A day after the Wingnuts made a trade to strengthen their pitching staff and, on paper, weaken one of the best offenses in the American Association, nothing changed.
To be fair, the pitcher Wichita acquired in the trade, Derek Blacksher, doesn't take the mound until tonight. But on Monday, the Wingnuts continued a peak-and-valley season and the theme of getting runs in bunches without the pitching to make offense matter.
Shreveport-Bossier took an 11-0 lead after four innings, but the Wingnuts were a batter away from sending the tying run to the plate in the ninth. The final three hitters went down weakly as the Captains held on for an 11-9 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
After Sunday's 11-0 win over the Captains, which featured a shutout by Chad Sherman, the Wingnuts had something tangible upon which to build. Monday, they were hoping a loss — albeit a spirited one — would propel them to the run of inspired play that has been eluding them.
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"We definitely made it interesting," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "I think that that's the intensity and attitude we've got around here, that we're going to try to make a run at this thing. Now is the time to get it going. We've got to go."
The move to acquire Blacksher, who was the league's right-handed pitcher of the year while leading the Wingnuts to the postseason in 2009, was made to bolster a pitching staff that has struggled to climb into the statistical top half of the league.
Monday showed that Wichita's pitching isn't all the way patched together. Jared Bradford, making his second start since being signed last week, allowed five runs on six hits in the first inning and managed to get hit even harder in the second.
Bradford barely survived the second before being relieved to start the third. The Captains scored four runs on back-to-back home runs, taking a 9-0 lead before Wichita had even sent its fourth batter to the plate.
"It's all about damage control," Hooper said. "Who's going to stop the bleeding, who's going to stop it. You've got to get out of it. Nine-nothing is hard to come back from."
Before the Wingnuts began to rally in the sixth, the most interesting part of the game was when Brandon Mathes hit two batters in a row, words were exchanged from both dugouts and on the field, and umpires issued a warning to both teams.
Ryan DiPietro, who pitched eight shutout innings in his last start against Wichita, allowed two hits through five. Breaking through against him in the sixth helped ignite the Wingnuts, who scored or threatened to score in each of the final four innings.
Mike Conroy and Jorge Delgado each hit homers in the sixth. Wichita made it 11-5 in the eighth and its first three batters of the ninth collected hits, including an RBI double by Conroy.
Closer Lee Henry came in to stabilize the situation for Shreveport, but it got worse before it got better. He allowed a three-run homer to Brent Clevlen on his second pitch, cutting the Captains' lead to 11-9.
That emptied the bases and took some air out of Wichita's comeback. Juan Richardson got ahead in the count 3-0 before taking three straight strikes, and Delgado and Josh Workman each grounded out to end the game.
The Wingnuts lost a game to first-place Gary-Southshore, which took a three-game lead in the Central Division.
"We've got to take this into tomorrow," Conroy said. "We obviously didn't give up and we battled. When you go down five runs after the first inning and nine runs after the first two innings, it's a shot in the heart. We need to be more consistent.... We're not consistent in all aspects of the game."
Prvncher 3b5120Duran dh5220
Perry cf4220Conroy lf5223
Sabatella rf5010Clevlen cf5113
Urtzstgui rf0000Richardson 3b4110
Rodriguez 1b5111Delgado 1b5222
Peterson c5111Workman rf4010
Karr Jr. dg4324Bellorin c4001
Marquez 2b4332Horn ss3010
Cowart lf5021Fitzgerald 2b4130
Shreveport-Bossier540 200 000 — 11 Wichita000 004 014 — 9
DP—Shreveport-Bossier 1, Wichita 1. LOB—Shreveport-Bossier 7, Wichita 6. 2B—Provencher (13), Rodriguez (18), Frichter (10), Conroy (11), Richardson (13), Workman (23), Horn (17), Fitzgerald (4). 3B—Marquez (1). HR—Karr Jr. (6), Marquez (8), Conroy (1), Clevlen (5).
DiPietro W, 8-2774437
Bradford L, 0-22119912
HBP—By Mathes (Karr Jr., Marquez).
Umpires—Home, Lance Vaughn; First, Nick Gonzales; Third, Kurt Branin.