RailCats struggles continue at home after dismal road trip
By Mike Clark Post-Tribune correspondent June 28, 2012 11:10PM
Kansas City's Enrique Cruz is tagged out at second by Gary's Chris Cararra to end the second inning Thursday evening at the Steel Yard in Gary. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:41AM
GARY — July is still a few days away and there are more than 60 games left in the season, so “panic” is not in the RailCats’ vocabulary just yet.
But there is an increasing sense of urgency as the weather heats up but manager Greg Tagert’s team does not.
The RailCats wrapped up a 2-5 homestand Thursday night, losing 7-2 to the Kansas City T-Bones in a game delayed by rain for 1 hour, 23 minutes midway through the first inning.
Kansas City’s Bubby Williams hit two long home runs to left-center, a two-run shot in the fifth and a three-run blast in the sixth, as the T-Bones erased an early 1-0 deficit. Starter Morgan Coombs (2-4) gave up three runs in five innings for the RailCats, who had three runners thrown out on the bases in the first three innings.
Coming off a dismal road trip to Texas that featured one win (in six games) and four bus breakdowns, the ‘Cats came home hoping to reverse their fortunes. But they lost two of three games to Lincoln and then dropped three of four against Kansas City.
That left Gary (16-23) continuing to tread water in the American Association’s Central Division, 14 games behind first-place Wichita in fourth place. They are a more manageable 5.5 games back of wild-card leader Kansas City (22-18), but they also were behind seven teams in that race.
“This homestand has been a huge disappointment,” said Tagert, whose streak of postseason berths with the RailCats was snapped at six last season.
He’s less concerned about the space Wichita has opened on the rest of the division – Kansas City is 8.5 games back in second place – than he is about getting his own team heading in the right direction.
“Our focus is on stringing together some good RailCats baseball on a consistent basis,” Tagert said.
Playing well for any meaningful stretch has been tough for the ‘Cats. Their longest winning streak of the season? Two games, three different times. The most consecutive series they’ve won? Two.
That’s why Tagert is looking for something to turn around, and the sooner the better. “This is ... a pivotal night for the RailCats,” he said before Thursday’s game, noting a win would have created much better vibes for the overnight road trip to Sioux Falls, S.D, where Gary an eight-game road trip tonight. But the long night did not go well for Gary.
Notes: The Railcats signed rookie infielder Zach Tanner, a Muncie resident who played at Wright State, to fill the roster spot created by Wednesday’s trade of Kyle Haines. Tanner impressed the RailCats’ staff at a post-draft workout with his speed and ability to play both shortstop and third base. “He’ll be the fifth infielder right now,” Tagert said.