Wingnuts fans, it’s finally here. Opening Day. Finally. Teams in the major leagues have already played long enough to be pretty much eliminated from any playoff hopes, but the American Association is only now just beginning. The Wingnuts open in about an hour against the Lincoln Saltdogs.
I don’t have a lot of observations today. Except that I saw a guy riding his bicycle on McLean Blvd. while wearing a Burger King crown and laughing at passing motorists. I like that, as long as he wasn’t laughing in me. No way. Probably just in my general direction.
Also, I really like watching Kelly Hunt take batting practice because he hits some bombs. I especially like watching the homers he hits to opposite field. This guy is going to hit a lot of homers this year — he had 26 last year in 295 at-bats in the Frontier League.
But he, and probably a lot of the other Wingnuts hitters, are going to strike out a lot, too. And strikeouts are fine, especially from power hitters, when they’re supplemented with homers and walks. But being selective enough to work a deep count when you’re anxious to swing hard and hit the ball a long way is an art few hitters have mastered. Especially power hitters. The ones who have are in the majors right now.
But Wichita’s lineup will make for some exciting, possibly high-scoring games this season. There’s not an easy out in the lineup, unlike last year when the bottom third took the Wingnuts out of several potential big innings. If there’s a night when every guy, or at least most of them, are “on” — it could get ugly for the opposition.
But a potent offense means nothing without good starting pitching, and that’s where the question marks are for Wichita going into the season. Not bad question marks — we just haven’t seen any of Gabe Medina, Will Savage or Derek Blacksher to know how they’ll perform. All indications, though, are that they’ll be strong. And we know we can expect consistency out of the other starting pitchers, returning left-handers Brad Davis and Richard Salazar.
Tonight, though, I’m calling for a pitchers’ duel. It’s Medina vs. Lincoln’s Jarrett Gardner, one of the AA’s top pitchers last season. I’ll say 3-1 and the hometown fans go home happy. Michael Thompson hits a decisive two-run homer in the sixth for the ‘Nuts.
Here are the lineups:
Lincoln (0-0): SS Albenis Machado; CF Josh Burrus; 1B Phil Hawke; 3B Juan Richardson; C Shawn McGill; DH Steve Alexander; RF Matt Maloney; 2B Shea McFeely; LF Deacon Burns. RHP Jarrett Gardner (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Wichita (0-0): CF Nick Blasi; SS Brenan Herrera; LF Greg Porter; RF Dustan Mohr; DH Kelly Hunt; 3B Michael Thompson; C Joe Muich; 1B Stephen Pearson; 2B Josh Horn. RHP Gabe Medina (0-0, 0.00 ERA)