The Wingnuts can't give Gabe Medina a win; and they still can't, at least officially, beat Lincoln starting pitcher Jim Paduch.
Wichita was in position to do both when it entered the ninth inning Sunday with a four-run lead. But the Saltdogs tied it in the ninth and scored five in the 10th to win 13-8 in the finale of the three-game series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Four Wingnuts relievers combined to surrender 11 runs in three innings after Medina allowed two runs in seven efficient innings.
"Unbelievable," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said.
"That was embarrassing. You've got a chance to come out with an 8-4 victory, Gabe pitched his tail off and the guy still doesn't have a win this year. You come in a situation up 8-4 and you come right at guys, see how far a guy can hit a ball.... You have to be able to finish people if you're going to be successful."
Medina, who entered with a 1.88 ERA but an 0-2 record, got the no-decision because of the bullpen's second meltdown in four nights. Paduch saved his 6-0 career record against the Wingnuts (including the postseason) even though he was in-line for the loss before Lincoln's rally.
Wichita's relievers combined to pitch 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the first two games of the series with Lincoln. Thursday, the bullpen allowed 13 runs in 2 1/3 innings; combined with Saturday's performance, that's 24 runs in 5 1/3 innings.
"Our bullpen's got no problem," said closer Justin Dowdy, who allowed a game-tying single to Rafael Alvarez in the ninth. "We had a rough night tonight, but the last two games we were lights-out. You're going to have nights like this as a bullpen sometimes. No matter where you throw it, they're going to hit it and it's going to find a hole somewhere."
Hooper didn't want to use Dowdy in the ninth once the Wingnuts took a four-run lead and erased the save situation because Dowdy threw 28 pitches Saturday night, also in a non-save situation.
But Doug Hurn couldn't get the required three outs in the ninth, or even one out. He hit the first batter he faced, Argelis Nunez, before allowing an RBI double to Juan Richardson and an infield single by Shawn McGill. After McGill's hit, Dowdy was called upon to clean up the mess.
"I never shut it down until the last out's over," Dowdy said of his readiness to pitch when he originally didn't expect to appear. "It has nothing to do with that, they just found a way to get guys on and they found a way to get them in."
Dowdy struck out Roberto Alvarez for the first out, then allowed an RBI single to Albenis Machado that cut the Wingnuts' lead to 8-6. Lincoln got to within a run when Josh Horn's throw to first on an attempted double play got past Mario Delgado at first base, allowing McGill to score from second.
That play created the second out, and Dowdy intentionally walked Gavin Dickey to put the go-ahead run on base while enabling a force out at any base and Dowdy to have a lefty-lefty matchup. Dowdy got ahead of Rafael Alvarez 0-2 before Alvarez bounced a single up the middle to score Brandon Jones with the tying run.
" (I wanted to) just give him something to make him roll over, either get a swing and miss or get something on the ground," Dowdy said. "He did, and he just happened to find a five-hopper up the middle. Alvarez, he's a good hitter. He's a veteran guy, and I can't do anything but tip my cap to him."
Matt Petty gave up three runs in the 10th before allowing an out and was eventually saddled with five runs on four hits and two walks. The bullpen appeared to be a strength entering the season, but so far it has been inconsistent.
"If they're here, they've got to do the job, if they're here," Hooper said. "They have to do the job, bottom line, or you find guys who will. That's the brutal part of this job. When you have an opportunity, you have to take advantage of that opportunity in professional baseball. If you don't, that's part of the business and you have to find guys and get guys in here who will get the job done."
Medina got the necessary run support to pick up his first win and still did his part. He allowed a leadoff double to Dickey, who eventually scored on a sacrifice fly, before retiring 16 of the next 17 batters. He didn't throw more than 11 pitches in any inning between the third and sixth and left after throwing 81 pitches through seven.
The Wingnuts had the lead by the fourth, when Paduch's lack of command caught up with him and Wichita capitalized. Paduch walked two in the inning — one intentionally and one a bases-loaded free pass to Jeff Christy — before Tony Mansolino finished a seven-pitch at-bat with a two-run single to make it 3-1.
Paduch threw 95 pitches and was out after five innings. The Wingnuts continued to score against Lincoln's bullpen, notching three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth, matching Lincoln's output in the top half and regaining a four-run lead.
"We had a lot of good at-bats against him," Wingnuts third baseman Michael Thompson said. "That's a testament to our hitters and the strides that we've made over the last few weeks in having better at-bats and a better approach. We were able to get a guy that we normally don't do well against. It was a good night for us, hitting-wise, so we've just got to move on to tomorrow."