Gregg Langbehn, the fourth-year manager of the Wild Things, has heard a lot of colorful language at ballparks during his long career as a pitcher and a coach.
There is a pair of four-letter words that Langbehn finds particularly offensive, upsetting and disturbing:
Ball and walk.
And he’s heard them far too often this year when Wild Things pitchers are on the mound.
Washington entered Friday night’s game leading the Frontier League in walks and had issued 42 free passes in the current homestand. Against the Gateway Grizzlies, the aptly named Wild Things walked six more batters, three of them coming around to score in Gateway’s 8-4 victory.
Washington wasted a big game from third baseman Wander Franco, who went 2-for-5 and drove in all four Wild Things runs.
“It’s the same thing over and over,” Langbehn said. “You have to be able to compete and sometimes we don’t do that.”
Five of the walks were issued by Washington starter Ty Mondile (0-2) in three-plus innings as Gateway forged a 5-0 lead by the fourth.
“Some guys have a hard time pitching with runners on base and then things start to speed up on them,” Langbehn said. “Guys in this league are not good enough to try and pitch on the edges of the plate. You have to work from the middle out.”
Shawon Dunston Jr. drove in three runs for Gateway and shortstop Brett Sakuri had two RBI, one on a double in the sixth inning after Washington had closed to within 5-2. Dunston had a solo homer to lead off the ninth inning.
Mondile was replaced four batters into the fourth inning by Josh Lapiana, a lefty who was making his professional debut. Lapiana is a Bridgeville native and Chartiers Valley graduate. He was in spring training with Washington but released, then re-signed Friday afternoon.
Lapiana gave up two runs over three innings. He walked one and struck out the first batter he faced.
Gateway starting pitcher Reign Letkeman left in the bottom of the fifth with numbness in the fingers on his throwing hand. He was one of two Grizzlies who exited with an injury. Catcher Cody Brickhouse, after hitting a routine grounder to Franco at third base in the top of the fifth, immediately dropped to his knees just outside the batter’s box with an apparently shoulder injury.
The injuries were just another challenge for Gateway, which played a doubleheader Wednesday that included a 13-inning nightcap and had to make the long drive from St. Louis on Thursday night, arriving in Washington at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
The tired Grizzlies (7-6) and their worn-out bullpen endured and won their second straight to move above. the .500 mark.
“We have only four guys back from last year,” Gateway manager Phil Warren pointed out. “It’s a whole new vibe. It’s a grind and a challenge, but I honestly don’t think we could be doing this with last year’s team.”
Reliever Jason Seever (1-0), who was pitching for the third day in a row, was the winner. … The Grizzlies have plenty of players with major league connections. Dunston Jr., the center fielder, is the son of the former Chicago Cubs shortstop, outfielder Gunnar Buhner is the son of former major league outfielder Jay Buhner, designated hitter Connor Owings is the brother of Kansas City Royals utility player Chris Owings and first baseman Austin O’Brien is the nephew of longtime big league catcher Charlie O’Brien.