The Wingnuts remain in first place thanks to their 15-6 start and American Association Central Division opponents getting off to slow starts.
Wichita has failed in recent chances to prove their standing is an indicator of their ability, though. Walks, sloppy defense and a plodding starting pitcher contributed to the Wingnuts' 10-7 loss to Sioux City Sunday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Since winning against Kansas City to go nine games over .500 on June 3, the Wingnuts have lost six of eight games. They've dropped three straight series to teams (Kansas City, Sioux Falls and Sioux City) with a collective 37-51 record.
"Right now we're struggling with consistency," Wingnuts outfielder Mike Conroy said. "We've got to throw the ball over the plate, let them hit it and use our defense. Right now we're giving too many free passes, period."
The Wingnuts were in a position to take the lead late before a rally-killing double play in the seventh by Josh Workman. They scored four runs in the seventh to cut Sioux City's lead to 9-7.
A rally was made necessary by starting pitcher Junior Guerra, who was frequently unable to throw strikes early in the count and to finish off Explorers batters once he got ahead, factors that substantially raised his pitch count.
Guerra threw 20 pitches to the first three batters and Sioux City stomped on its laboring adversary with three runs in the first inning. T.J. Bohn brought in a run with a groundout before RBI singles by Kent Sakamoto and Ray Serrano.
Sioux City made it 5-0 with a pair in the third, including a leadoff home run by Bohn. Guerra could never maintain his pitch count and exited after five innings and 104 pitches.
"He threw 81 pitches after three innings," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "You're not going to win anything doing that. Therefore it's like we're ball three to everyone. He has good stuff, but you've got to be able to throw strikes."
Wichita scored a run in the fifth and Jorge Delgado's double to right field brought in two more in the sixth, cutting Sioux City's lead to 5-3. The Wingnuts would eventually build on that, but their return to offense was delayed by another poor inning on the mound.
Gary Lee worked a 10-pitch sixth inning and returned for the seventh but was unable to match it. A leadoff walk, a hit batter and a single loaded the bases before Brandon Mathes relieved Lee with no outs.
All three inherited runners scored, and the Explorers added an unearned run against Mathes, helped by right fielder Ryan Patterson's second throwing error of the day.
"We've got to have shutdown innings," Hooper said. "We go out and get four (runs), we've got to go right back out, get three (outs) and come back in. We've struggled with the shutdown innings quite a bit this year."
The Wingnuts scored four in the eighth, after which Sioux City led 9-7. Wichita had the bases loaded with one out after a single by new addition Brent Clevlen scored a run and Jorge Delgado drew a seven-pitch walk.
But Workman, after going down in the count 0-2 and fouling off a pitch, grounded to second baseman Mike Murphy, who started an inning-ending double play.
"We're resilient offensively, just relentless," Hooper said. "Right there at the end we almost had a chance _ one swing of the bat and we tie it up. But you can't continue to put yourself in that situation where you're always chasing runs."
During the last eight games the Wingnuts have two shutout wins, and in the other games they've allowed at least six runs. The inconsistent pitching staff is forcing the offense to go above and beyond.
"Some nights our pitchers are going to pick up our hitters," Conroy said. "And vice versa, the hitters are going to pick up the pitchers. We just have to be more consistent, both offensively and defensively."
Jones cf5120Horn ss 5101
Schermerhorn rf3210Fitzgerald 2b3110
Bohn lf4223Patterson rf3001
Serrano dh 4022Delgado 1b3011
Backman 3b5122Workman dh4110
Goodro dh4001Bellorin c4110
Priddy ss4000Conroy lf4122
Murphy 2b2100Duran 3b4110
Sioux City302 000 410 _ 10 Wichita000 012 400 _ 7
E_Priddy (10), Patterson 2 (2). DP_Sioux City 2, Wichita 1. LOB_Sioux City 6, Wichita 6. 2B_Sakamoto (7), Backman (3), Delgado (8), Workman (10), Bellorin (8), Conroy (7). HR_Bohn (2). SB_Bohn (3). SF_Serrano (2), Goodro (2), Patterson (4).
King W, 2-15 1/341103
Snowdon S, 1100011
Guerra L, 1-1595425
WP_Gibbs (1), Guerra (4), Batista (1). HBP_By Lee (Bohn).
Umpires_Home, Trent Delmont; First, Tim McCaffrey; Third, Steve Linton.