Wichita Wingnuts Find Missing (Jon) Link to Defeat T-Bones
For the second straight start since returning to the Wichita Wingnuts, right-hander Jon Link delivered another outstanding outing, this time leading his team to a 2-1 victory. The win snapped the Kansas City T-Bones four-game winnings streak, and kept the Wingnuts 2.5 games back of the Joplin Blasters in the South Division of the American Association.
The Wingnuts offense immediately staked their starter to a two-run lead in the bottom half of the first inning. David Espinosa hit a sharp single to begin the inning, and came all the way around to score on a double by T.J. Mittelstaedt. Starlin Rodriguez walked and Joash Brodin was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Matt Padgett then grounded out to score Mittelstaedt and it was 2-0 Wichita Wingnuts.
That would be all the runs that Casey Barnes would allow. Barnes had been out for nearly three weeks, and was clearly a little rusty to get started, but he pitched a gem after the first inning rally. The right-hander allowed 2 hits and a walk in the first inning, then allowed just a single hit over the next 5 innings. For the game he allowed 3 total hits and 2 runs, while striking out 4.
It was a brilliant outing for the Kansas City right-hander, but another right-hander was outdueling him. Jon Link, who had shutout Laredo for five innings in his return to the league shut out the T-Bones through the first five innings as well. He allowed a single in the second, and two in the fourth, the first inning where Kansas City mounted their first real threat. That threat came to an end as he struck out two in the inning to leave both runners stranded. In the fifth he allowed a lead-off single, but then got a double-play to end the inning.
In the sixth the Kansas City T-Bones finally got on the board. Ryan Cavan singled to begin the inning and moved to second on a base hit by Jake Blackwood. Adam Bailey followed with a single scoring Cavan. The inning had the potential to become a huge rally, but David Espinosa’s throw to Luis Hernandez was relayed perfectly to Mittelstaedt to gun down Blackwood at third. Daniel Bennett took over the Link and retired the final batter of the inning to keep it 2-1.
Dr. K has been brilliant since his return to the faculty of the Wingnuts University. He allowed 7 hits and a walk in 5.2 innings pitched, while striking out 5. Link has now allowed 8 hits and a walk in 10.2 innings pitched, while striking out 8. Most importantly he has allowed just one run and has won both of his starts. He now has a 10-game winning streak dating back to last season.
Clinging to a one-run lead, manager Kevin Hooper turned to his bullpen to close out the game. Bennett returned in the seventh and struck out both batters he faced before being replaced by Al Yevoli. The left-hander was perfect in this 1.1 innings of work, striking out two. In the ninth came closer Dakota Watts who struck out two in closing out his second save of the season, and first with the Wichita Wingnuts.
Overall the Wingnuts bullpen was absolutely brilliant. They allowed no base runners in 3.1 inning of work, while striking out six.
The loss did not hurt the T-Bones in the standings at all. Joplin defeated Sioux City, keeping Kansas City six out in the Central Division race.
By Robert Pannier