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Howard makes rare relief appearance; Justus heads into final week of regular season

Sam Howard made a rare relief appearance Sunday for the Albuquerque Isotopes in an 8-1 loss to the division-leading Salt Lake Bees.

Howard entered in the third inning with the ‘Topes trailing 5-0 and pitched the final seven frames for no decision. He was charged with three earned runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out two.

On August 21, Howard was touched for eight hits, a walk, and four earned runs in four innings during a 4-2 road loss at the Sacramento River Cats.

For the season the former Georgia Southern and Cartersville High School standout has a 5-8 record in 22 starts and one relief appearance. He was 1-4 with a 2.33 ERA in nine starts at Class AA Hartford and is 4-4 in 13 starts with a 4.08 ERA with Triple-A Albuquerque. He has 100 strikeouts in just over 121 innings and opponents have a .238 batting average against him.

Colorado’s third round pick in 2014 is 26-29 with a 3.62 ERA in his minor league career.

Albuquerque (63-70) is 4.5 games behind Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast Southern Division with only eight games remaining in the regular season.

Howard is likely under consideration to be one of the expanded roster call-ups for the major league Rockies in September. He made a pre-season start for the big league club in the Cactus League this spring. We will know one way or the other in only a few days.

In the Advanced Class A California League, Cartersville’s Connor Justus is winding down the regular season with the Inland Empire 66ers.

Justus scored two runs and drove in a run Sunday in a 7-4 win over division-leading Rancho Cucamonga. The RBI was his 31st of the year.

The LA Angels’ 5th round pick in 2016 out of Georgia Tech hit .276 last year with stops in Orem, Utah (Rookie Level) and Burlington, Iowa (Class A). The 66ers every day shortstop has slipped to a .201 batting average this season, but has been among the league leaders in walks with 58 for a .317 on-base percentage. He has five home runs and 26 extra base hits.

Defensively, Justus has a .955 fielding percentage in 417 total chances with 107 games at shortstop and two at second base. He has been part of 55 double plays this season.

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