The Wingnuts scored a walk-off win in the first game of a doubleheader against Gary SouthShore on Tuesday. In the nightcap, it was Gary doing all the walking.
After a single in the seventh inning by Abel Nieves gave Wichita a 2-1 win in the first of two seven-inning games at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, the Railcats took the second game 10-5 thanks in part to 10 walks by Wichita pitching.
Gary, which has eight homers on the season in 82 games, also muscled up — relatively speaking. The American Association Central Division’s second-place team, trailing the Wingnuts by 8 1/2 games, didn’t add to their league-worst homer total. But the Railcats did notch five extra-base hits, helping them earn more mileage out of their seven hits and 10 free passes.
It’s a weakness of an otherwise stout Wichita pitching staff —the Wingnuts lead the league in ERA but just four of the 12 other teams have issued more walks.
“(Pitching coach Luke Robertson) and I keep preaching,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “If we’re going to get beat, let’s get beat by contact, because the defense behind us is tremendous. We keep preaching it, it was just one of those weird nights tonight in the second game.”
Starting pitcher Justin Klipp was the primary culprit of Wichita’s control problems, though relievers Daniel Bennett and Josh Stone didn’t exactly fix those issues.
Klipp, a pitch-to-contact right-hander who relies on pitches on the edges of the strike zone and an ability to effectively change speeds in order to induce weak contact, didn’t get the strikes he needs to be effective, and the contact Gary managed was anything but weak.
After a perfect first inning, Klipp walked the leadoff hitter in the second. He later allowed a triple, single and a double to put Gary ahead 3-0. Klipp walked three of the first four batters in the third, a statistic made to look even worse by an error on shortstop Ryan Khoury when he dropped the flip on a possible double play.
Gary’s fourth run of Game 2 scored on Klipp’s fourth walk, which exacerbated another of Klipp’s problems Wednesday — an inability to stem the damage against him.
The first three batters of the second reached base for Gary, and, including the error in the fourth, the Railcats had their first four batters on base in the third. Klipp was removed after allowing three straight baserunners in the fourth — a walk, single and triple that produced two more runs and a 7-3 Gary lead.
“When you walk a guy, OK, fine, you walk one guy,” Hooper said. “Let’s minimize the damage. We weren’t able to do that tonight. It could have been way worse, because we did get out of jams here and there. You’ve got to come out there and set the tone as a pitching staff, and we didn’t do that there in the second game.”
Klipp, one of the most reliable Wingnuts pitchers for most of the season, has struggled through the last month. He has allowed four or more earned runs in four of his last five starts, during which his ERA is 5.57.
The Wingnuts had no such pitching difficulties in Game 1, when the only question was whether they could provide enough offense. Chris Smith pitched six innings and allowed one run, but Wichita managed just a C.J. Ziegler homer until the seventh. Ziegler’s 23rd home run extended his franchise record and league lead.
In the seventh, Nieves doubled to right-center to score Brent Clevlen with the game-winning run.
It temporarily gave Wichita a 9 1/2 game lead on Gary and trimmed their magic number for winning the division title outright to 10 with now 17 to play. Any combination of 10 Wingnuts wins and Gary losses will send Wichita to its fifth playoff appearance in six years.
“That was big winning the first one (because of) what happened in the second,” Hooper said. “We battled until the end in that first one and finally got some big hits at the end to finish things off.”
|Klein lf||4||0||2||0||Khoury ss||4||0||1||0|
|Massaro rf||4||1||1||0||Kahaullio 2b||2||0||1||0|
|Kolb 3b||4||0||2||0||Rodriguez dh||3||0||0||0|
|Maddox c||2||0||0||0||Ziegler 1b||4||1||1||1|
|Bbneau ph,c||1||0||0||0||Clevlen cf||3||1||1||0|
|Vitters 1b||2||0||2||0||Nieves 3b||4||0||1||1|
|Guerrero dh||3||0||0||0||Armstrong c||3||0||1||0|
|Martinez cf||3||0||1||0||Beaird rf||2||0||2||0|
|Mitchell ss||3||0||0||0||McDonald lf||1||0||0||0|
LOB— Gary 9, Wichita 12. 2B— Clevlen (16). 3B — Massaro (13). HR — Ziegler (23). SB — Klein (19), Kolb (11), Vitters (5).
|Lindquist (L, 2-2)||1||2||1||1||1||0|
|Walters (W, 5-1)||1||1||0||0||0||1|
HBP — by Smith (Vitters). WP — Walters (1). Umpires—Home, Pat McLaughlin; first, Darius Ghani; second, Dan Hoffman.
|Klein dh||4||0||1||2||Khoury ss||4||1||2||2|
|Massaro rf||3||1||0||1||Kahaullio 2b||4||0||0||0|
|Vitters 1b||5||1||0||0||Rodrgz dh||3||0||1||0|
|Babineau c||2||1||0||0||Zirgler 1b||3||0||0||0|
|Fronk lf||2||2||2||2||Clevlen cf||3||1||2||0|
|Kolb 3b||4||1||1||1||Nieves 3b||3||1||2||1|
|Martinez cf||3||2||1||1||Beaird rf||3||1||1||0|
|Mitchell ss||3||1||1||1||Bowden c||3||1||1||2|
|Brockett 2b||3||1||2||1||McDonld lf||3||0||0||0|
E— Khoury (17). DP— Gary 1, Wichita 1. LOB— Gary 8, Wichita 3. 2B— Fronk (1), Brockett (2), Khoury (11). 3B — Klein (6), Fronk (1), Mitchell (1), Bowden (1). HR — Khoury (3). SB — Massaro (10), Rodriguez (9).
WP — Hiscock. Umpires—Home, Darius Ghani; first base, Dan Hoffman; third base, Pat McLaughlin.
T— 2:31. A— 2,492.