A 13-2 win over Amarillo on Monday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium probably displayed, with some occasional variations, the best the Wingnuts can be. Everybody in the lineup contributed to a 16-hit attack in which Wichita was never retired in order, and starting pitcher Jon Link submitted another dominant performance.
Link, though, doesn’t think the Wingnuts were at their best. He believes the team, which improved to 6-5, can be so good that Monday’s win will be merely an run-of-the-mill showing.
"I expect this team to score 13 runs every night and I expect (pitching and defense) to put up (zeroes)," Link said. "That’s what I expect of this team, we are that good I think. This is just a glimpse of what’s to come."
After the Wingnuts scored six runs in the first inning against former major-league pitcher Jason Johnson, and after Link survived Amarillo’s two-run second, Wichita’s offense hit like the lead wasn’t safe and Link pitched as if there was no lead at all. The Wingnuts recorded a hit in each of the first seven innings and produced three multi-run innings as a result.
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The first inning was the most prolific, as Wichita sent 10 runners to the plate and practiced selectivity against Johnson, who started 221 games over 11 big-league seasons. One of those starts came for Detroit on July 21, 2005, the day then-Tigers teammate and current Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper collected his first and only major-league hit.
Wichita seemed on its way to offensive milestones of its own after a six-run first in which Johnson walked the first two batters on his way to a 41-pitch inning. C.J. Ziegler delivered the first RBI hit, and Wichita’s 5-through-9 hitters, who have collectively struggled so far, notched hits in succession.
Jared McDonald capped the scoring with an RBI double. He had three hits, matching third baseman Abel Nievers and Ziegler, who homered off Johnson in the fourth.
"That’s what I’m talking about, just everybody contributing," Hooper said. "We can’t have the top half (of the lineup contributing) and then just stopped. (Nieves) was great. We had a good talk today in my office. I told him to relax — he’s our third baseman."
Nieves struck Johnson for a two-run single in the second and Ziegler’s homer led to Johnson’s exit after four innings and 96 pitches. Reliever Freddy Flores was hardly greeted warmly, surrendering a three-run homer to John Rodriguez, which traveled over the video board in left center field, during Wichita’s four-run fifth.
Pitching with a large lead isn’t often challenging, but Link may be the best Wingnuts pitcher to handle that responsibility. Though he possesses the ability to rack up strikeouts, Link is at his best when his two-seam fastball — a heavy sinker — induces weak groundball outs to retire hitters quickly.
Link set down Amarillo in order in the first, and after the hiccup in the second, 15 straight Sox hitters failed to reach base.
"During the second inning ... the home-plate umpire and I weren’t on the same page," Link said. "As the game went on, he saw that I could put the ball where I wanted it pretty much all night, and he started to give me the pitches that I earned."
|Valencia cf||3||0||0||0||Khoury ss||3||2||1||2|
|Martin cf||1||0||1||0||Kahaulelio 2b||3||2||1||0|
|Patton rf||4||0||0||0||Rodriguez dh||5||1||1||3|
|Peralta lf||4||0||0||0||Ziegler 1b||4||3||3||2|
|Grossman c||4||0||0||0||Perren lf||4||0||0||0|
|Weik 1b||4||1||1||0||Loehrs lf||1||0||0||0|
|Ford 3b||3||0||0||0||Nieves 3b||4||1||3||2|
|Serna ss||3||1||1||1||Yoo c||5||2||2||2|
|Anthonsen 2b||2||0||1||1||Amberson rf||4||1||2||0|
|Lomack 2b||0||0||0||0||McDonald cf||5||1||3||0|
|De La Garza dh||2||0||0||0|
E — Serna. Amerillo, Wichita. LOB — Amerillo 3, Wichita 8. 2B — Weik (2), Anthonsen (1), Khourey (1), Nieves (3), Yoo (1), McDonald 2 (5). HR — Rodriguez (3), Ziegler (6). SB — Serna (1), Khoury (4), Kahaulelio (2).
HBP — Kahaulelio (by Giles), Amberson (by Testa). Umpires — Art Thigpen, home; Derek Ivinski, first; Sean Hicks, third. T — 2:44. A — 3,107.