Wingnuts starter Ryan Hinson was pitching so smoothly on Tuesday night that even the slightest misstep had the potential to permanently damage his rhythm.
It happened in the eighth inning, when a leadoff single by El Paso’s Fernando Valenzuela turned into Hinson’s failure to execute bunt defense, then a balk that preceded a two-run double by Zane Chavez.
At that point, the Wingnuts’ inability to produce a run in support of Hinson caught up to them, and El Paso went on to win 6-0 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Wichita’s final two innings were marred by sloppiness, a stark change to the brilliance Hinson turned in during the previous seven.
"They got the bloop hit to start and the bunt, and my mistake was balking," Hinson said. "That creeped in my head a little bit and made me a little upset that I let that happen. Then the bad pitch, probably the worst pitch of the night, to Chavez."
Hinson had so little trouble through seven innings that it was surprising to see him struggle in the eighth. He kept his pitch count so low that he was never forced to make adjusments as he continued to retire El Paso hitters early in counts.
Hinson never threw more than 11 pitches in an inning until the eighth, and for one breezy four-inning stretch he threw a total of 25 pitches while facing 13 batters. He threw 58 pitches through seven innings and seemed good to go into extra innings if the game remained scoreless.
But while Wichita hitters consistently failed in the clutch, the Diablos capitalized on the only opening Hinson gave them. Miscommunication between Hinson and first baseman C.J. Ziegler turned a sacrifice bunt into a single, and Hinson moved runners to second and third with no outs on a balk.
"You’ve got to know the bunt plays," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "That guy has been here all this year and last year. Then he hurts himself by balking, putting two runners in scoring position where (previously) we had a runner on second who doesn’t run real well. We try to run a wheel play and get an out at third maybe, and he just lost focus, I guess."
Hinson’s dominance seemed to lull Wichita’s offense into a false sense of security, as its urgency was low even when it was in prime scoring situations.
The Wingnuts got runners on first and second with no outs in the second inning and again in the fourth against El Paso starter Reyes Dorado but couldn’t get a runner to third, let alone to the plate. Dorado issued back-to-back four-pitch walks in the fourth but then retired three of Wichita’s most dangerous hitters — C.J. Ziegler, David Peralta and Jessie Mier.
Wichita couldn’t succeed with two runners on and two outs, either, coming up short in that situation in the sixth and eighth innings. Ziegler, who leads the team in homers, struck out looking with runners on first and second and Wichita trailing 4-0 to end the eighth.
"I don’t know what the deal was, pretty uninspiring offensively," Hooper said. "Not the time of the year to do that, I’ll tell you that much. Our guy pitches his tail off and you can’t even get him a run. Unfortunate ending to (Hinson’s) night, too. We shouldn’t have even been in that situation."
A rare error by Wingnuts shortstop Ryan Khoury paved the way for two El Paso runs in the ninth and essentially eliminated any hope for a Wichita rally in the ninth. The error brought Wichita’s tally over the final two innings to three walks, a balk, a passed ball and an error — a list that wiped away Hinson’s effectiveness.
Those mistakes festered for Hinson, who didn’t record an out in the eighth. He allowed zero runs through seven but his final line shows four runs allowed in seven-plus. Just as much of a culprit were the failures of Wichita hitters.
"You try not to let little things like that creep in your head," Hinson said. "You’ve been so smooth the whole time and things kind of get fast on you. You’ve got to try to back it off and regroup and get back to where you were. Honestly, I really didn’t do that. I’m more upset at myself for letting that happen. It’s a lesson learned, and we’ll have to get it five days from now."
|Gonzalez ss||5||0||0||1||Khoury ss||4||0||0||0|
|Fronk 3b||3||0||0||1||Kahaulelio 2b||4||0||2||0|
|Einertson cf||4||0||0||0||Porter 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Dotel rf||4||0||0||0||Batista dh||3||0||2||0|
|Valenzuela 1b||4||2||3||0||Ziegler 1b||4||0||2||0|
|Acey dh||3||2||1||0||Peralta rf||3||0||1||0|
|Chavez c||4||1||2||2||Mier c||4||0||0||0|
|Nelson 2b||3||1||1||0||Ortiz lf||4||0||0||0|
|Muse lf||3||0||0||0||Conroy cf||3||0||0||0|
E—Fronk (11), Khoury (9). LOB— El Paso 4, Wichita 8. DP— El Paso 2, Wichita 1. 2B— Valenzuela (3), Chavez (3). SF — Fronk.
|Harper W,3-1||1 1/3||1||0||0||0||1|
|Prado S,14||1 1/3||0||0||0||1||2|
PB — Mier. Umpires — home, Justin Post; first, Dan Hoffman; third, Joe Pascucci. T — 2:43. A — 2,203.