It's seemingly counterintuitive that pitchers are discouraged from throwing strikes when they're closest to striking out the batter.
Hitters facing 0-2 counts are typically most alert and ready for a pitch in the strike zone, but also more susceptible to swinging at pitches out of it .
Wingnuts reliever Geivy Garcia gave Amarillo's Adam De La Garza too good of an 0-2 pitch on Wednesday. De La Garza smacked it for a single, bringing in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of Amarillo's 4-3 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Wichita lost a game on its lead over Gary Southshore in the American Association Central. The Wingnuts lead by one game and both teams have six remaining.
"We tried to go inside, I think, and obviously we didn't get it in far enough," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "He just made (De La Garza) look silly on two pitches in the dirt. That can't happen in that situation."
Amarillo got a baserunner in every inning but didn't score more than one run in any of them. The Sox came through with the clutch hit they needed against Garcia in the ninth. Since being signed by the Wingnuts last week, Garcia has lost three games in which Wichita was tied or led in the late innings.
Defensive failures contributed to Amarillo taking the late lead. Second baseman Jimmy Mojica and center fielder Mitch Einertson couldn't track down a bloop that became a single, and first baseman Carlos Rivera bobbled a grounder on a nearly certain double play that would've ended the inning, settling for an out at first base.
The Sox and De La Garza capitalized, as the second baseman slapped a single to right-center to score the lead run.
"That didn't cost us the ballgame," Hooper said. "Yeah, they got the one run right there, and that's why we lost the game. But still, we had plenty of opportunities. I'm not going to put this on one pitch or one guy ever."
The Sox eventually wore down Wichita pitching, even though they couldn't break it open.
Five Wingnuts pitchers combined for 162 pitches. Amarillo stayed alive for several long at-bats, fouling off 14 two-strike pitches. But they left 14 runners on base.
"Guys threw pitches and they made us work quite a bit," Hooper said. "We struck out four guys on the night, so they definitely did a good job of putting the ball in play. But we held them. Four runs shouldn't win the ballgame."
The Wingnuts were headed toward a sixth straight win with 11-game winner Ryan Hinson on the mound after taking a 3-1 lead through two innings. But after missing chances to break it open by leaving runners stranded in scoring position in the third and fifth innings, Wichita was mostly quiet late.
Those chances came via a one-out double by Juan Richardson in the third, followed by a walk to Rivera. In the fifth, the first two batters reached via a hit-by-pitch and a single, but Josh Horn was thrown out trying to steal third, effectively ending the rally.
The Wingnuts didn't manage a hit from innings six through eight, as Horn reached on an error in the seventh for their only baserunner. In the ninth, Mike Conroy hit a one-out single, but Mojica and Horn were unable to advance him.
"We didn't show up offensively tonight, for whatever reason," Hooper said. "I don't know what the deal is. With everything on the line that's going on right now, we shouldn't have nights like that. Inexcusable as far as I'm concerned. Their guy (starting pitcher Matt Elliott) wasn't overpowering. It would be different if that guy was dealing, but I didn't feel that way."
Fenwick 3b4120Mojica 2b5110
White ss4030Horn ss3000
Cruz lf5010Richardson 3b4021
Alberts rf5021Rivera 1b3000
Pope dh5220Delgado dh3110
Frnsworth 1b4010Einertson cf4000
DeLaGrza 2b5122Workman rf3110
Kain cf4010Bellorin c4000
Butler c5011Conroy lf3021
Amarillo100 110 001 — 4 Wichita120 000 000 — 3
E—White (24), Kain (1), Workman (2). DP—Amarillo 1. LOB—Amarillo 14, Wichita 8. 2B—Alberts (28), De La Garza (20), Mojica (20), Richardson (25), Conroy (22). SB—Horn (15), Richardson (3), Conroy (15). CS—Horn (7). S—Horn (13).
Povich W, 8-32 2/310002
Garcia L, 0-3121111
Umpires—Home, Derek Moos; First, Justin Post; Third, Joe Pascucci.