With better numbers in batting average, ERA and fielding percentage, it makes sense if the Wingnuts felt they were better than Gary-Southshore, the team they've been chasing for first place in the American Association Central for much of the summer.
Wichita just hasn't had many chances to prove it, with six games scheduled between the teams in 2010. The Wingnuts made a convincing argument this weekend, sweeping Gary in a three-game series and overtaking the RailCats for first place in the division.
The Wingnuts closed out their dominating three days with a 7-2 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. They own a one-game lead over Gary for first in the Central and are in good position for the wild card if Gary catches them in the final eight games.
"You want to be better than everybody in the league," Wingnuts outfielder Mike Conroy said. "Things went our way. We got all the bounces, got all the good luck. Played quality baseball, got big hits when we needed to, did the little things. That's going to win ballgames."
Conroy's words echoed those of Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper, who felt that the Wingnuts showed almost no weaknesses during the series while coming through with several clutch hits and keeping Gary from ever taking a comfortable lead.
Sunday was the first time in the series that Gary scored first, as it took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Wichita wiped out the deficit before the end of the inning, getting a two-run home run from Mitch Einertson to take the lead. Einertson has homered in the last two games and has an extra-base hit in three of the last four. Gary tied it 2-2 on a Cristian Guerrero homer in the fourth, but again the Wingnuts answered the next half-inning.
After Einertson drew a leadoff walk and Edwin Bellorin delivered a one-out single, Conroy broke the tie with an RBI double. Bellorin and Conroy scored a batter later on a single by Tommy Fitzgerald. The Wingnuts fed off the energy created when Juan Richardson ended Friday's game with a two-out, two-strike three-run homer.
"That first game of a three-game or four-game series, and in the playoffs, that first game is so crucial," Conroy said. "You get some momentum, and the way we won it, talk about momentum. We just took it into the next day and swung the bats well, pitched well and played quality baseball."
Wichita starter Junior Guerra elevated his pitch count by struggling to finish off hitters during the first three innings, when he threw 50 pitches.
Guerra allowed a baserunner in every one of his innings except the eighth, but he worked around a two-out walk in the sixth and a leadoff double in the eighth to throw a combined 18 pitches in those innings. He retired Gary in order in the eighth then pleaded with Hooper to go back out for the ninth.
Hooper declined, sitting Guerra after 106 pitches. "He was begging to get him through the ninth," Hooper said."... Guerra pitched a great game. I told him that if he let me throw 150 pitches, he would. That's the type of guy he is. Great guy on the mound for us to end this thing, to pull off the sweep."
Like in Saturday's win, when Wichita scored in seven of eight innings in which it batted, the Wingnuts continued to add to their lead Sunday. With the help of an error, they scored two in the seventh, both coming home on a fielder's choice by Josh Workman. Einertson took out shortstop Brad Boyer with a hard slide and Jorge Delgado came in with the second run when Boyer was still down.
Klein lf4010Mojica 2b2000
Massaro dh3000Fitzgerald 2b2012
Boyer ss4000Horn ss5010
Wshngtn 3b3010Rivera 1b3130
Johnson cf3000Delgado dh3200
Rohde 1b3021Einertson cf3222
Maddox c4000Workman rf4001
Carrara 2b3010Bellorin c3120
Gary Southshore010 100 000 — 2 Wichita020 300 200 — 7
E—Maddox (3), Carrara (17). DP—Gary 3. LOB—Gary 6, Wichita 7. 2B—Rohde (30), Conroy (21). HR—Guerrero (12), Einertson (2). SB—Fitzgerald (2). CS—Klein (5), Johnson (2). S—Fitzgerald (4).
Shaw L, 10-55105531
Guerra W, 8-3862232
Home, Bryan Childe; First, Joey Stegner; Third base, Trent Delmont.