Divisional leaders Joplin and Sioux City were idle Monday.

Divisional leaders Joplin and Sioux City were idle Monday.

That makes sense, since each team finished a road series (Joplin in Amarillo, Sioux City in Gary) right before playing a three-game weekend series at Joe Becker Stadium.
The Explorers avoided the dreaded sweep with a 9-4 victory Sunday night over the Blasters.

Former Crowder College standout and Sioux City leadoff man Matty Johnson continued his torrid play at the plate with a pair of hits, extending his hitting streak to 18 games.

It was Sioux City shortstop Noah Perio who proved to have the strongest bat Sunday.

Perio went 2 for 5 overall but his two hits were a towering two-run home run in the fifth and a two-run triple in the seventh. Perio rang his seasonal totals up to three triples, four home runs and 40 RBI.

Four balls went over the fence Sunday, two by each team, with home runs by Perio and Ryan Court for Sioux City and Jake Taylor and Jesus Solorzano for Joplin.

Joplin (27-18) returns home Wednesday after today’s one-game road trip against the Wichita Wingnuts at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Wichita trails Joplin in the South Division.

Sioux City (35-15) returns home Wednesday for a seven-game homestand, including four games against Laredo and three against Lincoln.

After 50 games, Johnson batted .276 with 40 runs scored, 58 hits, seven doubles, five triples, no home runs and 20 RBI, plus 18 stolen bases and no errors in center field. Johnson owns a 18-game hitting streak entering Wednesday’s game.

On June 24, Johnson was hitting .215. Well, a hit in 18 consecutive games can raise a batting average 61 points.

On June 30, Johnson cracked four hits against Winnipeg.

El Paso-Grand Prairie’s Stephen Douglas holds the American Association record for longest hitting streak at 34 games in the 2011 season. Douglas recorded a record 160 hits and reached base a record 56 consecutive games that season.

Johnson’s five triples rank second and his 40 runs scored and 18 stolen bases fifth in the American Association.

Perio’s four RBI Sunday moved him into a tie with St. Paul’s Angelo Songco for the league lead.

Best team in the league St. Paul (37-12 entering Monday) held multiple players in the top five of batting average (league leader Vinny DiFazio at .384 and Songco fourth at .348), home runs (DiFazio third at nine, Ian Gac and Mike Kvasnicka fifth at eight) and RBI (Songco first at 40, DiFazio third at 39, Kvasnicka fifth at 38).

Maikol Gonzalez leads the Blasters with a .333 average, Carlos Ramirez and Jake Taylor share the team lead with seven home runs and former Missouri Southern and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M standout Taylor stands alone with 33 RBI.

On the pitching side, Joplin’s Jorge Martinez ranks among league leaders in wins (six), strikeouts (56) and ERA (2.05). Gary’s Charle Rosario leads with eight wins, Sioux City’s Patrick Johnson and Fargo-Moorhead’s Brandon Mann with 65 Ks and Laredo’s Greg Holle with a 1.49 ERA.

Pitching numbers like that do not always reflect win-loss record.

For example, Mann’s 1-5 with a 4.57 ERA despite his strikeout numbers. In a complete game loss against Winnipeg last time out, Mann surrendered 11 hits and four walks in addition to 11 strikeouts. He faced 40 batters in a 3-2 loss. That’s part and parcel of 75 hits and 25 walks allowed over 63 innings.

However, Johnson’s 6-0 with a 2.33 ERA for the Explorers, allowing 47 hits and 19 walks over 65 2/3 innings.

Holle’s league-leading 1.49 ERA only resulted in a 3-5 record after 11 starts. On average, Holle walks a hitter every eight innings (nine walks, 72 1/3 innings) and his strikeout-to-walk ratio stands at 5:1 (45 strikeouts, nine walks).