With a little more than one quarter of the Frontier League season completed, here is a quick rundown on the Wild Things’ performance to date:
• Washington entered Saturday night tied with River City for the best team batting average in the league. The Wild Things also had the most hits and most total bases.
• The Wild Things also had the top team fielding percentage, had committed the fewest errors and were tied for the most double plays turned.
None of those numbers are indicative of a team scuffling along at a below-.500 clip, which is what Washington has been for most of the season.
The trouble spot for the Wild Things has been their pitching. Washington has an earned run average that is the worst in league — more than a full run higher than any other team — and it has issued the most walks and has the fewest quality starts.
All of those pitching problems were present against Saturday in an 8-4 loss to the Florence Freedom.
Washington starter Michael Austin (2-3) gave up a home run to leadoff hitter Isaac Bernard to begin the game, and Wild Things pitchers issued six walks — four to Florence second baseman Luis Pintor — hit two batters and pitched behind in the count most of the night. Florence had a 13-hit attack.
"Our whole season has been defined by a lack of depth from our starting pitching,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said. “When our starters don’t go deep into a game, then it changes everything I want to do with the bullpen. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to pitch (closer) Zach Strecker when we were losing.”
Austin went only four innings. He gave up eight hits, two walks and five runs. He threw 102 pitches to get through the four innings.
Washington’s offense and defense couldn’t bail out its pitching staff. Florence starter Ryan Hill (1-0) and two relievers held the Wild Things to five hits. The Freedom stole six bases and Washington committed two errors, including a catcher’s interference.
“One thing about us is we’re consistently inconsistent,” Langbehn said. “We don’t pitch very well and about 60 percent of the time we don’t get a shutdown inning after we score.”
Bernard’s leadoff home run put Florence in front and the Freedom never trailed all night. Ricky Ramirez Jr. hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to put Florence up 5-1. Washington closed to within 5-3 in the fifth when Saige Jenco hit his team-leading fifth home run, a two-run shot down the right-field line.
Washington, however, couldn’t get that elusive shutdown inning as Florence scored three times on only one hit in the top of the sixth to build its lead to 8-3. The Wild Things walked one batter, hit another and committed two errors, including a catcher’s interference, in the messy inning.
Washington benefited from a balk and an error to score a run in the bottom of the sixth but the Wild Things didn’t generate enough offense to fuel a comeback.
“Even when our pitchers get ahead in the count, our pitch selection has not been good – we get into a predictable pattern,” Langbehn said. “Location is always a problem. There is no fluidity to it. We don’t read swings. It’s frustrating.”
Troy Terzi, who was signed by Washington on Friday and made his Wild Things debut as the starting pitcher that night against Florence, informed team officials via text message Saturday morning that he “quit.” Terzi was the losing pitcher, giving up six hits and two walks in four innings during a 4-0 loss. He was placed on the suspended list. ... Every Florence starter had at leats one hit, except for Pinto, who was 0-for-1 with three runs and the four walks.