Saturday night’s Game 3 of the American Association looked like it could be a real pitchers’ matchup. With Jesse Pratt going for the Wichita Wingnuts and Mikey O’Brien for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the contest had the earmarks of a low scoring affair, but that would not be the case. Neither starter would get through the fifth, and Eddie Medina came out of the Wingnuts bullpen to toss three scoreless innings to quell the momentum of the Goldeyes and lead Wichita to the 7-5 victory.
Pratt breezed through the top of the first, but O’Brien would not be so lucky. After giving up just one-run in 14-innings pitched in Round 1 of the playoffs, the right-hander was hammered for five runs in the first inning of the game. O’Brien struck out Christian Stringer to start the frame, but Zack Cox doubled off the left-center field wall and Brent Clevlen and T.J. Mittelstaedt followed with walks to load the bases with one out. A sacrifice fly by Matt Chavez plated Cox and Nick Van Stratten followed with a single that scored Clevlen, putting two on with two outs. Next up was Harrison Kain. He worked the count to 3-1, then drilled a three-run homer over the left-center field wall to make it 5-0.
In the top of the second, the Winnipeg Goldeyes would get four of those runs right back, thanks in large part to three errors by the Wingnuts in the inning. David Rohm led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a double by Casio Grider. Wes Darvill popped out and Carlton Tanabe grounded back to Pratt. He looked to make sure that the runner at third held, and then fired the ball to first. However, the ball was in the dirt and got away from Chavez. That allowed both runners to score and it was 5-2. Two batters later, Maikol Gonzalez singled to score Tanabe. With Willie Cabrera at the plate, Gonzalez stole second and advanced to third on an error on the throw to second by the catcher. Cabrera followed with a single that brought home Gonzalez and it was 5-4.
In the top of the third, Pratt issued a one-out walk and his evening was over. Medina came on and retired the final two batters of the inning to maintain the one-run lead.
It would stay a one-run game until the fifth when the Wichita Wingnuts would extend their lead. Stringer led off the inning with a single. Next up was Cox who grounded a ball down to Rohm at first. The first baseman opted to tag the bag before throwing to second. His throw hit the runner in the back and squirted away. That allowed Stringer to reach third with one out. A wild pitch brought him home and it was 6-4. With one out and no one on, Clevlen walked and then stole second base. Mittelstaedt was then intentionally walked and Chavez was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
That would be it for O’Brien. Cameron McVey came on to face Van Stratten. He grounded to short, but the relay throw to first was not in time to turn the double-play. That allowed Clevlen to score to extend the lead to three.
In the top of the sixth, Medina issued a single to Gonzalez before walking Cabrera. That would be it for the right-hander. Medina (1-0) had pitched incredibly well, allowing 3-hits and a walk in 3-innings of work. He did not allow a run and struck out 2. Chase Johnson came on in relief and struck out both batters he faced to end the threat.
Mike Devine pitched the seventh and yielded a two-out double, but no further Goldeyes player would reach. In the eighth, Chad Nading came on. He walked Adam Heisler to start the inning and two batters later walked Cabrera. A two-out walk to Josh Romanski loaded the bases and Rohm drew a walk to score Heisler. That made it 7-5. Nading would be relieved by Frankie Reed, who would close out the inning without any further damage occurring.
Reed returned for the ninth. He retired the first two batters of the inning, before issuing a walk to Heisler. That brought Gonzalez to the plate and, on a 1-2 pitch, he looked at strike three to end the game. That would be Reed’s first save of the post-season.
Kain finished 2-3 with a run and 3-RBI. Clevlen scored twice and Van Stratten drove in two. Gonzalez had 3-hits for the Goldeyes.
Game 4 will be Sunday night in Wichita. This will give the Wingnuts the opportunity to clinch their second American Association title in three seasons. Tim Brown will go for the Wichita Wingnuts. Edwin Carl will pitch for Winnipeg in a rematch of Game 1. First pitch will be 5:05.
By Robert Pannier