Juan Richardson got the Wingnuts off the hook Friday by hitting a three-run game-ending home run to get Wichita past Gary Southshore in a game with major playoff implications.
Saturday, someone needed to afford Richardson the same courtsy after Wichita's third baseman made an error that led to three unearned runs and allowed Gary to tie the score.
The savior Saturday, at least the first one, was Mitch Einertson. He broke the fifth-inning tie with his first home run with Wichita, a two-run shot that helped the Wingnuts toward an 8-5 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts, who already lead the American Association wild-card race, pulled even with Gary for first place in the Central. They can overtake the RailCats by finishing off the sweep today. Both teams have nine games remaining.
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"A very, very good team effort, I felt," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "We gave them the three in that inning. That's tough. You can't give teams like that free outs. But we came back and got the win."
Wichita scored in every inning but the fourth, and Gary was unable to capitalize on its opening to take the lead. The RailCats were quiet against Wichita starter Nick Singleton until the fourth, when Mike Massaro got their first hit, a one-out double.
Singleton would have escaped the inning with no damage, but Richardson threw high to first base, allowing Cristian Guerrero to reach and Massaro to score with two outs. Toddric Johnson followed with an RBI triple, and Johnson scored when Brian Kolb singled to tie it 3-3.
Einertson had four hits in his fifth game since joining the Wingnuts on Tuesday. His first home run came on the first pitch from Trent Lare in the fifth inning and barely hooked around the foul pole in left field.
Einertson was 2 for 11 in his first three games but has three extra-base hits in his last two, bringing his average up to .368.
"I feel good," Einertson said. "I felt good from the beginning. I think the comfort level is coming in. I think I was just able to get some good swings tonight."
The Wingnuts have scored more runs than the eight they tallied Saturday, but have had few more impressive offensive showings. They had a hit in every inning and every starter except Josh Horn reached via a hit or a walk.
Richardson probably didn't give back all the goodwill he earned from Friday's heroics, and he built more with a solo homer in the first on Saturday. But just to be safe, he atoned for his error by driving in a run with a single in the sixth and doubling and scoring in the eighth.
"The energy from everybody that's on the team, I think everybody feeds off of everybody," Einertson said.
Richardson's error led to heavy use by the Wingnuts as-of-late beleaguered bullpen. Singleton threw 15 pitches in the fourth after the error that would have gotten him out of the inning, and he survived through the sixth with 113 pitches.
After a clean seventh inning by Geivy Garcia, who took the loss in his first two Wingnuts appearances this week, Gary scored two in the eighth against Marcos Tabata. The RailCats benefited from three walks and got a timely two-out, two-run double from Mike Rohde.
Jared Simon finished the eighth, stranding two runners, and Josh Dew earned the save with a scoreless ninth. The Wingnuts, after 90 games of mostly running uphill toward the RailCats, have finally caught them.
"I think everybody knows what's on the line," Hooper said. "We've talked about pretty much everything that we can. We've got nine games left and we know what's on the line. We have to come out ready to go like we have the last two nights."
Klein lf4010Mojica 2b4120
Massaro dh5110Horn ss4000
Boyer 2b4110Richardson 3b5232
Guerrero rf5100Rivera 1b4111
Johnson cf4111Delgado dh4220
Rohde 1b3012Workman rf3132
Valadez c3000Bellorin c2000
Maddox ph-c0000Conroy lf4011
Gary Southshore000 300 020 — 5 Wichita111 021 11x — 8
E—Richardson (13). DP—Gary 1. LOB—Gary 8, Wichita 10. 2B—Massaro (24), Rohde (29), Mojica (19), Richardson (24), Einertson (2). 3B—Johnson (2). HR—Richardson (11), Einertson (1). SB—Klein (15), Mojica (23), Workman (6). S—Horn (11).
Lare L, 3-5585543
Singleton W, 11-1653034
Dew S, 19110003
Umpires—Home, Trent Delmont; First, Bryan Childe; Third, Joey Stegner. T—3:19. A—N/A.