When the Wingnuts were struggling to score runs during the first half of the season, leaving runners on base was a problem because the team often failed to deliver a clutch hit.
During a hot streak to start the second half, runners stranded are just a product of getting nearly everyone on base.
The Wingnuts left 12 on base Saturday in their 11-3 win over Grand Prairie at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. In their last two games, both wins against the Air Hogs, Wichita has stranded 26 runners but scored 19 runs. Their outbreak Saturday came in support of starting pitcher Gabe Medina, who pitched a complete game.
"Anytime you're getting runners on base and scoring a lot of runs, you're going to leave a lot of runners on base, anyway," Wingnuts outfielder Ryan Patterson said. "You can't keep going, keep going, keep going. If we're going to leave runners on and score 11 runs, I'm happy with that."
Against a pitching staff that had difficulty throwing strikes, the Wingnuts threatened in every inning except the fourth, when a double play wiped out a leadoff single from Rene Ruiz.
The Wingnuts had a hit in every inning, at least two baserunners in seven of eight innings in which they batted, and they scored in every inning but the third and fourth. They never stopped hitting after Josh Horn hit a leadoff triple and scored two pitches later on a single from Patterson.
Near the end of the first half, the Wingnuts often talked about how they would turn the season around once the second 48 games began. So far, they're proving those claims prophetic, and Saturday they extended their season-best winning streak to four games.
"I feel like a lot of the additions that have been made have been huge," Patterson said. "We have a lot of guys who have been up there battling and putting together good at-bats. That's all you can ask for. If you keep putting together good at- bats, you're going to score a lot of runs. I feel like we were throwing them away earlier in the year."
The Wingnuts have added veterans Jorge Cortes and Jackson Melian, and Saturday they traded for Michael Bell, who had a productive season in Double-A in 2008. With Cortes and Melian batting third and fourth, each third of the Wingnuts' lineup has become more formidable.
Bell, who dealt with a slow start for Fort Worth, grounded into a run-preventing fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the fifth. Given another bases-loaded opportunity in the eighth, he notched his first extra-base hits and first RBIs with his new team with a double to left-center that plated two.
"That's always nice to get those (RBIs) out of the way and coming through in a situation like that," Bell said. "That's part of getting the job done in this game, getting that runner in from third with less than two outs. That was big for me."
The Wingnuts walked eight times as the Air Hogs' pitchers threw nearly as many balls (89) as strikes. Wichita often made Grand Prairie pay for its wildness, as five players scored after drawing walks. The Wingnuts drew at least one walk in five innings and scored in four of those.
"You've got to be up there ready to be aggressive if they throw you something in the zone," said Patterson, who had four hits and four RBIs. "We swung at some bad pitches early, but we locked in late and I felt like any time they made a mistake, we capitalized on it."
Medina hasn't been used to pitching with run support this season, as the Wingnuts' 11 runs Saturday were three more than they scored in his first four starts combined. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound right-hander said his approach doesn't change when he has a comfortable lead.
"Just put up zeroes, man," Medina said. "That's your ERA. If we score 20, you put up zeroes. That's the name of the game."
Grand Prairie tied it 1-1 in the second, but the Wingnuts scored two in the bottom half to take the lead for good. They continued to add runs to give Medina more comfort, and with his first complete game in sight he persuaded manager Kevin Hooper to keep him in.
Medina rewarded Hooper's faith by pitching around a one-out error and striking out the last two hitters to finish off his 120-pitch effort.
"I felt good," Medina said. "I told Hoop, I convinced him that I could go out there, so it was good. Every game I want to go out and I want to be out there. If I believe I can go out there, I want to try to convince him."
Logan ss3011Horn ss4321
Garza lf4000Patterson cf5143
Espinosa 3b4110Cortes rf4211
Porter 1b4121Melian lf4120
Hollimon dh4020Delgado dh4100
Perry rf4000Christy c3122
Brown 2b3101Pearson 1b3121
Caves c4010Bell 3b5022
Spiers ss2000Ruiz 2b5111
Grand Prairie010o011o000—3 Wichita120o023o120—11
E—Brown (1), Spiers (11), Horn (8). DP—Grand Prairie 2, Wichita 1. LOB—Grand Prairie 5, Wichita 11. 2B—Espinosa (14), Hollimon (4), Patterson (15), Bell (1). SB—Hollimon (4), Cortes (2), Melian (1). SF—Logan (1).
Krause L, 2-4485541
Medina W, 3-4973317
HBP—Pearson (by Morrison). WP—Morrison 2, PB—Caves. Time—3:00. Attendance—3,624.