Jon Link found something to laugh about Tuesday night. It helped the Wichita right-hander pitch better, but the Wingnuts batters found no humor in the performance of Kansas City starter Daniel Barone.
Barone stifled the Wingnuts for four innings, then again for the final two of his seven-inning outing. Wichita managed to hand Link a lead, but after a mostly dominant seven innings, Link lost the lead in the eighth as Kansas City won 4-2 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Link, who allowed seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start of 2014, looked to be in for a similar outing as he allowed a wind-aided home run to leadoff batter Byron Wiley, who gave Wichita pitchers fits all night.
“I thought it was kind of funny,” Link said. “Neither of the home runs I’ve given up were hit very well, both of them were just hit up in the jet stream that we have here in Wichita. So I thought it was kind of funny, considering how bad last start was, then to start like that today. I got a little chuckle out of it. After I was done laughing at it, it made me more irritated.”
Link walked the next batter but then settled in. That transformation appeared complete by the second, when Link executed a three-pitch inning and started a double play. He struck out two in the third inning and at least one in every inning he completed thereafter, finishing with 10 strikeouts.
Link’s performance dropped his ERA nearly six points to 7.50, but it could have been even better if not for a rough eighth. Link’s pitch total after seven innings was a manageable 99, and he had retired 11 of the previous 12 batters.
Link spent the winter as a reliever in Venezuela, and though he started for the Wingnuts last year, his arm is still becoming reconditioned to higher pitch counts.
“I was feeling fine,” Link said. “But at the same time, you’re not going to take the ball away from me. If you ask me how I feel, I’ll tell you I’m going to take the ball and I’m going to be out there. I felt fine. I felt my ball had some life all night.”
After Robby Kuzdale’s single, Wiley hit a high fly ball to left field that Carlo Testa lost in the lights, letting it land behind him for a ground-rule double that put runners on second and third. Two batters later, Sabatella singled in the tying run, and reliever Patrick Mincey allowed a go-ahead single, scoring Wiley with a run charged to Link, who took the loss.
“I just overthought myself,” Link said. “I thought Wiley was bunting for sure, and there’s no way I thought that Sabatella was swinging at a 2-0 breaking ball. I overthought myself and got beat both times. What it boils down to is me not getting the job done.”
Barone retired the first 11 Wingnuts batters before Brent Clevlen’s fourth-inning double.
Wichita finally pieced together some offense in the fifth with four singles, including an RBI bunt hit by David Amberson that put the Wingnuts ahead 3-1. Testa tied it with a single to right field, but was thrown out trying to advance to second. That play may have cost Wichita a chance for more, as Barone hit two batters in the inning and the Wingnuts left the bases loaded.
The Wingnuts often build on multi-run innings, but Barone and two relievers shut them down after the fifth, striking out seven of the final 15 batters and keeping Wichita from advancing beyond second base.
“It felt like he was in control of the whole game,” Testa said of Barone. “We didn’t do a good job of putting the ball in play and making him go deep in the counts. He’d start off with strikes and we’d have to swing.”
|Wiley lf||5||2||3||2||Khoury ss||2||0||0||0|
|Espinosa 1b||4||0||0||0||Kahaullo 2b||3||0||0||0|
|Sabatella rf||4||0||1||1||Clevlen cf||4||0||1||0|
|Giarraputo 3b||3||0||1||1||Chen 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Richar 2b||4||0||1||0||Wise dh||4||1||1||0|
|Mittlestaedt dh||4||0||1||0||Hazlett 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Friar ss||4||0||1||0||McMurray c||4||1||1||0|
|Erie c||4||1||1||0||Testa lf||4||0||2||2|
|Kuzdale cf||4||1||1||0||Amberson rf||4||0||2||1|
E— Frias, Testa. DP— Wichita. LOB— KC 7, Wichita 7. 2B— Wiley, Frias, Clevlen. 3B — Wiley. HR — Wiley (1). CS — Wise.
|Regas S,1||1 1/3||1||0||0||0||3|
|Link L,0-1||7 1/3||7||3||3||2||10|
HBP — Khoury by Barone, Kahaulelio by Barone. Umpires—Home, Dan Hoffman; first, Randy Wilmes; third, Shawn Hicks.
T— 2:39. A— 1,845.