No Stewart Ijames, no C.J. Beatty and no Danny Poma has meant no offense for the Wild Things.
Ijames, Beatty and Poma carried the Washington offense during the first half of the Frontier League season, when the Wild Things charged to first place in the East Division.
Ijames and Beatty, however, had their contracts purchased by major league organizations, the former in July and the latter last week. Beatty’s exit came at about the same time that Poma became sidelined because of a strained oblique muscle.
Without its Big 3, Washington’s offense has been inconsistent at best and punchless at worst.
One night after being shut out for only the second time all season, in the second game of a doubleheader against River City, the Wild Things were blanked for the first eight innings and lost the series finale to the Rascals, 3-1, Thursday at Consol Energy Park.
The Wild Things were held scoreless for 16 consecutive innings before pinch-hitter Jose Dore smacked a solo homer leading off the bottom of the ninth inning. It was only the third hit of the game for Washington. Four River City pitchers, including starter Kyle Brady (1-3), combined on a four-hitter and did not allow a runner to reach scoring position over the first eight innings.
“(Brady) got the job done. He just stopped us,” Washington manager Bob Bozzuto said.
The Wild Things have lost five of their last six games and seven of 10, yet they remain a half-game out of first place after the top four teams in the East each lost last night.
Withe the top six teams headed to the playoffs, Washington is 2½ games head of Gateway, which is the first team currently out of a playoff spot. The Wild Things and Grizzlies play six times over the final 14 days of the regular season, beginning tonight at CEP.
River City, which has lost six players to affiliated ball this season, improved its league-best record to 52-32. The Rascals lead the West by 2½ games over Schaumburg.
“We have picked up some nice players via trades and other ways,” River City manager Steve Brook said, explaining how his team has managed to remain strong despite losing key players.
“We picked up Brian McConkey the day after he was released by Schaumburg. We got Joe Staley in a trade with Florence … and we gave up Evan Crawford, a good outfielder, and Tommy Organ, a young pitcher, to bring in Jon Myers.”
Myers played a big role in the series, driving in two runs in River City’s 3-0 win in Wednesday’s nightcap and getting two more RBI last night.
Brady, who entered the game winless and with an ERA of more than 5.00, threw two-hit ball over six shutout innings.
“Brady has pitched well for us. He really has,” Brook said. “His numbers don’t show that. He doesn’t give up many hits but he’s had a few unfortunate instances in which he’s given up big runs.”
River City relievers Nick Kennedy and Patrick Crider combined for two shutout innings of relief, striking out four of the six batters they faced.
Washington hitters struck out 10 times and helped the Rascals’ pitchers by swinging at many pitches out of the strike zone. Bozzuto said his hitters are not pressing, trying to make up for the losses of Ijames, Beatty and Poma.
“It’s just being overly aggressive. Pressing is panicking. We’re not that type of team,” he explained. “We do have to be more disciplined. We have to stay within our boundries – try to do your job and no more.”
River City scored the only runs it would need in the fourth inning, when Hector Crespo tripled to right centerfield and scored on Myers’ single through the right side of the infield.
Washington starter Scott Dunn issued a two-out walk to Johnny Morales and was replaced by reliever Al Yevoli. A hit batsman and Joe Staley’s line-drive double off the wall in left field pushed home Morales for a 2-0 River City lead.
Dunn gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings. He also made one of the best defensive plays of the year, diving and catching a popup on a sacrifice bunt by Eric Williams in the third inning. Dunn made the catch along the third-base line and then slid into foul territory.
“Scott Dunn pitched his tail off,” Bozzuto said. “He battled and pitched well enough to win. When you talk about effort, talk about that diving catch. One of things that has me frustrated is he pitched so well we didn’t help him out.”
The Rascals tacked on an insurance run in the ninth against Matt Sergey, the fourth Washington pitcher. Myers beat out a bases-loaded infield single – a slow chopper that traveled about 45 feet up the third-base line – as pinch-runner Brian Hansen scored.
Washington did make it an interesting bottom of ninth. Dore led off with an opposite field solo homer off River City closer Gabe Shaw, who got his 24th save.
Shaw then gave up a single to Garrett Rau and hit Scott Kalamar with a pitch as Washington had runners on first and second with no outs. Two popouts around a strikeout, however, ended the game.
“I’m glad they didn’t bunt, with two on and no outs in the ninth,” Brook said. “It might have gotten real interesting.”