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Wingnuts look to get offense back in high gear

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 5, 2013, at 10:29 p.m.

Amarillo at Wingnuts

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Records: Amarillo 29-17, Wingnuts 29-18

Pitchers: Amarillo, RH Jason Johnson (4-1, 5.20 ERA); Wichita, LH Ryan Hinson (6-2, 1.75)

Radio: KWME, 92.7-FM

Though they seemed to defy it for an impressive two-week stretch, baseball’s persistent law of averages finally caught up with the Wingnuts.

It’s called regression to the mean, a natural balancing-out that for Wichita signaled an inevitable end to a stretch in which they averaged more than eight runs over 15 games.

Some of that was skewed by games where the Wingnuts scored 20, 13 and 10 runs, but over the entire two-plus weeks it appeared the Wingnuts might take a while to slow down.

Then Jason Jarvis happened.

Jarvis, who has owned the Wingnuts over the years, did so again last Sunday with a shutout. It was the third straight time he pitched nine innings without allowing an earned run against Wichita.

A poor game against a difficult pitcher proved not to be a statistical anomaly. The Wingnuts were shut out two more times in the next three games and scored five runs over four games before finally perking up in Friday night’s 6-2 win at Grand Prairie.

Manager Kevin Hooper seems to get calmer as difficult stretches progress. He often starts by bemoaning poor approaches or lack of adjustments in a single game, but as struggles continue he preaches the likelihood, via the law of averages, that they’ll reverse eventually.

The Wingnuts owned a 1 1/2-game lead over Gary SouthShore for first place in the American Association Central. They start a six-game homestand Saturday night against Amarillo.

“We’ll be fine,” Hooper said after Thursday’s 7-4 loss at Grand Prairie. “Just got to continue to grind it out. We’re having a tough time right now, but we’ve got to come out ready to roll (Friday).”

On Friday the Wingnuts had 13 hits and added four walks while scoring six times. All of Wichita’s five runs in its four consecutive losses came via the home run. The long ball is an efficient method for scoring runs, but when not supplemented by less prolific hits with runners in scoring position, they can sometimes be meaningless.

The players often responsible for those clutch hits, the Wingnuts’ 3-4-5 hitters, were mostly absent over those four games, mirroring Wichita’s team troubles.

John Rodriguez, C.J. Ziegler and Brent Clevlen combined to go 3 for 32, zapping the Wingnuts of their power and rendering the 10 combined hits by Nos. 2 and 6 hitters Jake Kahaulelio and Abel Nieves less impactful.

The failure to adjust that Hooper often decries has shown up with Wichita’s boppers, as they’ve tried to end their slumps with one swing and instead fallen deeper into a hole.

“I haven’t seen anybody at third base for a long time over there,” Hooper said. “I’ve seen maybe two or three guys at the most standing on third base. Just not manufacturing a lot of stuff going on. A lot of fly balls.… That’s the name of the game, make an adjustment.”

Khoury ss4220Pineda 2b4012
Kahaullio 2b4121Pinckney 3b5000
Rodriguez dh5021Myrow lf2010
Ziegler 1b5120Richrdsn 1b3010
Clevlen cf4110Held rf3000
Nieves 3b4122Hall dh4000
Armstrong c3011Flores c4000
Loehrs lf4011Kiniry cf3110
Amberson rf0000Nishimoto ss4120
McDnd lf-f3000

Wichita2000100306 13 0
Grand Prairie0000000112 6 0

DP – Grand Prairie 4. LOB— Wichita 8, Grand Prairie 9. 2B— Kahaulelio (12), Pineda (10), Richardson (5), Nishimoto (3). HBP – Kahaulelio (9) by Lugo. Kiniry (1) by Dew. SF – Pineda (2). SB – Khoury 2 (9), McDonald 2 (10), Kiniry 2 (2), Nishimoto (3).

Smith W, 4-37 2/351147

Grand Prairie IP H R ER BB SO
Lugo L, 3-2773342

HBP — Kahaulelio by Lugo (2), Kiniry by Dew (1). WP — Cunningham (2). Umpires—Home, Darius Ghani; first, Gabe Chavez; third, Pat McLaughlin.

T— 2:47. A— 1,583.

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