It has been a long hard slog but the Wild Things have finally made the journey to the .500 mark.
Washington evened its record for the first time this season by defeating Quebec 7-4 Tuesday night in the opening game of a three-game series.
The victory, which has the Wild Things’ record at 23-23, was their ninth straight at home. It extended their overall winning streak to four games and left a good feeling in the home team’s clubhouse.
“We’re clicking,” said right fielder Bralin Jackson, who had a double and an RBI. “It has been a combination of things. Everything is working: pitching, hitting and defense.”
On this night, the defense got off to a shaky start but the hitting bailed it out and the pitching did its job.
Washington starter Keven Pimentel (5-4) went 6 2/3 innings, B.J. Sabol got the final out of the seventh, James Meeker followed with a record-breaking inning and Zach Strecker pitched the ninth for his ninth save.
“It felt like it was not coming,” Vaeth said of reaching the .500 mark. “Each time we got close, it felt like we wouldn’t get there. We’d get repelled back.
“But we’re all on the same page now. They know how I want to play the game. We have better athletes on the field. I said from Day 1 that I want to play exciting baseball. We were too stagnant early because of our personnel.”
Washington fell behind in the first inning, took the lead in the second, fought off a Quebec comeback and pulled away late. Two runs in the seventh broke open what was a 5-4 game.
A three-run lead was more than enough with Meeker and Strecker at the back end of the bullpen. Meeker threw a scoreless eighth inning and has not allowed a run in 25 1/3 innings this season. His scoreless streak, which dates back to 2019, is a team-record 27 2/3 innings. He broke the previous record of 27 innings set by J.J. Hollenbeck in 2008.
Washington led 5-2 after a messy first three innings that included three errors and a couple of misplays.
Quebec forged a 2-0 advantage in the first inning. Hits by David Castro and David Galude produced a run and Connor Panas’ sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
Quebec starter Stephen Knapp, who is normally a reliever, pitched to only six batters, exiting after giving up a leadoff double to Grant Heyman and an RBI single to Hector Roa in the second. Lefty Vincent Ruel (0-1) replaced Knapp and gave up a bunt single to Cam Phelts that put runners on first and third. A single by Andrew Czech tied the score and consecutive walks drawn by Nick Ward and Trevor Casanova forced in a run and gave Washington a 3-2 lead.
Singles by Hector Roa and newcomer Scott Dubrule, plus a two-base error in the outfield, scored one run in the third and put Dubrule at third base. Phelts pushed the run home, making it 5-3 with an RBI groundout.
“We will try to go first to third and steal bases,” Vaeth said. “A good example of that was when Hector made the turn at second and headed for third. It forced their guy (center fielder Jonathan Lacroix) to rush and caused an error.”
Quebec, which has played all 45 of its games on the road because of the closed border between the United States and Canada, pulled to within 5-4 in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Glaude and a run-scoring single by Jeffry Para.
A two-out double by Castro, his second of the game, in the seventh was the last batter Pimentel faced. Sabol entered and struck out Glaude to end the threat.
Washington used doubles by Andrew Sohn and Jackson, and an RBI single by Roa (3-for-4) to score two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh.
“What I see is we found out identity,” Jackson said. “The team has been clicking of late and is on a roll. Everyone, from 1 through 9 in the order, knows his job.”
Prior to the game, Washington signed Dubrule, who was the second baseman on Mississippi State’s national championship team last month. Dubrule batted .278 for the Bulldogs. He played four years at Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun Conference before moving to MSU as a graduate transfer. Dubrele went 1-for-3 with a walk in his professional debut. … To make room for Dubrule, the Wild Things placed third baseman Brian Sharp (.167) on the inactive list.