Josh Rodriguez, the Zephyrs’ third baseman, slammed his helmet into the dirt past first base and let out a yell. The bases were loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning and there was a chance to cut into the team’s five-run deficit. But Rodriguez hit a ground ball to the second baseman and ended the threat.
New Orleans had other opportunities to score during Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to Oklahoma City, but faltered on nearly every chance. The Zephyrs stranded 14 runners on base, right behind their season high of 15 (on May 10 at Omaha).
“That’s where you want to be,” said Rodriguez, who left seven runners on base during the game. “You want to be barreling balls up. At the same time, when you do barrel balls up, but you don’t necessarily get a hit or get on, it is a little frustrating.”
Last night, the Redhawks’ starting pitcher, Jake Buchanan, tossed a complete game shutout. Today the Zephyrs collected seven hits and drew eight walks, but could not get the hit they needed with runners in scoring position. They finished 0 for 10. Eight of the nine starters in the Zephyrs lineup left at least one runner on base.
“I don’t necessarily harp on that like it’s such a negative thing because it means you had so many chances,” said Andy Haines, the Zephyrs’ manager said. “But to put up runs, you’ve got to cash in when you have chances.”
Haines was excited for an early day game on Wednesday, hoping to erase his team’s memory of a 12-0 loss the night before. But the Zephyrs fell behind early again.
The Redhawks struck first in the third inning with help from an errant throw from the Zephyrs’ catcher Rob Brantly. With runners on first and second, Adron Chambers, the Redhawks’ center fielder, bunted the ball down the third base line and Brantly threw the ball out of the first baseman’s reach, allowing a run to score. Domingo Santana plated another run on an RBI groundout later in the inning to give the Redhawks an early 2-0 lead.
“I think after last night’s game, when you get down like that, I think it’s so important to get on top early,” Haines said. “The deficit wasn’t big and we were always in the game, but to me that’s the story of the game.”
The Redhawks added a run in the fourth and scored again three times in the fifth.
After issuing a season-high 10 walks on Tuesday, Zephyrs’ pitchers allowed seven more on Wednesday, including five from the Zephyrs’ starter, Bryan Evans (4-3).
“It’s not indicative of what we’ve done,” Haines said. “We haven’t lit the world on fire on the mound, but we had been pretty consistent as far as in the strike zone.”
Evans struck out five in six innings while allowing all six runs, although two were unearned. His biggest accomplishment was finishing the sixth inning to preserve some of the Zephyrs’ bullpen for the rest of the week.
The Redhawks dropped Monday’s series opener 6-2, but have now won back-to-back games, outscoring the Zephyrs 18-1. New Orleans has dropped five of their six meetings against Oklahoma City this season.
The two teams will conclude their four-game series here tomorrow night, which will also see the much-anticipated debut of Zephyrs starting pitcher Andrew Heaney. The Miami Marlins selected Heaney as the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, and he is regarded as the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball by Baseball America and MLB.com. He was promoted from double-A on Tuesday to make his triple-A debut on Thursday and is on the fast track to Miami.
“You don’t have to be a genius to watch him to see what a bright future he has,” Haines said. “It’ll be good for everybody here to get to see him and good for our club, kind of a shot in the arm hopefully, to get him on the mound.”