It might have been a relief for the Wingnuts to see any pitcher but Derek Blacksher on the mound when Kala Ka'aihue came to bat for Kansas City in the eighth inning on Thursday.
Blacksher had surrendered two solo home runs to Ka'aihue already, amounting to nearly all the trouble Blacksher endured over seven innings.
Ka'aihue proved that it wasn't a matchup thing. He nearly hit his third home run, settling for a double off Geivy Garcia that scored three runs and lifted the T-Bones to a 7-6 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Ka'aihue hit two Blacksher fastballs for home runs in the second and seventh innings; his first blast cleared the high scoreboard beyond the wall in left field.
Garcia apparently didn't learn the lesson. His fastball was effective at times and it reached the mid-90s, but he wasn't able to sneak one by Ka'aihue to get ahead in the count after walking Jim Fasano to load the bases.
Ka'aihue hit a long drive to left-center. Center fielder Mitch Einertson nearly tracked it down, but it hit off the wall over his glove and brought all three runners home.
"You walk guys before that, you get yourself in trouble," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "It's been our Achilles' heel all season. We just find a way toæ.æ.æ. we can give some games away."
The double gave Kansas City a 6-5 lead, and Justin Snyder followed with an RBI single to pad the lead and add what proved to be an important insurance run.
The Wingnuts were often successful Thursday in two-out RBI situations, notching all of their runs in those instances. When they needed another clutch hit in the eighth, though, some of their most reliable hitters came up short.
Edwin Bellorin and Mike Conroy reached to start the inning, bringing up leadoff hitter Jimmy Mojica. After collecting a two-run single two innings before, Mojica failed on a sacrifice bunt attempt, popping up to first base.
Josh Horn tried bunting for a hit but settled for moving the runners to second and third. Juan Richardson almost found open territory up the middle on a broken-bat grounder, but Jose Duran reached it and threw Richardson out to end the inning.
"I've only been here for three days," said Einertson, who joined the Wingnuts Tuesday and had a double on Thursday. "But one thing I've noticed, whether there's no outs or one out or two outs, everybody finds a way to get on base and to get it done, and tonight it just happened to be with two outs."
Wichita got a run in the ninth on Josh Workman's two-out RBI single, but he was stranded there after Bellorin's popup to end the game.
Blacksher rarely had problems, but his mistake pitches gave Kansas City an early lead and put the T-Bones in position for a late rally.
After Ka'aihue's first homer, Snyder made it back-to-back and Kansas City led 2-0. The Wingnuts tied it in the third and took the lead on Richardson's triple in the fifth but couldn't pull away, leaving a runner on second in the sixth and seventh innings.
Garcia has taken the loss in his first two appearances with Wichita. On Tuesday, after Workman misplayed a fly ball in right field, he allowed a go-ahead homer to Fasano. Thursday, his failures kept the Wingnuts from pulling to within 1½ games of Gary-Southshore in the American Association Central and from going one game up on St. Paul in the wild-card race.
"Our bullpen was so good for a long time and we've been pretty shaky lately," Hooper said. "We were good (Wednesday) night, but you've got to be consistent. You've got to be consistent in this game, I talk about it all the time."
Simon cf 5 0 2 0 Mojica 2b 5 1 2 2Duran ss 5 1 1 0 Horn ss 3 1 1 0Washingtn 3b 4 1 0 0 Richardson 3b 5 0 2 1Sadler rf 5 0 1 0 Rivera 5 0 2 1Fasano 1b 3 1 0 0 Delgado dh 4 1 1 0Ka'aihue c 4 3 3 5 Einertson cf 4 0 1 0Snyder 2b 4 1 2 2 Workman rf 5 2 3 1Caceras dh 3 0 0 0 Bellorin c 4 1 2 1Barrows lf 3 0 0 0 Conroy lf 3 0 1 0Totals 36 7 9 7 Totals 38 6 15 6Kansas City 020 000 140 — 7Wichita 011 012 001 — 6
DP—Kansas City 1. LOB—Kansas City 6, Wichita 11. 2B—Simon (24), Ka'aihue (8), Einertson (1), Workman (27). 3B—Richardson (5). HR—Ka'aihue 2 (17), Snyder (3). SB—Duran (12), Mojica 2 (22). CS—Delgado (6). S—Horn (10).
Kansas City ip h r er bb soJohnson 5ð 10 5 5 3 5Little W, 1-3 1Ð 2 0 0 1 2Graham 0 1 0 0 1 0Dahman S, 7 2 2 1 1 0 0
Blacksher 7 5 3 3 1 5Hoch Ð 1 1 1 0 0Garcia L, 0-2 Ð 2 3 3 2 1Batista 1Ð 1 0 0 0 2
HBP—By Garcia (Caceras).
Umpires—Home, Justin Post; First, Joe Pascucci; Third, Trent Delmont.