If the Wingnuts clinch the American Association Central quickly enough to set their pitching rotation for the playoffs, Ryan Hinson could start a pivotal game three.
Pitching a game in which the series possibly could turn in either direction would be appropriate for Hinson, whose inconsistencies have derailed a once-promising season and probably given the Wingnuts pause about what to expect from him in the postseason.
Sunday against Sioux City, Hinson was sidetracked by a trio of early-inning errors, then he had trouble making outs in the Explorers’ 11-5 win over Wichita at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Hinson allowed eight earned runs — and 10 runs overall— on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings. He occasionally took advantage of Sioux City’s aggressiveness, striking out seven without a walk, but most often that worked against him.
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"We’ve got to get that consistency with all of our guys, you want to find that at this point of the year," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "He’s one of our horses, and he needs to embrace that and run with it, which he usually does. He’s going to go out and compete for you every time out."
Since starting Tuesday’s start against El Paso with seven scoreless innings, Hinson has allowed 12 runs and 15 hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has allowed 54 hits in his last 37 1/3 innings and his ERA has risen in his last three starts and four of his last five, climbing to 4.86.
Hinson’s early-season performance appeared to have him on track to becoming the Wingnuts’ ace. He was 7-1 going into July and seemingly had turned around earlier signs of trouble by winning two starts in a row in which he allowed four earned runs in 14 2/3 innings.
But Hinson has lost six of his last eight decisions, often flashing glimpses of the pitcher he was in 2011 when he led the team with 11 wins and of earlier this season. But not often enough.
"We’ve got to get better, obviously," Hooper said. "He cruised through the other night and then he ran into some trouble. You can’t let stuff like (errors) bother you. You have to control what you can control."
The Wingnuts’ defense gave Hinson little help in the first two innings, accounting for three errors that spurred a pair of unearned runs.
Wally Backman Jr. likely would have been stranded on first base in the first inning after his single, but he moved to second when David Peralta bobbled the ball in right field and scored on a throwing error by center fielder Mike Conroy.
In the second, Conroy dove for a line drive hit by Brian Bistagne but missed and the ball rolled to the wall. Bistagne was reaching third when Conroy through to the relay man, and Ryan Khoury’s throw home beat Bistagne by plenty. But catcher Mason Morioka dropped the ball and Bistagne scored.
"That’s the thing — if a play like that happens and they score, it kind of punches in the stomach a little bit," Wingnuts designated hitter John Rodriguez said. "Then we come back and it punches us in the stomach again with another error. It was like we have to keep battling and battling and battling, we just came up short today."
The Wingnuts began to let themselves off the hook by scoring five runs in a second inning that included a two-run single by Rodriguez. But Sioux City starter Richard Salazar settled down and Hinson didn’t.
The Wingnuts didn’t score again off Salazar or anyone else. The former Wingnuts left-hander allowed four singles after the second inning but only one Wichita runner got to scoring position. He finished his day with 122 pitches.
Wichita can clinch the Central with any combination of eight wins or Kansas City losses over the final 13 games. Sunday’s result is hardly a cause for alarm except that it alerts the Wingnuts to not let one poor showing turn into more.
"I’ll take winning three and then losing the next one any day," Rodriguez said. "If we do that, we’re going to win the whole thing."
|Newton lf||5||2||2||1||Khoury ss||5||1||3||1|
|Backman 3b||4||2||2||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||1||0||0|
|Barrows rf||5||2||2||2||Rodriguez dh||4||0||2||2|
|Delgado 1b||5||1||1||3||Ziegler 1b||3||0||1||1|
|Serrano c||5||0||1||1||Murphy ph||1||0||0||0|
|Inoguchi cf||5||0||1||1||Porter lf||4||0||1||0|
|Bistagne ss||4||1||1||0||Batista 3b||4||1||2||0|
|Martinez dh||4||1||3||0||Peralta rf||2||1||0||0|
|Murphy 2b||3||2||1||0||Morioka c||2||1||0||0|
E—Peralta (4(, Morioka (1), Conroy (5). LOB—S. City 4, Wichita 8. DP—Sioux City 1 . 2B—Barrows (15), Martinez (5), Batista (3). 3B—Barrows (2), Bistagne (2). HR—Delgado.
|Salazar W, 7-6||7||9||5||5||3||3|
|Hinson L, 8-7||5.1||12||10||8||0||7|
Umpires — home, Kurt Brannin; first, Mo Hassan; third, Dan Hoffman. T — 2:42. A — 2,704 .