Everybody knew there was an added need for Wingnuts starter Luke Massetti to pitch deep into Monday night's game against Sioux Falls — except Massetti himself.
The Wingnuts' bullpen was battered in a loss on Sunday and has been recently overworked. Massetti took the strain off the relievers by pitching 8 1/3 quality innings in a 11-3 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Massetti earned his second win and the offense was led by Ryan Patterson, who had four hits and five RBIs.
"I wasn't thinking about (the bullpen) in a sense at all," Massetti said. "That's not my focus, that had nothing to do with it. I'm glad that it worked out that way. I know it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to me, but the goal is to go out there, get three-up, three-down, and that will take care of itself."
The key to beating Sioux Falls, the best statistical offense in the American Association, is to contain the Nos. 3 through 5 hitters: Reggie Abercrombie, Beau Torbert and Brandon Sing.
Torbert and Sing are among the league leaders in most statistical categories, and Abercrombie has 21 RBIs through 23 games. Though Sing homered off Massetti with one out in the ninth when the game was out of reach, Massetti mostly handled the most dangerous part of the Pheasants' lineup.
The trio combined for two hits in nine at-bats, and Massetti often retired them in potential RBI situations that could have swung the game in the early and middle innings.
"The game plan is 3, 4, 5," Massetti said, referring to those spots in the lineup. "You keep guys off (base) in front of them and you can face them out of the wind-up, it makes a whole lot of difference. That's a good heart of the lineup and you have to take them out of the game. Most of my hits (allowed) came later in the order, so it worked out."
Massetti also benefited by facing the Pheasants away from Sioux Falls, where short fences down the right- and left-field lines significantly inflate their offensive numbers.
Sioux Falls has hit 28 home runs in 13 games at home and seven in 10 games on the road. Sing, who set the league record with 22 home runs for Pensacola in 2008, can hit them anywhere. His solo shot in the ninth was his league-leading 10th of the season.
"There was a few hit tonight that would have gone out (in Sioux Falls), especially tonight when I was pitching into the wind," Massetti said. "Pitching at home, here in Wichita, is a wonderful thing. It's just a good rhythm and a good flow to the day. It's a great thing."
Patterson's best game of the season provided all the offense Massetti needed, but every Wingnuts hitter got involved as the Wingnuts scored at least eight runs for the third time in four nights.
Patterson drove in the Wingnuts' first run of the game with a single in the third. In the fifth, he took Brian Flores out to left field on an 0-1 pitch for his first home run of 2010.
" (Home runs) come," Patterson said. "This is my sixth season, and every year it seems like I start out and don't hit a homer for the first 15, 20, 25 games. Then I start hitting them and they start coming. They come in streaks, so I can't worry about that."
In the sixth, Patterson doubled down the left field line with the bases loaded to drive in three more. Needing a triple to complete the cycle, he singled up the middle in the eighth for his fourth hit.
In the last five games, Patterson has gone 14 for 25 with 10 RBIs, raising his batting average from .234 to .326 and his RBI total to 18.
"It's sticking with my approach," Patterson said. "As I've gotten older, I've really started to learn that your approach is the most important thing and you decide how fast the pitcher is throwing. So I've been slowing everything down, slowing myself down, getting ready early and picking up pitches and not missing them."
Every Wingnuts starter had a hit and six scored at least one run. The Wingnuts added to their lead with four runs in the sixth and two in the seventh on a home run by catcher Jeff Christy, his first.
Massetti did the rest. At 101 pitches through eight innings, he came back out for the ninth to try for the complete game and struck out Beau Torbert for the first out. He was relieved after Sing's homer and a single by Trevor Lawhorn, and Kyle Frets got the final two outs. Frets, who was with the team in spring training but didn't make the team, was signed Monday after the Wingnuts released reliever Will Morgan.
"I had a few more in me, but I understand because I got three hard hit balls hit off me in a row," Massetti said. "That kind of spells the end. It was good to get (Frets) in there fresh off the bus in a sense. That's good to see, but I would have liked that CG, for sure."
Anthonsen 2b4010Williams lf4210
Milner rf4011Patterson rf5345
Abercrombie cf3100Horn ss3131
Torbert dh4010Delgado dh5012
Sing 1b3112Thompson 3b5011
Lawhorn 3b4010Colton cf4110
Jobes lf4000Pearson 1b4010
Rodriguez c3110Christy c4222
Hutting ss4020Mansolino 2b3220
Totals33 3 8 3Totals37o11o16o11
Sioux Falls000 110 001 — 3 8 0 Wichita003 024o20x —11 16 0
LOB—Sioux Falls 6, Wichita 6. 2B—Anthonsen (6), Patterson (8), Pearson (4). HR—Sing (10), Patterson (1), Christy (1). SB—Abercrombie 2 (11). SF—Sing (2).
WP—Flores (1). Umpires: HP—Lance Schoenwald; 1B—Rich Grassa. 3B—Carlos Martinez.