Newcomers Deliver in Dramatic 1-0 Win: Wingnuts Wire
One of the things that makes the Wichita Wingnuts such a formidable opponent is not just that they have such an incredibly talented group taking the field each night. It is also that they have an equally formidable group in the front office. That starts with GM Josh Robertson.
Robertson, the brother of part-owner Nate Robertson, has proven himself to be in the elite group of GMs in the American Association. Not only has he put together an outstanding group of players, but he has had to replace some key members of the team who have been lost due to injury, trade or because they have been signed by a Major League organization. Robertson has found a way to do this seamlessly, so that his juggernaut of a team has not skipped a beat.
Monday night was a perfect example of the handiwork of the GM. After clubbing the Grand Prairie AirHogs 10-2 in the first game of their double-header, the two teams battled through a nail-biter. Jared Gaynor, who had been released by the Wingnuts and signed by Grand Prairie over the weekend, got the start against his old mates, and it was clear he wanted to make a statement to the team – “you made a mistake when you released me.”
After two base runners reached in the first inning for Wichita, Gaynor shutdown the Wingnuts. After Victor Diaz reached on an error with two outs in the second, the lefty retired 12 of the next 14 batters, holding the Wingnuts scoreless through five, a feat not many opponents have been able to pull off this season.
Meanwhile, Matt Robertson, who was making his first start of the season for Wichita, was having an outstanding night of his own. Robertson had struggled this season coming out of the bullpen, posting a 6.91 ERA prior to the start, but he showed on this night that he may be the perfect addition to this rotation. Robertson gave up a single and a walk in the first inning, then retired 10 of the next 13 batters. He gave up one base-runner in each inning after the first, but was never in any trouble on this night.
Matt Robertson was done after four outstanding, scoreless innings, meaning it was time for older brother Josh to take over. No, Josh Robertson was not going to put aside his suit and tie and take to the field to pull this one out. Instead, it was time for the acquisitions he had made over the past week to come through, and that is what they did.
In the fifth, reliever Chris Peacock entered the game in relief and pitched a perfect 1-2-3 inning. He had been signed by Robertson as a free agent before last weekend, as had Chase Johnson, who took over in the sixth and pitched a perfect inning as well.
In the top of the sixth another one of Robertson’s pick-ups delivered. Ryan Khoury led off the inning with a single, and after being sacrificed to second by Jared McDonald, he stole third for his 31st stolen base of the year. David Espinosa then struck out leaving Diaz as the last chance to bring home Khoury, and that is just what he did. With former Wingnuts reliever Alex Hinshaw pitching in relief of Gaynor, Diaz singled on the first pitch Hinshaw threw to him, to break the scoreless tie and give the Wingnuts a 1-0 lead. Diaz had been signed to be a big bat in the middle of the lineup before last weekend as well, and he came through in a big way for Wichita.
With the Wingnuts leading 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, it was time for another Robertson addition to close things out – Dan Sattler. Sattler was the closer in St. Paul where he had an impressive 1.80 ERA and 19 saves. With former closer Matt Nevarez signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, the GM went out and traded for Sattler to be the guy shutting the door on opponent rallies. That was what the big right-hander would do, albeit with a little dramatic flair.
After getting Frazier Hall to ground out, Brian Myrow struck out for the second out of the inning. That is when it got interesting. Ryan Gasporra singled and then Eric Baker and Alex Nunez walked to load the bases. Could the AirHogs pull off a dramatic walk-off win? Sattler seemed to have lost the plate with eight of his last nine pitches going for balls. Miguel Castano was the batter, but Sattler was not going to let this one get away. He quickly got ahead of the AirHogs shortstop 0-2. After a pitch for a ball, Castano fouled out two pitches to stay alive, but Sattler’s next pitch caught him looking, and the game was over.
Peacock won his first game for Wichita, and Sattler recorded his first save for the team and 20th of the season. Victor Diaz had the game winning hit, and Chase Johnson had a huge hold in relief. It was a night for the newcomers. It was a night when the GM could be most proud of the moves he made, because they proved to be golden for the team on this night. Robertson may not be Midas, but he is proving to have the golden touch for the Wingnuts.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA