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Howard, Justus move into final weeks of minor league regular season

Sam Howard had another nice start on the mound for Albuquerque this past Wednesday, but was tagged with the loss as the Isotopes were edged on the road by the El Paso Chihuahuas 2-1.

Howard, a third round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, left the game after six innings of work trailing 2-1.

In his twelfth start of the year for the Triple A Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League, Howard allowed four hits and three walks. He fanned three.

The former Georgia Southern University and Cartersville High southpaw is now 4-3 on the season with a 3.80 ERA, 54 strikeouts, and opponents have a .263 batting average against him.

For the 2017 season that includes nine starts for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, Howard has a 5-7 mark with a 3.18 ERA and 94 strikeouts in just over 110 innings.

Albuquerque (61-65) is currently third in the Pacific Southern Division, but on the heals of both El Paso and Salt Lake. The Isotopes trail El Paso (San Diego affiliate) by one game and Salt Lake (LA Angels affiliate) by only 2.5 games with 15 games remaining in the season.

Only the four division champions in the Pacific Coast League qualify for the post-season playoffs.

Connor Justus, starting shortstop for the Advanced Class A Inland Empire 66ers, had a productive four day stretch last Tuesday through Friday in a series with the Lake Elsinore Storm. Justus was 4-for-13 with one RBI, three walks, and a stolen base in that series. He hit safely in three of the four games.

The former Georgia Tech and Cartersville High School middle infielder has a .206 batting average this season in 104 games and 369 official at bats. He has five home runs, 29 RBI, 26 extra-base hits, and has drawn 56 walks for a .325 on-base percentage.

A fifth-round draft selection of the Los Angeles Angels in 2016, the 22-year-old has a .953 fielding percentage in 393 defensive chances. He has been part of 55 double plays this season.

The 66ers are currently third in the California League South Division. They trail the Lancaster JetHawks (Colorado affiliate) by three games and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LA Dodgers affiliate) by four games in the standings.

Lancaster secured a California League playoff spot by winning the first-half divisional standings. Inland Empire needs to win the second half division race to make the playoffs. There are 16 games remaining in the regular season.

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