The first step toward a turnaround for Wingnuts left-handed pitcher Ryan Hinson was acknowledging a problem.
Hinson didn’t reach that admission with much of a fight — after he was tagged for eight runs in four innings in his last start, he began to tinker with his delivery. He quickly found something that worked and finished that outing with three scoreless frames.
The follow-up to that start built from it. Hinson allowed one run in eight innings on Thursday night, leading the Wingnuts to a 5-1 win over El Paso at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
It was Hinson’s final regular-season start, and a reversal from a difficult month couldn’t have come at a more opportune time — Hinson’s next start will likely be Friday in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. Wichita clinched homefield in the opening round, against either Grand Prairie or Laredo.
"Playoffs coming up, this is exactly what I needed," Hinson said. "I kind of found it out in the last start at the end, but obviously it was too late. I just wanted to not think, be confident, and have something to go off of, and it worked tonight."
Athletes often say slowing the game down mentally is a key to peak performance. Hinson executed the opposite of that approach, speeding up his delivery so he wasn’t forced to think about all of its nuances.
The four days between starts allowed Hinson to work on repeating his new delivery; the dilligence enabled Hinson to eventually stop thinking about every movement and trust that his body and his brain would remember.
"Definitely muscle memory," Hinson said. "You find that one thing that works and you’re going to go with it. Before, even in the game, I was focusing too much on mechanics and not enough on just pitching, throwing the ball."
A sped-up leg kick got the rest of Hinson’s body moving faster, too. He was more direct with his arm movement, and a consistent release point gave him added life and deception with his fastball.
It took until the eighth inning for the Diablos to catch up with one, and by then the Wingnuts had built a significant lead and Hinson had established his dominance. After losing four straight starts and seven of his last nine decisions, Hinson allowed one earned run for the first time since July 20.
Hinson threw 109 pitches, striking out six and allowing six hits. The Wingnuts are relying on the pitcher who won a playoff start last season and started this year 5-1, and on Thursday Hinson gave that to them.
"The greats of the game (admit failure)," Hinson said. "I’m not saying I’m a great by any means, but I like to think so. As soon as you hit adversity in the face, you know that you have to change something and make something else work.
"You can’t just keep getting the same results without changing something. As soon as you admit it, the next step forward is to fix it and be confident in it."
Hinson wasn’t the only one on Thursday to change based on prior failure. The Wingnuts were hitless until the fifth against El Paso starter David Casillas until the fifth inning, but their poor approach may have ended up working in their favor.
Quality at-bats were scarce for the Wingnuts early, but after they swung at and made weak contact on pitches on the corners, Casillas tried to expand the strike zone. It didn’t work — the Wingnuts got patient in the sixth, as a pair of walks followed Jake Kahaulelio’s two-out single.
After a run scored on a wild pitch, David Peralta drove in two with a double down the left field line. Casillas didn’t survive after the sixth, and the Wingnuts added two more runs in the seventh.
"We hit a lot of fly balls off him," Hooper said. "He was living up a little bit and we just weren’t getting on top and we were hitting a lot of balls in the air. It’s about adjustments. We made some adjustments and we made it count."
|Gonzalez ss||2||1||1||0||Khoury ss||5||0||0||0|
|Fronk 3b||4||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||3||1||1||1|
|Einertson cf||4||0||1||0||Rodriguez dh||3||1||1||0|
|Acey 1b||4||0||3||1||Porter 1b||2||1||0||0|
|Nelson 2b||4||0||0||0||Peralta rf||4||0||2||2|
|Chavez dh||4||0||1||0||Batista 3b||4||0||1||0|
|Larson c||3||0||0||0||McDonald lf||3||0||0||0|
|Muse rf||4||0||1||0||Morioka c||3||1||1||0|
|Marks lf||4||0||0||0||Stanley cf||3||1||1||0|
E—.Fronk (16). LOB—. El Paso 8, Wichita 8 2B— Einertson (22), Acey 2 (15), Peralta (28). SF — Kahaulelio. SB — Khoury (35), Kahaulelio (10), Peralta (23). CS — Batista.
PB — Larson. Umpires — home, Trent Delmont; first, Justin Post; third, Joe Pascucci. T — 2:36. A — 3,262.