Anthony Capra was ready to take his success as a reliever into the Wingnuts starting rotation and he would do it, he thought, without his curveball.
Capra always takes his fastball-changeup combination into his outings, but his curveball is only present when he pitches successfully in his pregame bullpen session. He didn’t have a good feel for the curve Tuesday, so he thought about abandoning it.
Capra found it during his start, though, and used his three-pitch mix to shut down El Paso over six innings in the Wingnuts’ 8-1 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Making his first start of 2013 after five relief appearances, Capra allowed three hits and a run with five strikeouts.
"I pretty much know in the bullpen warming up," Capra said about the effectiveness of his curveball. "Tonight I didn’t feel it in the bullpen, but I had it in the game so it was another option. When you have three options, it makes it a little bit easier."
Capra used all of his pitches for outs and kept El Paso hitters guessing even when the Diablos entered their third trip through the order. Capra has a high-80s to low-90s fastball, but a deceptive delivery keeps hitters from seeing it out of his hand and they often swing late.
The changeup is Capra’s weapon against platoon-advantaged right-handed hitters, because it breaks down and away from them when he pitches it effectively. The curve has a sweeping action against lefties and breaks from off the plate outside to the corner against right-handers.
The versatile array of pitches explains Capra’s high career strikeout rate but not the struggles he endured last season with the Wingnuts, when he allowed 74 hits and 49 walks in 69 innings. Those difficulties seem to be behind him, as Capra has allowed seven hits in 15 innings with a 1.80 ERA.
"Being a long guy out of the bullpen is huge, especially with the short bullpen we’ve got," Wichita catcher Cole Armstrong said. "The situations he was coming in were huge for us. I had no doubts as to what we were going to get from him tonight and he came in and showed it. He was actually a little better tonight."
Brian Joynt blooped two doubles to right field against Capra, who retired the Diablos in order three times. Joynt’s second double led to El Paso’s only run, but the RBI single by Jonathan Cisneros was the final hit Capra allowed.
Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper planned on getting five innings from Capra, whose pitch counts haven’t been high as a reliever, but as he cruised through the fifth Capra asked for three more outs. He got them by retiring El Paso on six pitches in the sixth.
The performance likely earned Capra at least one more start, as the Wingnuts have yet to announce a replacement for former No. 5 starter Kristhiam Linares, who was traded to Amarillo last week.
"I’ve always wanted to be a starting pitcher," Capra said. "They wanted me in the bullpen, and that’s fine. The more I can get stretched out, hopefully I can be serviceable as a starter and just roll with it from here."
Wichita scored five runs in the fifth with the help of two RBI infield singles and two RBI walks. The thunder never really arrived, as the Wingnuts’ other run-scoring innings included another run-scoring infield hit and a hit-by-pitch to start the bottom of the eighth.
The Wingnuts had 18 baserunners and forced the Diablos to throw 168 pitches. They took advantage of mistakes, like the walks in the first or shortstop Maikol Gonzalez’s adventures in the fifth.
Gonzalez appeared to forget how many outs there were when he neglected to throw to first on a potential double play. He made a throwing error that allowed two runs to score on the next play, then saved another run with a diving catch to end the inning. He was replaced after the fifth, but the Wingnuts kept getting on base without his help.
"Putting pressure on defenses," Hooper said. "When you have some guys that can run, we’re going to do that. Being an infielder in the past, you’re thinking about the guy at the plate — ‘This guy can run a little bit, you’ve got to get rid of the ball.’ That comes into play a lot."
|Gonzalez ss||2||0||0||0||Khoury ss||5||0||2||2|
|Chacoa ss||1||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||3||2||0||2|
|Ramirez 2b||4||0||1||0||Rodriguez dh||4||1||2||2|
|Joynt rf||4||1||2||0||Ziegler 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Cisneros 1b||4||0||1||0||Armstrong c||5||1||1||0|
|Einertson cf||3||0||0||0||Yoo c||0||0||0||0|
|Muse lf||3||0||0||0||Nieves 3b||4||2||3||0|
|Ferrante dh, p||3||0||0||0||Rotola lf||4||1||0||1|
|Montero c||2||0||0||0||Amberson rf||2||0||1||1|
|McAlpine c||1||0||0||0||McDonald cf||4||1||1||1|
E— El Paso 2, Wichita 0. LOB— El Paso 4, Wichita 11. 2B— El Paso, Joynt 2 (7); Wichita, Rodriguez 2 (7), Nieves (4) . SF — Muse. SB — Amberson (4), McDonald (5).
Umpires — home, Ivinski; first, Urton; second, Thigpen. T — 2:48. A — 3,233 .