Ryan Patterson hit his 100th professional home run. Dustin Pease tied the American Association record for games pitched in a season. And the Wingnuts scored lots and lots of runs.
There was cause for celebration at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Saturday night, and the Wingnuts did allow themselves some hooting and hollering in the clubhouse after their 16-2 win over El Paso.
But the real party is tentatively scheduled for tonight after the Wingnuts' season finale. Sioux Falls or El Paso can cancel it. Wichita needs a win over El Paso, plus a Sioux Falls loss to St. Paul — the only scenario that will allow the Wingnuts to advance to the American Association playoffs for the second straight season.
Saturday, the Wingnuts got the help they needed, as St. Paul beat Sioux Falls to bring Wichita to within a game of first place. If Wichita and Sioux Falls tie, the Wingnuts get a playoff berth because the Pheasants clinched theirs by winning the first half.
Before this series, any scenario that involved the Wingnuts reaching the postseason had them winning the final game, so that part of the equation doesn't change.
"Everybody knows what's on the line and we still need some help from St. Paul," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "They helped us out tonight. That was fun to watch tonight. Guys were loose and we had a good time. That's what we're capable of doing."
Shaun Ellis did his part to spoil the Wingnuts' postseason chances on Friday. The only All-Star from the worst pitching staff in the league, Ellis pitched effectively for 6 2/3 innings in El Paso's 10-4 win.
Saturday, El Paso showed why it has a team ERA three-quarters of a run worse than any other team in the league, and the Wingnuts were happy to help them prove it. Starter Dustin Birosak lasted 18 pitches and didn't record an out; his 18th pitch was a single by Jorge Delgado, but many before that were hit hard, too.
Ryan Patterson drew a leadoff walk and Cesar Suarez singled before Jorge Cortes hit a three-run home run to right field. Three pitches later, Carlos Rivera made it back-to-back with an opposite-field shot off the left-field scoreboard. Raul Gonzalez doubled, and Birosak survived just one more hitter before his removal.
Wichita notched five runs in the first and three in the second. Several Wingnuts hitters entered an unofficial contest to see who could be the most productive, and though Rivera would emerge the winner, it was a tight race for four innings.
By the fourth, Cortes, Rivera and Jeff Christy all had four RBIs. Suarez scored four runs. Everybody but Josh Horn reached base, but Horn solved that issue by belting an RBI double in the seventh.
"We knew if we got on the starter that their bullpen — I think they (have an undermanned) bullpen," Horn said. "We knew that if we could get on that starter pretty quick, we'd have a good shot at it.
"It got contagious tonight. A lot of good at-bats, a lot of quality at-bats. That's what we wanted."
Rivera's solo homer in the first preceded RBI singles in the following three innings. He didn't have a runner on base to help him with his consecutive-at-bat RBI streak, so he took care of it himself, hitting another opposite-field home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh.
It was Rivera's second two-homer game at home since he joined the Wingnuts earlier this month, but he was most happy with the singles that brought home runners besides himself.
"It's about time that I finally get a base hit with somebody on base," Rivera said. "I think I'm hitting about .214 with men in scoring position. I don't know, I just had a good game. Hopefully we'll have a good game tomorrow, too."
Patterson's two-run homer to left gave him a personal milestone and highlighted a four-run fourth. The Wingnuts weren't done scoring, though; Rivera's second homer ignited a three-run seventh inning.
The beneficiary of all the slugging was starting pitcher Kevin Angelle, who earned his third win in four starts since being acquired earlier in August. He mostly pitched as if he wasn't handed a double-digit lead after four innings.
Angelle often went to deep counts, forcing his exit after 5 2/3 innings and 115 pitches. He struck out eight while walking two and allowing three hits and two runs.
"He threw a lot of pitches in 5 2/3 innings," Hooper said. "Obviously we want his pitch count lower, but he battled through it and felt good all night long. I like to get these guys a nice ovation (from the crowd) when they deserve it. He got two outs (in the sixth), and that was a good scenario for him to get a little ovation coming off."
Vincent cf3000Patterson cf5212
Ponce ss4000Suarez 2b5430
Smith 1b4120Cortes rf5234
Nichols dh3000Rivera 1b6355
Santana rf4122Gonzalez lf4220
Reiningr 3b4000Delgado dh6130
Deleo c4000Bell 3b2001
Hulett 2b3020Christy c4133
Reynoso lf4010Spiers lf,ph2110
El Paso010 001 000— 2 Wichita531 400 30x— 16
LOB — El Paso 7, Wichita 12. 2B — Smith (22), Santana (18), Cortes (20), Gonzalez (3), Spiers (9), Horn (15). HR — Santana (3), Patterson (15), Cortes (5), Rivera 2 (6). SB — Vincent (27), Suarez (10). CS—Delgado. SF—Bell.
Birosak L, 0-2055510
Angelle W, 3-15 2/332228
T — 3:08. A — 5,792.