There are no statistics to measure perception.
The Wingnuts hit better than average with runners in scoring position and are better with men on base than without.
But when manager Kevin Hooper thinks about their 13 losses this season, including Monday’s 3-1, 11-inning defeat against Grand Prairie at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, a lack of situational hitting always seems to be the culprit.
“Same thing that’s haunted us all year long when we lose,” Hooper said. “…I really don’t know the word to use. I’ve used many for it, but it’s not good at all. I’d like to see a lot of our numbers. We’ve talked about it. We’re 38 games in, and it’s just unfortunate.”
The numbers might not be as bad as they seem to Hooper, but they got worse Monday as Wichita failed to get the winning run across despite a prime opportunity in the bottom of the ninth.
The Wingnuts, through Sunday, are batting .277 with runners in scoring position and .292 with men on base,.
The average drops to .233 with runners in scoring position and two outs, but Wichita only let the situation devolve to that statistical improbability on Monday after two batters were unable to bring in Ryan Khoury after his leadoff double in the ninth. One of those first two outs came on a sacrifice bunt that made Khoury’s run even more likely.
But Ty’Relle Harris, a Grand Prairie reliever with Triple-A experience, struck out Wichita’s Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, Jake Kahaulelio and Brent Clevlen to leave Khoury on third.
“He was making good pitches,” Khoury said. “We’ve never seen him before and he’s got the change(up) and slider and fastball, and he threw some good pitches. The 3-2 pitches to Jake was a really good pitch, and to Cleve he pulled out the changeup that he hadn’t used yet.”
Wichita’s missed opportunity in the ninth stood out even more because it was one of few the Wingnuts had all night. They scored on two hits in the fourth, but the only other hit they managed off Grand Prairie starter Trevor Harden was a two-out bunt single by David Amberson one inning prior.
Harden retired 13 in a row to end his eight-inning outing, and Khoury’s hit was Wichita’s last.
“Just one of those nights,” Khoury said. “Wind blowing in a little bit, and we hit a lot of balls hard. I think Cleve had three in a row that he just crushed that were all outs. We knew we were on him pretty good and they had pretty good defense. You just have to keep hitting the ball hard and make adjustments.”
Justin Klipp equaled Harden, though the run he allowed, after his own sixth-inning error, was unearned, and Klipp’s ERA dropped to 1.60, third best in the American Association.
Grand Prairie wasn’t perfect in clutch situations, either, leaving runners in scoring position in the sixth and eighth innings. But the AirHogs were successful in one more of those chances than the Wingnuts.
After Patrick Mincey — Wichita’s new closer— beretired Andres Rodriguez on an infield pop-up with the bases loaded in the 11th, Frazier Hall lined a first-pitch single to right field for the game-winning RBIs.
It was the kind of hit that eluded the Wingnuts Monday and too often throughout the season even though they have the league’s best record.
“I don’t know if we’re getting hits necessarily in our situational hitting,” Hooper said. “Guy on third, less than two outs; guy on second and nobody out, getting the guy over. Those are the situations we’re really struggling with. Yeah, we drive guys in at times, but a lot of times it’s not those situations.”
|Mojica ss||5||1||2||0||Khoury ss||4||0||1||0|
|Nunez 2b||5||1||1||0||Testa lf||5||1||1||0|
|A. Nieves 3b||5||0||1||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||0||0||0|
|Botts lf||4||0||0||0||Clevlen cf||4||0||0||0|
|Rodriguez 1b||5||0||0||0||McMurray dh||4||0||1||1|
|Hall rf||5||0||1||2||Wise c||4||0||0||0|
|DiFazio c||4||0||1||0||McClendon 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Gasporra dh||4||0||0||0||Oldham 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Baker cf||4||1||1||0||Amberson rf||4||0||1||0|
|Grand Prairie||000||001||000||02—||3 7 0|
|Wichita||000||100||000||00—||1 4 1|
E – Klipp (1). LOB — Grand Prairie 7, Wichita 4. 2B – Mojica (9), Khoury (9).
|Harris W, 1-0||2||1||0||0||0||3|
|Watts S (9)||1||0||0||0||1||2|
|Mincey L, 0-1||1 2/3||3||2||2||1||1|
WP – Klipp (4). Umpires—Home, Bobby Feaster; 1B, Nick Gonzalez; 3B, Joey Stegner.
T – 2:47. A – 3367.