went well.”
Missions’ manager Phillip Wellman enjoyed watching Lloyd at work.
“Kyle was outstanding,” Wellman said. “He has great downhill play on his fastball. He has a slider and a split he can throw over the plate as well. He throws the ball over the plate and challenges guys. He’s not afraid of anything.”
Lloyd left with a 2-0 lead but getting run was difficult again for the Missions.
Northwest Arkansas starter Ashton Goudeau, who allowed two hits through six innings of making his Double-A debut, was perfect through the first three innings, but Auston Bousfield broke through with a lead-off double to right in the fourth.
Nelson Ward put the runner at third on a sacrifice bunt and Jose Rondon’s sacrifice fly brought home for a 1-0 Missions’ lead.
Mike Olt, who has been on base 20 straight games, followed with a towering solo shot over the left field fence in the next inning.
“We had tremendous pitching, but minimal offense,” Wellman said. “But we took advantage of our one opportunity to execute. We did that perfectly. That’s how you play baseball. Then, we got a big hit from Olt, which is what we need him to do.”
That was all the runs the Missions could muster, which meant they needed solid pitching down the stretch to preserve the lead.
After Lloyd left, things got a little tense for Missions relievers Louis Distacio and Brandon Alger in the seventh and eighth innings.
Both pitchers walked two with Alger getting in the biggest jam in the eighth as a double steal put runners in scoring position.
Distacio ended his threat with a strikeout and Alger recorded a K before Yardley took over the pitching.
Oralando Calixte brought home a run with an infield hit, but a groundout followed for the final out.
In the ninth, Yardley put the Naturals down in order to save the Missions’ victory.