posttrib
BRISK 
Weather Updates

RailCats win third straight on controversial call

Updated: June 23, 2013 6:44AM



GARY — Colt Loehrs appeared to make a terrific diving catch in left-center field to end the fourth inning. Or did he?

Drew Martinez’s liner was ruled a trap, a two-run double that lifted the RailCats to a 2-1 win over Wichita on Tuesday at the Steel Yard.

The game included an excellent start from left-hander Ari Ronick, a productive return for Brian Kolb, and strong work from the bullpen. But that controversial call was a centerpiece in Gary’s second straight win against the Wingnuts and third straight overall.

“Several of our guys in the bullpen thought it was down. … The umpire seemed very confident, made the call right away,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “But we put ourselves in position for it.”

Craig Maddox had dunked a one-out single against hard-throwing righty and former major leaguer Jon Link, Kolb singled to center with two outs, and Martinez then hit his ball toward the left fielder, plating both Maddox and Kolb.

“The umpire called it a hit — that’s how I’ll answer that question,” said Kolb, who went 2-for-2 with a walk and what proved to be that winning run after missing the four previous games with a fractured middle knuckle on his left middle finger, suffered on Opening Day.

“I coach in the offseason, and I always tell our guys, make the umpire stop you, make the umpire stop you. I was going hard and I saw him dive, and I kind of peeked at the umpire and I saw him give a safe call, so I just kept going.”

Wichita manager Kevin Hooper sprinted out of the dugout, as Wingnuts players — arms in the air — seemed perplexed by the call. After the umpires conferred and the call stood, Hooper was ejected.

“From my vantage point, personally, I’m watching the umpire, and he called it right away, there was no indecision on his part. … If he called it the other way, I would’ve been out there as quick as Kevin Hooper was, quite frankly,” Tagert said. “That’s a tough call for an umpire, and either way he’s going to have somebody beefing.”

Those runs were the only ones the RailCats (4-2) scored against Link, who appeared in nine games with the Dodgers in 2010, and spent time at Triple-A in both the Marlins and Orioles organizations last season. He allowed six hits with four strikeouts and two walks in six innings, still hitting 94 miles per hour in his last inning after touching 97 in the first, according to the stadium radar gun.

“We’ve talked about before the increase in power arms we’re seeing out of the bullpens in this league, but to see that type of power arm (as a starter) … Alain Quijano was charting for us behind the plate, and some guys may throw 94 and it may not look like it, but he said his looked like it,” Tagert said. “It was getting up there in a hurry. The hitters certainly had a tough test with Link.”

Ronick actually outdueled Link, allowing a run — CJ Ziegler’s American Association-leading fourth homer, a wind-aided shot to left to open the fourth that Tagert described as “on most days, that’s a flyout” — on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in six innings. It was the RailCats’ second straight quality start against a potent Wingnuts lineup, after Quijano’s six shutout innings on Monday.

Taylor Sewitt pitched the seventh, now having not surrendered an earned run (one unearned) in 52/3 innings in his four appearances. In the eighth, Estevan Uriegas worked around a leadoff double to John Rodriguez — a ball left fielder Adam Klein admittedly should have caught, though the wind appeared to make it take off — striking out both Ziegler and Cole Armstrong looking, and getting Abel Nieves to ground out, the four through six hitters in the lineup for Wichita (3-3). Marco Gonzalez pitched a perfect ninth for the RailCats’ first save of the season, with Clay Zavada unavailable after having pitched on back-to-back days.

“Obviously, we’re in capable hands with Marco,” Tagert said. “From what we learned about Marco Gonzalez last year (when he had 10 saves as the team’s primary closer), he gives you a very clean ninth inning.

“Whenever you take the first two of a series, you get a little greedy, and hopefully we’ll finish out the homestand on a good note.”

As they attempt to do so, the RailCats likely will not have Kolb back in the lineup on Wednesday, though Tagert before Monday’s game had said the third baseman was not going to start on Tuesday.

“I don’t know if he talked me into playing, but we talked last night,” Tagert said. “We’re going to trust our doctors and trust him.

“We’re a better club when he’s in the lineup, there’s no doubt about it.”

Kolb had his middle and ring fingers taped together. In his first trip to the plate, in the second inning, the bat slipped out of his hands on a swing — “It had nothing to do with my hand,” he said. “I just needed some pine tar. But I was worried that’s what everyone was going to think.” — and he faced two bunt hits.

“I just told him (Tagert) I was ready to go,” Kolb said. “I just want Skip to know that I wasn’t pushing him on it, but I wanted him to know that I was OK, ready to go. I tried to be honest with him.

“I was happy he gave me a shot today. I was excited to see my name in the lineup. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, but I was pretty happy.”

Notes: The RailCats didn’t have their first quality start last season until their 20th game, when Derek Drage allowed three runs in 61/3 innings on June 7 against Newark. … The RailCats had scored a first-inning run in four of their first five games, going 3-1. … Right-hander Stephen Hiscock (0-0, 1.80 ERA) is scheduled to start Wednesday’s series finale for the RailCats, against Wichita righty Chris Smith (0-0, 4.50 ERA).



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.