Everything Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper does has a purpose, so when he benched outfielder Ryan Patterson on Sunday, it came with an explanation.
Hooper needed more from Patterson, who is playing through slight tearing in his right quadriceps and was letting the injury affect him mentally. The two talked it out, with Hooper also mentioning all of the things Patterson does that the manager appreciates.
Since the benching and the talk, Patterson has been Wichita's hottest hitter. He had his third straight multi-hit game on Tuesday, helping the Wingnuts beat El Paso 9-0 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, their second straight shutout of the Diablos.
"The quad has been bad, and that's been bothering him, but he's kind of let it affect everything else," Hooper said. "I told him he's too good to go on a slump like he did. We just had a good heart-to-heart. It was good. He listens, and he takes a lot of pride in what he does."
Patterson saw his average climb to .379 on June 9 after collecting 15 hits in seven games. He injured his quadriceps on the basepaths around that time and went into an immediate slump, going 9 for 52 as his average dropped to .303.
Since being given the day off by Hooper on Sunday — he was 0 for 1 in a pinch-hitting appearance — Patterson has six hits, including three doubles and two home runs, in his last 12 at-bats. His presence in the middle of the Wingnuts' lineup has helped them outscore El Paso 19-0 in the first two games of their four-game series.
Patterson said he was grateful for the mental rest, as well as the break it gave his injured leg, and that he trusts Hooper's judgment.
"He felt like I needed it, which is fine," Patterson said after Tuesday's win. "Like I told him when I first came here, I said, 'You let me know what you want me to do.' He felt like I needed a day off. He's a smart man."
As in Monday’s 10-0 win, the Wingnuts went down easily in the first two innings before organizing to turn the night ugly for the El Paso starter.
Tuesday’s victim was Adam Rowe, who allowed multiple runs in the third and fourth innings before succumbing to Patterson's home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth.
The Wingnuts broke it open with a three-run fourth, notching four straight hits after a walk to take a 5-0 lead. They added three more runs in the fifth and Jose Duran's RBI single tallied the final run.
"It's been fun to watch the last two nights," Hooper said. "Offensively, defensively and pitching-wise we've been pretty good. It's got to continue."
Wingnuts left-hander Ryan Hinson has proven he doesn't need much run support to win, and Tuesday was no different. He retired the first seven batters and was only threatened by a pair of one-out doubles, which he worked around.
Hinson said the long half-innings he spent in the dugout while the offense handed him a big lead were to his benefit.
"The offense goes out there and does their part and I actually sit in there and get a little more relaxed," said Hinson, who improved to 6-3 while lowering his ERA to 3.49. "I'm able to think about things a little bit more and I'm able to slow myself down instead of trying to speed through innings."
The innings after Wichita's onslaught were Hinson's best. He got through the fifth, sixth and seventh in 26 total pitches.
"Bottom line, he gets it," Hooper said. "He's got a great head on his shoulders and a great game plan every single day. I commend him so much. He works so hard between (starts) to get better. It's fun to watch."