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Howard back in Triple-A with Albuquerque

Sam Howard made his return to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes Friday night and went 5.2 innings at home with no decision in a game against Fresno marketed as the “World’s Largest Food Fight.”

Albuquerque played as the Green Chili Cheeseburgers and Fresno — normally the Grizzlies — played as the Tacos. Both teams had special jerseys for the game.

Howard, who made one start earlier in the year for Albuquerque before returning to the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats in the Eastern League, was solid through the fifth inning before running into trouble in the sixth.

Albuquerque led 6-1 through five frames, but Fresno touched Howard for four singles and a sacrifice fly before the Cartersville native was lifted with two runners still aboard. Unfortunately, Fresno’s Tyler White doubled in the next at-bat to drive in both runners which were Howard’s responsibility.

The game went back-and-forth from that point with Fresno escaping with a 15-14 win.

Howard, a third round pick in the Colorado Rockies’ organization in 2014 out of Georgia Southern, was charged with five earned runs in his 5.2 innings. He allowed 10 hits and two walks. He fanned five.

For the season, Howard has a 1-4 record in 10 starts divided between Hartford and Albuquerque. His season ERA is 2.94 with 45 strikeouts and only a dozen walks.

Albuquerque (33-34) is in third place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division. The Isotopes trail the Salt Lake Bees (LAA) by 3.5 games.

Cartersville’s other MiLB player, Connor Justus (photo right), continues to search for the offensive production he had last season in the Los Angeles Angels organization.

Justus, a second year pro and fifth round pick of the Angels in 2016 out of Georgia Tech, has seen his 2017 batting average slip to .185 after hitting .276 in 68 games between Orem (Rookie League) and Burlington (Class A) one year ago.

Justus, now with the Advanced Class A, California League Inland Empire 66ers, continues as the every day starter at shortstop and has maintained his superb defensive numbers. He has a .942 fielding percentage and has been part of 30 double plays in 224 total defensive chances.

He currently has a .340 on-base percentage with five homers and 16 RBIs.

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