Anthony Capra returned from the disabled list a few weeks ago and has struggled to find the strike zone since. That continued Tuesday night as the lefty walked six in the first inning before being relieved. Eddie Medina entered trailing 3-0, but dominated from that point on, as his offense rallied behind him sending the Wichita Wingnuts to the 6-3 victory. That moved the Wingnuts magic number to just one to clinch the South Division of the American Association.
The Wingnuts got off to a tough start when the first three batters of the game reached on walks. Capra then retired the next two batters, but a passed ball brought in a run before three straight walks brought two more across the plate to make it 3-0. That would be it for Capra, as Medina came in to retire the final batter of the inning.
Down by three, the Wingnuts showed a lot of heart in the bottom of the first, putting up four-runs of their own. Christian Stringer singled to start the frame and moved to third on a double by Zack Cox. Brent Clevlen walked to load the bases before T.J. Mittelstaedt grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Stringer to make it 1-0. Matt Chavez then doubled to center scoring Cox and it was 3-2. A Nick Van Stratten ground out scored Mittelstaedt to tie the game, and Harrison Kain’s two-out single brought in Chavez to give Wichita the lead.
It was an impressive offensive showcase but, following the first inning, the bats for both teams went cold over the next three frames. Medina was just brilliant during those three-innings, giving up just three-hits and no walks.
After a tough first inning, Alex De La Cruz settled down for Joplin as well. He pitched extremely well over the next three-innings, but in the fifth the Wingnuts extended their lead.
De La Cruz struck out the first batter of the inning, but Chavez singled and Van Stratten followed with a ground rule double that moved Chavez to third. Next up was Kain, who lined a single to left-center that scored both runners to make it 6-3.
Medina (6-5) would be removed after the fifth inning. The right-hander delivered a huge outing out of the bullpen, going 4.1-innings, allowing 4-hits, no walks and no runs. He struck out 2.
From there the bullpen took over. Gage Smith, Chase Johnson, and Chad Nading each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. In the ninth, Frankie Reed came on. He gave up a hit, but the Blasters would do no more against him as the lefty recorded his 20th save.
Stringer finished 3-5 with a run scored. Kain was 2-4 with 3-RBI and Chavez was 2-4 with 2-runs scored and an RBI. No Joplin Blasters player had more than one-hit in the game.
Game 3 of this four-game set will be Wednesday night. Tyler Kane (1-0, 0.00) will be making his second start for the Wichita Wingnuts. He will be opposed by Harrison Lee (0-0, 0.00) for the Joplin Blasters. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier