Yelling and screaming don't come naturally to Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper, a fact proven by his one career in-game ejection. He has to reach deep within his normally cool, calm demeanor to exhibit anything close to a temper tantrum.
Hooper also returns to his laid-back state of being immediately after unleashing a tirade, so his relaxed attitude in his office after the Wingnuts' 7-3 loss to Fort Worth on Wednesday wasn't indicative of what happened in the moments before when he addressed — or lambasted — his team in the clubhouse.
Hooper, who has seen his team lose 12 of 17 games after a 15-6 start, was trying to reach the souls of his players, who he feels haven't matched his sense of urgency during the slide that has dropped Wichita out of first place in the American Association Central.
"Guys are just getting comfortable, I have a feeling. Complacent," Hooper said. "I don't do that. I'm going to win. We're going to win here, bottom line. If we've got to make some changes and we've got to do it now, we will. I don't want to. I was hoping to go all year and not have a meeting like that."
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Taken individually, Wednesday's loss didn't raise any particular cause for alarm aside from the seven runs allowed in the third inning by Wingnuts starter Junior Guerra.
If Guerra had shown any level of consistency during his previous seven starts, the six innings of two-hit ball he threw at Fort Worth would have been the focal point of his outing. Instead, his performance becomes disconcerting because it is stacked upon other games in which Guerra has been unable to contain a disastrous inning.
"Stop the bleeding during that one inning," Hooper said. "You've got to stop it at some point, change it up or something. Do something to stop it. That whole inning he doesn't throw strike one. He's not consistent enough with his stuff.
"After that inning, he goes right back out there and commands it pretty well. But it's a roller coaster. I don't want the roller-coaster guys. I want guys that I know what I'm going to get out of them every single day, every single night."
The Cats collectively hit for the cycle in the span of seven batters in the third, tallying seven hits overall in the inning.
Guerra was unable to throw any pitch but a fastball for a strike, so when he fell behind in the count with off-speed pitches, catcher Edwin Bellorin was forced to call for a fastball. The Fort Worth hitters were waiting for it and made frequent solid contact.
No. 9 hitter Jeremy Sauceda's leadoff home run started an inning in which the Cats sent 11 batters to the plate and Guerra threw 37 pitches.
"He was missing some pitches, but after that he was in control," Bellorin said. "He was letting the hitters be comfortable.... He was always ball one, ball two, and I'm going to call fastball right down the middle when I want a strike. That's the only problem he has right now. If he can control that, he can be a pretty good pitcher."
The Wingnuts tried to build a rally in the sixth, scoring a run to make it 7-2 before loading the bases for Bellorin with one out.
The wind was blowing out to right field, giving Bellorin a chance to do damage to the opposite field. But his long fly ball to left was knocked down and what may have been a grand slam on another night became a sacrifice fly. The Wingnuts didn't score again.
Hooper said he warned his players of potential changes but tried to keep the team's problems in perspective.
"Over 100 games there's going to be times when we didn't show up," Hooper said. "There's going to be nights when you come out flat, but you've got to minimize it and come out the next day and get rolling again. We've got to get something rolling and we need to get it rolling fast."
Davis 2b3100Horn ss4010
Fryer cf5121Patterson rf5000
Metcalf 3b5000Clevlen cf4110
Gulledge c4131Richardson 3b4120
Lockwood 1b5110Delgado 1b4021
Allen dh4121Workman dh2111
Rodriguez rf5010Bellorin c3011
Morales ss4112Conroy lf3000
Sauceda lf4122Duran 2b3010
Fort Worth007 000 000 — 7 Wichita010 002 000 — 3
E—Richardson (6). DP—Wichita 1, Fort Worth 3. LOB—Fort Worth 10, Wichita 8. 2B—Allen (4), Morales (6), Sauceda (5), Horn (12), Delgado (11), Bellorin (10). 3B—Fryer (1). HR—Sauceda (3), Workman (4). CS—Sauceda (3). SF—Bellorin (3).
Bacsik W, 2-3663323
White S, 1330013
Guerra L, 1-2797744
WP—Guerra (6), Mathes (6). HBP—By Bacsik (Horn, Conroy). Umpires—Home, Justin Post; First base, Travis Godec; Third base, Joe Pascucci.