Opposing an El Paso team with a collective ERA of more than 8.00, Wingnuts starting pitcher Junior Guerra probably didn't need to be great to win on Monday night.
Guerra did need to be at least above average to regain the confidence of his manager and teammates, and to assure himself of at least another turn in the rotation, though his spot was likely safe.
Guerra went beyond just above average, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Diablos, who own the second-highest batting average in the American Association. The Winguts won 10-0 to start an important three-game series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"He needed to have a good one on the mound and he sure did," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "That's what he's capable of doing. I'm pulling for him. We definitely needed that from him because that's what he's capable of doing, and I hope he knows that's what he's capable of every single night out."
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Guerra was in the odd position of being able to build off a start in which he allowed seven runs. All those runs came in the third inning; otherwise, Guerra pitched six shutout innings and surrendered two hits.
Monday's start was a continuation of Guerra's final four innings against Fort Worth. Stephen Douglas singled to start the game, but Guerra retired the next 12 batters in a row and didn't allow another hit until Martin Parra tripled with two outs in the eighth.
"It was one inning, seven runs, then zeroes all around it," Hooper said. "You hope that he just keeps learning and getting better. (Pitching coach Luke Robertson) is working on some stuff with him, working on a changeup. I just hope he gets better and better, because that was a pretty good performance tonight."
Even though Guerra tired in the eighth, he was able to preserve a shutout after a defensive miscue by center fielder Brent Clevlen.
After hitting an inside-the-park home run on a similar play earlier, Clevlen dove after Parra's low line drive and missed, letting the ball roll to the wall. Parra ended up on third, and Guerra walked the next two hitters.
Guerra escaped on a groundout by Albenis Machado, completing his night after 111 pitches. He struck out eight and allowed two runners into scoring position, 25 batters apart.
The Wingnuts, against the league's worst pitching staff, gave Guerra plenty of support.
Reymond Cruz didn't look like an 0-3 pitcher in the first two innings, which he completed in 15 pitches. But Wichita helped him live up to his preceding reputation by combining for eight runs in the third and fourth innings.
The onslaught was highlighted by Clevlen's homer, which he collected after Kory Drew came up short on a diving attempt in center field in the fourth. The Wingnuts had five straight hits in the third and six straight in the fourth, tallying six extra-base hits on the night.
"I more look at the numbers, the walks and the strikeouts, to see if they're around the zone or not," Wingnuts outfielder Ryan Patterson said about facing a team with an enormous ERA. "That ballpark in El Paso, it's tough to pitch over there. We understand where they play, so we take it with a grain of salt and have our same approach."
The only sour note for the Wingnuts came in the top of the fifth, when Hooper removed first baseman Jorge Delgado for not running out a fly ball. Hooper was nonchalant about the move, doing it between innings to make it barely recognizable, but he said he got his message across to Delgado.
"It's such a good night and then that happens. I was frustrated with the whole deal," Hooper said. "You're not going to run balls out, it's going to be tough to play for me. It's OK, it doesn't make the guy a bad guy or anything, he's just not going to be able to play for me possibly. We'll talk about it, and I guarantee it won't happen again."
Machado 2b3000Patterson rf5223
Mejia c4010Clevlen cf4223
Nichols dh4000Richardson 3b4141
Smith 1b4000Delgado 1b3000
Deleo lf4000Fitzgerald 1b1000
Gonzalez ss3000Workman dh3001
Parra 3b2010Bellorin c4000
Drew cf2000Powell c0000 Horn ss4220 Duran 2b3121
El Paso000 000 000 — 0 Wichita003 500 11x — 10
DP—El Paso 1, Wichita 1. LOB—El Paso 6, Wichita 4. 2B—Patterson (17), Clevlen (7), Duran (4), Richardson (8), Horn (14), Mejia (8). 3B—Parra (1). HR—Clevlen (4). S—Machado (3). SF—Workman (4).
Cruz L, 0-46 1/3139913
Guerra W, 2-2820038
Umpires—Home, Lance Vaughn; First, Travis Godec; Third, Kurt Branin.