Ryan Khoury has been everything the Wingnuts expected on defense. The shortstop, in his first year with the team, has made both easy and difficult plays appear routine.
Tuesday night was Khoury’s chance to begin to live up to his reputation as a hitter. The former Triple-A infielder in the Red Sox organization can ignite the Wingnuts’ offense from the leadoff spot, but he had three hits in his first 21 at-bats.
Khoury might begin a turnaround with his game-ending single against New Jersey, which gave the Wingnuts a 3-2, 11-inning win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The signs of a reversal may have come in Khoury’s previous plate appearances — he fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches in the the third inning before lining out and drew a one-out walk in the ninth, indications that he was seeing pitches better.
In the 11th, Khoury flared a hit near the right-field line, taking an outside pitch from left-hander T.J. Wink to the opposite field and scoring Salomon Manriquez. The Wingnuts catcher, who entered as a pinch hitter in the eighth, singled to start the half-inning.
"My first two ABs today, I hit some balls hard and they made some good defensive plays," Khoury said. "My work comes in the cage and mentally, and if I’m hitting balls hard and they’re making good plays, you have to tip your hat. I’m feeling good at the plate and with my approach and mentally, I’m fine."
Khoury was the one mobbed by teammates at the bottom of a dog pile after the game-winning hit, but equal credit belonged to Wichita’s pitchers, beginning with starter Derek Blacksher and continuing with four relievers.
Wichita’s staff managed one perfect inning, but Blacksher and company worked out of trouble consistently, keeping the score close and allowing the Wingnuts to rally after Angel Berroa’s homer for New Jersey in the third opened the scoring.
Blacksher, 11-0 in his career at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, escaped with a no-decision. The Wingnuts took a 2-1 lead in the fifth but the Jackals tied it in the seventh after chasing Blacksher with a pair of singles.
Matt Nevarez allowed one inherited runner to score but minimized the damage — so did fellow relievers Nick Walters, Edgar Martinez and Josh Dew, who combined to allow one hit. Dew surrendered a single to Gaetano Giunto in the eleventh, but Giunto was picked off first base.
"One of the best things about tonight, getting that walkoff, was to get our (pitching) staff off the field," Khoury said. "They’ve been working their tails off keeping us in games. A couple of unfortunate things have happened — those guys are on fumes right now, but those guys are just working, working. It was great to get the win for them just as much as the offensive side."
The Wingnuts had lost three straight, including an extra-inning defeat by Lincoln on Sunday, when Wichita misplayed what could have been a game-ending fly ball.
Wichita squandered chances against New Jersey on Monday, and while lineup changes didn’t produce dramatically different results, the win eased the sting of a pair of difficult losses. The Wingnuts were under .500 for the first time since August 2010 but evened their record on Tuesday.
"We never accept losses, but when we play today we’re not even thinking about those," Khoury said. "If you’re thinking about losses from before, you’re going to take your attention away from this game. It happened, we work on things to improve from it, but today was all about today and hopefully it will jumpstart us."
Wichitaabrhbiabrhbi Giunta 2b 6120Khoury ss4011Berroa ss5131McDonald 3b4000Sabatella DH5010Ziegler 1b, ph0000Carabello lf5011Einertson cf5012Santiestaban cf4000Rodriguez DH5010Guzman 5000Carrillo 1b, 3b5010Lanning c3010Peralta rf5020Caseres 1b3020Kahaulelio 2b5010Henderson 3b4000Manriquez ph2110 Conroy lf4110Totals 402102Totals 423103
001000100 00—2 10 1Wichita000020000 01—3 10 0
DP — Wichita 1. E—Giunta (1). LOB—New Jersey 13, Wichita 12. 2B— Khoury (1), Conroy (2). HR — Berroa (2). HBP — Berroa (5), Santiestaban (1), Lanning (1), Khoury (2). S — Sabatella , Conroy. SB — Sabatella (4), Peralta (2). CS — Giunta (3).
IPHRERBBSOPavlik 662106Kennedy100001Gogal220020Wink L, 0-11 1/321100
IPHRERBBSOBlacksher 692215Nevarez100000Walters100020Martinez1 2/300011Dew W, 1-01 1/310001
PB — Lanning. HBP — Khoury by Pavlik (1), Berroa by Blacksher, Santiestaban by Blacksher, Lanning by Martinez.
Umpires — home, Mike Riggers; first, Dan Hoffman.; third, Joe Stegner. T — 3:32. A — 3,261.