Cats fall apart in stunning loss
By Michael Osipoff firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2485 August 22, 2013 10:04PM
Scott M Bort/Post-Tribune Gary RailCats Media Day Mugs RC TAGERT GREG 2 050610.jpg PTSPT
Updated: September 24, 2013 6:45AM
GARY — The RailCats responded immediately to Wednesday’s worst loss of the season.
But in the end on Thursday, they suffered a stunning loss to Wichita.
The Wingnuts scored three runs with two outs in the ninth inning to come away with a 5-4 win against the RailCats, who had scored four runs in the first inning.
“When you’re on the good side of those comebacks, it’s a huge pickup for a team,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “But it’s also about as deflating as it can be for the ballclub when you’re on the other end of it. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is.”
The RailCats (50-39) had been 31-0 this season when leading after eight innings, and 35-0 when leading after seven.
“It’s inevitable,” Adam Klein said. “It’s going to happen through the course of a long season that we’re going to lose games like this, just like we were going to win games like this. It’s just a matter of hoping you win more of these games than you lose them. Obviously, it hurts. But we have to learn that what’s happened already’s happened, and we have to move on, especially if we want to make a run for the playoffs.”
The Wingnuts (60-30) drew to 4-2 in the seventh, then improbably rallied in the ninth. After Ian Durham (2-1) struck out the first two batters, Ryan Khoury walked, before Jake Kahaulelio doubled to put runners on second and third. John Rodriguez came through with the tying two-run single to right, and moved to second on the throw to the plate. CJ Ziegler followed with the go-ahead single to center.
“This one shows every pitch matters,” Tagert said.
“(Durham has) saved ballgames for us (six, with no blown saves until Thursday), and he’s been very good for us all year. But you have to be able to finish that game out when you have two outs — literally, you have three chances.”
The RailCats’ attempted comeback in the bottom of the inning fizzled, after their first two batters reached base, Brian Kolb on an error and Ryan Babineau on a walk. Cristian Guerrero struck out, Christian Vitters — in his last game with RailCats, as he returns to school — flied out to center, and Drew Martinez grounded out as Josh Dew recorded his 23rd save of the season.
Tagert said eight of the nine batters in the lineup would’ve been asked to bunt in that situation with two on and no outs in the ninth — with Guerrero the exception.
“We need No. 32 to be able to help us out there a little bit, and he continues to scuffle,” Tagert said.
The RailCats scored all of their runs in the first inning, shaking off Wednesday’s 18-5 shellacking. Klein led off with a double, before Mike Massaro singled. Guerrero and Danny Pulfer — activated before the game, after he had been on the disabled list since July 27 with a broken right index finger — each had a run-scoring single with one out, and Ryan Brockett had a two-run single with two outs.
But the RailCats wound up splitting the series against Wichita after sweeping Tuesday’s doubleheader, finishing the regular season 7-6 against the Wingnuts. On Friday, they begin a seven-game road trip to St. Paul and Kansas City, with Morgan Coombs (5-2, 4.78 ERA) scheduled to start the series opener against the Saints, against left-hander Cole Nelson (5-2, 2.51).
“As we’ve approached every game this season, we have to let it go and get ready for the next one,” Klein said. “Every game is the most important one of the season from this point on.”
Letting go: To make room for Pulfer, the RailCats released relief pitcher Taylor Sewitt, who threw 113 pitches in 32/3 innings on Wednesday, allowing nine runs on 12 hits with six walks. He was on the team’s Opening Day roster, and went 4-1 with a 5.03 ERA in 36 games.
“It’s always tough to let somebody go that’s been with the club from Day 1,” Tagert said. “… He’s pitched well most of the year. But as the lineups continued to adjust to Taylor through the year, unfortunately he wasn’t able to adjust to the lineups. That was evident with his last few outings.
“That was as tough a night (Wednesday) as I’ve seen a reliever experience in terms of the number of pitches, and he gave it everything he had.”
Back to school: Vitters — who unexpectedly signed with the RailCats on June 22 after last having played in 2009, his fourth season in the Cubs organization — has left the team after he could not delay his educational commitments at Fresno State. He had been working on the situation for about a month, with the baseball team’s coach and university president contacted at the 11th hour to intervene, but to no avail.
Vitters hit .306 with 21 RBI in 51 games, including not starting the last two, as the RailCats prepared for his likely departure.
“Obviously, I would’ve liked to have known sooner,” Tagert said. “Oddly, how it works out, we probably wouldn’t have taken a chance on him if we did know sooner, so I’m glad we did because he’s been an impact player for us. But it’s like anything, I expect this club to roll with it.”
Injury update: An MRI revealed that Marco Gonzalez does not have a ligament tear in his elbow, but the would-be closer does have a slight muscle tear just below his elbow. The best-case scenario for him and the RailCats would be that he returns for the postseason, which begins on Sept. 4.