The Wingnuts play against Sioux City at noon, a break from their usual 7 p.m. start times.
That's seven fewer hours to think about Wednesday's 8-3 loss to the Explorers at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, which snapped Wichita's five-game winning streak and dropped the Wingnuts out of first place in the American Association North. The Wingnuts trail Sioux Falls by half a game with 10 to play.
Wednesday, the Wingnuts got a subpar starting pitching effort from Adam Cowart and they made five errors, four by third baseman Michael Bell.
"Not real good tonight," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "Just the tone from the get-go was kind of wacky, it seemed."
The Wingnuts scored two runs in a shutout of Sioux City in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, and it appeared the offense was on its way to getting back on track when Carlos Rivera led off the bottom of the second Wednesday with a home run to tie it 1-1.
Wichita's biggest threat to tie or take the lead came in the seventh, but it came up short and failed to take Cowart off the hook.
Cowart pitched six shutout innings against Sioux City in his last start, but that was 12 days ago, and the layoff seemed to affect him. Bell's first error came with two outs in the second, leading to an unearned run when Darrick Hale hit an RBI single up the middle.
Most of Cowart's problems were of his own doing, though. After hitting Eric Williams to start the third, Cowart served up a two-run home run to Dustin Jones. It was Jones' fourth homer of the season, all against the Wingnuts.
Jones is no power hitter, except perhaps compared to teammate Derek Schermerhorn, who entered with three home runs in more than 1,000 professional at-bats. But after a double by Ray Serrano in the fourth, Schermerhorn connected for his second homer of the season, putting Sioux City ahead 5-1.
Cowart was out of the game after allowing another hit, then walking Jones with two outs in the fourth.
"He was trying to battle out there," catcher Jeff Christy said. "With Cowart, he's usually pinpoint with his command and everything. Anytime he's out on the mound, you know he's going to go out there and compete. Things just happened tonight that didn't go his way."
Wednesday's start was the latest confounding effort in Cowart's inconsistent season. One of the Wingnuts' most steady starters in 2009, Cowart fell to 5-7 with a 4.31 ERA. He's had eight starts in which he's allowed two earned runs or fewer and five in which he's allowed four or more.
"I've got all the confidence in the world in him," Hooper said. "But you could tell tonight, right away, he wasn't crisp. He didn't have his good stuff, his command was off. But we've got to win every game right now, so we're going to have a short leash on whoever it is right now."
The bullpen provided stability, giving the Wingnuts' offense time to make a comeback. They almost did in the seventh, when Carlos Rivera hit his second of two solo home runs. A single and a hit batter set up Christy's RBI single, which made it 5-3 and put runners at first and third with one out.
Josh Horn came up as the go-ahead run and swung at the first pitch from reliever Eddie Delacruz, hitting a hard groundball to shortstop that turned into an inning-ending double play.
"He hit that ball hard, just unlucky he hit it right at them," Christy said. "If that ball goes through, we're down (one run) and we've got the top of the lineup coming up."
It fell apart for the Wingnuts after that. Bell, who committed his second error in the sixth, made two more in the top of the eighth. Second baseman Cesar Suarez also committed an error, leading to three unearned runs.
"He can shake it off," Hooper said. "Bell is a very fiery guy, very competitive. It was odd out of him tonight. He just needs to slow down, bottom line. When you make an error, you want the next one hit at you, and any one after that."
Rivera's home runs were the only times Wichita got a leadoff runner on base. The Wingnuts struggled to muster offense against starter Mikael Ryder, whom they scored nine runs in three innings against on Aug. 7.
"Quick turnaround," Christy said. "That's the thing about baseball, if something goes wrong you know you've always got tomorrow. You just try to forget about this one and go get them tomorrow, because it's going to be a big game for us."
SIOUX CI. abrhbiWICHITAabrhbi
Williams lf3110Patterson cf400 0 Alberts rf2110Suarez 2b4000
Jones cf4112Cortes rf3000
Bohn lf,rf3010Rivera 1b4222
Cruz 1b5001Gonzalez lf3010
Sakamto 3b4031Spiers ph1000
Serrano c5120Delgado dh3110
Pearson dh5100Bell 3b2000
Hale ss5121Martin c1000
Totals35 8 12 8Totals31 3 6 3
Sioux City012 200 030 — 8 Wichita020 000 200 — 3
E—Bell 4 (15), Horn (15). DP—Sioux City 2, Wichita 1. LOB—Sioux City 11, Wichita 5. 2B—Serrano (27), Christy (10). HR—Jones (4), Schermerhorn (2), Rivera 2 (3). SB—Williams (16). CS—Williams (4). SF—Sakamoto.
Ryder W, 9-66 1/353311
Cowart L, 5-73 2/375413
HBP—by Ryder (Bell), by Cowart (Williams), by Mathes (Schermerhorn). WP—Trahan. Umpires—Home, Trent Delmont; First, Tony Senia.