The Wingnuts began the American Association championship series with no mystery. There’s no chance for a home game beyond Thursday night and no chance to win the series in the United States.
A big-picture view isn’t always helpful in baseball, though, so the Wingnuts aren’t thinking much about what they have to do. They’re not even counting their victories.
Wichita’s 12-7 win over Winnipeg in Game 1 of the best-of-five championship series was the Wingnuts’ 10th straight overall, dating to the final week of the regular season. Their final home game is Thursday night before the series moves to Canada for up to three games.
“We don’t even know,” Wingnuts third baseman T.J. Mittelstaedt said of the winning streak. “It’s one at a time. Stats are out the window, wins are all we need. So every day if we score one more than them, we’re good to go.”
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Winnipeg defeated the Wingnuts for the league championship last season, winning the final two games at home. Wichita can return the favor, but if Game 1 is any indication, the Wingnuts won’t need five games to make that happen.
The pitching matchup between Winnipeg’s Charlie Rosario and Wichita’s Danny Gutierrez didn’t seem like the first choice to lead to a scoring outburst, but the Wingnuts got to Rosario early and Gutierrez was damaged by poor defense.
Wichita scored five runs in the second to take a 6-0 lead. Winnipeg made two errors in the inning, each scoring a run, and the Wingnuts had three extra-base hits. Mittelstaedt’s RBI triple preceded an error by third baseman Wes Darvill that allowed him to score with two outs.
Winnipeg scored three in the third, all unearned after an error by shortstop Leo Vargas, and two in the fourth to make it 6-5. Gutierrez, who pitched seven scoreless innings in the division series against Gary-SouthShore, made it through five innings to earn his second win of the postseason.
“On our side, we expect Guti to throw, I guess, better than he did today,” Mittelstaedt said. “But he really didn’t throw bad. We made an error at the wrong time, Reggie (Abercrombie) got a hit. It made it look like a three-run inning, but it should have been a zero.”
The Wingnuts continued to exhaust Winnipeg’s pitching, forcing the Goldeyes to use seven pitchers and perhaps tax the bullpen for later games. Richard Prigatano’s two-run home run highlighted Wichita’s three-run fifth and helped the Wingnuts withstand a pair of Winnipeg solo home runs in the sixth.
Mittelstaedt’s three-run homer in the eighth allowed the Wingnuts to finally pull away. Austin Boyle, Mike Devine and Ryan Kussmaul each pitched a scoreless inning in relief to preserve the win.
“It started in Gary,” Mittelstaedt said. “We battled through the two games there, came home and put it to them. Same thing tonight. We’re feeling good hitting at home right now. Come back tomorrow and do it again.”
Winnipeg at Wingnuts
When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday
What: American Association championship series, best-of-five, Game 2; Wingnuts lead 1-0
Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium
Radio: 1410-AM, 93.9-FM