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Howard picks up win with Triple-A Albuquerque; Justus off to good second half start

Cartersville native Sam Howard picked up his first win with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes Friday night allowing four runs and seven hits over six innings in a 9-5 defeat of the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Howard, a 24-year-old 4th-year pro in the Colorado Rockies organization, kept El Paso off the board for the first three innings, but the Chihuahuas sandwiched a pair of singles around back-to-back doubles to produce a three-run fourth inning. He then gave up a leadoff home run in the top of the sixth before retiring the side. His evening ended with the Isotopes leading 9-4.

PHOTOS: Sam Howard and Connor Justus

Howard struck out three and walked two of the 26 batters he faced. He is now 2-4 with a 3.26 ERA in a dozen starts in 2017 split between Albuquerque and Double-A Hartford. The former Cartersville Hurricanes and Georgia Southern Eagles' southpaw has worked just over 60 innings this season with 51 strikeouts and only 14 walks. Opponents are hitting .224 against him.

Albuquerque (37-37) is currently in second place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division trailing the Salt Lake Bees (LAA) by 3.5 games.

Second-year pro Connor Justus was 3-for-9 Friday and Saturday night as the Advanced Class A Inland Empire 66er's improved to 3-0 to start the second half standings in the California League.

Justus singled, doubled, walked, and scored a run batting in the five-spot of the order as the 66er's beat Lake Elsinore 8-4 Friday. The former Cartersville High School and Georgia Tech shortstop added another hit Saturday in a 6-5 win. He also drove in a run and scored a run in Thursday’s second-half opener with the Storm.

The fresh start of the California League’s second-half schedule may have arrived at a good time for the 22-year-old Justus. After hitting .276 in his first season as a pro at both Rookie Level Orem, Utah and Class A Burlington, Iowa, the Los Angeles Angels’ 5th-round pick has slipped to a .183 batting average in 2017 at Inland Empire. He leads the 66er's in walks (40), however, to maintain a .332 on-base average and is second on the team in stolen bases and third in both doubles (11) and homers (5).

Through 61 games and 61 starts at shortstop this season, Justus has kept his defensive numbers steady. He maintains a .946 fielding percentage in 240 total chances and has committed only 13 errors in just over 547 innings. The 66ers have turned 34 double plays.

Inland Empire finished the California League first-half standings with a 30-40 mark and were fourth in the South Division.

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