It’s no coincidence that when Wingnuts sluggers John Rodriguez, C.J. Ziegler and Brent Clevlen recently endured a collective 3 for 32 slump, Wichita lost four straight games and didn’t score much in any of them.
The Wingnuts’ most productive nights happen when everyone contributes, but Rodriguez, Ziegler and Clevlen can help produce runs in bulk with home runs or when the opposition pitches them carefully and creates additional baserunners with walks.
Monday was another group effort spurred by Wichita’s power hitters. Rodriguez, Ziegler and Clevlen all homered, and they combined for 10 RBIs in the Wingnuts’ 11-4 win over Amarillo at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Eight Wingnuts combined for 13 hits, creating plenty of RBI opportunities in Wichita’s fourth straight win. The Wingnuts’ first two hitters, Ryan Khoury and Jake Kahaulelio, reached base four times combined and scored every time.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
“If (Khoury) and Jake can get on base, we’re going to score some runs with those (middle of the order) guys,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “Who are you going to pitch to? That’s a good lineup.”
The Wingnuts’ lineup came together ideally for Hooper when they acquired Brent Clevlen, a former major-league outfielder, in mid-June. Clevlen passed up other opportunities to rejoin the Wingnuts, for whom he played in 2011, and his affinity for and comfort with Wichita has showed.
Clevlen particularly enjoys hitting at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, where he’s hit seven of his eight home runs. He hit a two-out, three-run homer in the first to send Wichita off on another scoring binge, as they reached double-digit runs for the fourth time since June 24. Clevlen’s two hits pushed his average to .349.
“I just try to go out there and have good at-bats,” Clevlen said. “The last few games, everybody has been going out there and doing their job, getting runners over or getting them in when they need to. It’s a team effort.”
Clevlen’s addition not only solidified the lineup, but gave Hooper a lead-by-example player who contributes even on days that aren’t his best.
“Guys can learn from him,” Clevlen said. “The other day, he wasn’t feeling that great. Had a bad (batting practice), wasn’t feeling great at the plate — just battling, and he got three hits. Smart. The guy’s a professional hitter.”
Rodriguez’s three-run homer in the second put the Wingnuts ahead 6-0, and the 3-4-5 hitters continued their direct involvement in Wichita’s run scoring innings to protect and extend the lead.
Ziegler drew Wichita’s fourth walk of the sixth inning to force home a run before Clevlen delivered his fourth RBI with a sacrifice fly. The Wingnuts organized a two-out rally in the eighth, as Rodriguez doubled to the gap in right-center before Ziegler joined the homer barrage with a long two-run blast.
With a combined .326 average with 34 homers and 117 RBIs, none of Rodriguez, Ziegler and Clevlen needs the protection that one another provides, but the presence of three power hitters in succession takes pressure off of each.
“It doesn’t matter, we know that 1-through-9, somebody is going to come through,” Ziegler said. “That’s the advantage of this lineup. And if all of us don’t do it, the pitcher is going to come out and have a good day.”
Wichita’s pitcher Monday, Junior Guerra, didn’t have a particularly good day. He picked up his fifth win, but didn’t record an out in the sixth after allowing two hits and two walks, and his pitching line was only pedestrian.
Guerra surrendered four earned runs on four hits with four walks but was picked up by an offense that has usually been more consistent than him. It revolves around Rodriguez, Ziegler and Clevlen, though.
During the four-game losing streak, Nos. 2 and 6 hitters Kahaulelio and Abel Nieves combined for 10 hits, but Wichita scored five total runs in that stretch.
“We knew that it wasn’t the end of the world,” Ziegler said. “It’s just the way this game goes sometimes, it’s not going to go your way all the time.”
|Serna ss||5||0||0||0||Khoury ss||5||1||1||0|
|Valencia rf||3||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||3||2||0|
|Jones 3b||4||1||2||0||Rodriguez dh||4||2||2||3|
|Weik lf||3||1||0||0||Ziegler 1b||3||3||2||3|
|Patton dh/p||4||1||1||0||Clevlen cf||4||1||2||4|
|Grossman c||1||1||0||1||Nieves 3b||4||0||2||0|
|De La Gar 2b/ph||1||0||0||1||Loehrs rf||5||0||1||1|
|Ford 2b/c||4||0||0||0||Dalrymple c||4||0||0||0|
|Amarillo||010||102||000||—||4 4 1|
|Wichita||330||012||02x||—||11 13 1|
E – Jones (15), Ziegler (5). LOB— Amarillo 6, Wichita 8. 2B— Patton (25), Gallagher (2), Rodriguez (18), McDonald (15). HR – Rodriguez (9), Ziegler (17), Clevlen (8). HBP – Martin (9) by Guerra. SF – Cleveln (2). SB – Gallagher (1), Martin (8), Kahaulelio 2 (7), Nieves (7), McDonald (12). CS – Martin (2).
|Larkins L, 4-2||4||7||6||3||1||4|
|Guerra W, 5-1||5||4||4||2||4||5|
HBP — Martin by Guerra 2 (14). WP — Giles (5). Umpires—Home, Darius Ghani; first, Dan Hoffman; third, Pat Mclaughlin.
T— 2:59. A— 2839.