Hitting with runners on base is often a specialty of the Wingnuts because the hitter at bat is often as dangerous as the hitter before him. Pitchers have no choice but to throw strikes in order to avoid further trouble.
It’s rare that a strike thrower finds prolonged success against the aggressive-but-selective Wingnuts. Joe Newby certainly hadn’t, racking up an 8.18 ERA in two starts for Amarillo against Wichita.
Strikes worked Monday against the suddenly scuffling Wingnuts. Newby missed a shutout by three outs, pitching into the ninth inning of Amarillo’s 4-0 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Just as troubling for the Wingnuts as their struggles against Newby was a generous pitching staff that issued eight free passes via walk or hit, contributing to half of Amarillo’s runs.
The Wingnuts have lost three of five after a franchise-best 13-game winning streak. They’ve failed to top four runs in three of five games, too, after exceeding that total nine times during the winning streak.
“Just chalk it up to one of those nights, I hope,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “Not real good tonight.”
Another strong showing didn’t seem derailed by a scoreless first inning. Ryan Khoury worked a nine-pitch at-bat before lining out to center, Jake Kahaulelio singled and John Rodriguez was robbed of a hit on a grounder up the middle.
The tone that was set in the first, though, wasn’t a string of hard-hit balls against Newby, but a lack of clutch hitting that plagued the Wingnuts in their rare scoring opportunities.
The Wingnuts got a runner on base to start the fourth and fifth innings, but both were erased on double plays, allowing Newby to face one over the minimum through five.
Newby labored in the later innings, but Wichita couldn’t capitalize on a walk and a hit batter that loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. The debuting John Davis, a rookie from Kansas State, grounded out to end the inning and contributing to a negative trend that continued in the eighth and ninth.
Wichita didn’t get a hit to advance a runner. Wingnuts moved up on walks, hit batters, wild pitches and outs, but never on a second consecutive single. In fact, the walk to Abel Nieves and Johnny Bowden getting hit in the eighth represented the only time two straight Wingnuts reached base.
“The last two starts against us, he was pretty consistent about using his off-speed (pitches) and working off of that,” said first baseman C.J. Ziegler, the only Wingnuts player to notch two hits. “Just one of those nights where he kept us off-balance.”
Newby finished the eighth at 132 pitches, earning him a chance to start the ninth. Ziegler singled on Newby’s 135th pitch, forcing Amarillo to finally go to the bullpen to record the final three outs in order.
The elevated pitch count didn’t come as a result of high walk or strikeout totals, as he had three of each, so the long at-bats Wichita’s hitters got into offered better chances to break through with a clutch hit than if they were frequently behind in counts.
“We knew what we were up against, what he was coming out to throw,” Ziegler said. “He threw very well. All you can do is come back out tomorrow.…You never know, you come back out tomorrow and (hits) are falling and those start big innings.”
Wichita starter Ryan Scoles walked five in five innings in his third professional start. Only one led to a run, but a 2-0 count against No. 8 hitter Trey Ford resulted in a two-run homer that put the Sox ahead 3-0 in the fourth.
Reliever Josh Stone walked two in his only inning, surrendering an RBI single before leaving runners on second and third. It was a situation more familiar to the Wingnuts offense, which accumulated nine baserunners but left five in scoring position.
“Very rarely is this lineup going to get shutout,” Hooper said. “And they shut us out. We just couldn’t break through at any point. We had some opportunities, but not a whole lot of opportunities.”
|Martin cf||2||1||1||0||Khoury ss||4||0||0||0|
|Weik lf||5||0||0||0||Rodriguez dh||4||0||0||0|
|Delgado 1b||3||0||2||1||Ziegler 1b||4||0||2||0|
|Patton dh||5||0||0||0||Clevlen cf||4||0||1||0|
|Valencia rf||4||0||1||0||Nieves 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Jones 3b||4||1||0||0||Bowden c||3||0||0||0|
|Ford c||1||2||1||2||Davis rf||3||0||0||0|
|De La Garza 2b||4||0||0||0||McDonald lf||2||0||1||0|
LOB— Amarillo 10, Wichita 7. HR — Ford (8). SB — Martin 2 (13), Serna (11), Ford 2 (36).
Umpires—Home, Mike O’Leary; First base, Ben Sonntag; Third base, Brian Urton.
T— 2:48. A — 3,410.