One long streak of futility ended for the Wild Things on Tuesday night.
A.J. Bogucki pitched six effective innings for Washington and became the first righthander this season, and first since Aug. 30 of last year, to exit with a quality start – at least six innings pitched and no more than three earned runs allowed. Bogucki left with a 4-2 lead over the Evansville Otters.
You would think that would be a good trend-breaker for the Wild Things. However, in this season in which nothing has gone according to plan, Washington’s start was better than its finish.
Evansville’s Ryan Long hit a three-run homer off reliever Jesus Balaguer in the top of the seventh and the Otters’ bullpen blanked Washington over the final three frames to beat the Wild Things, 5-4.
The loss ended Washington’s three-game winning streak.
It was the sixth home run of the season for Long, Evansville’s third baseman, but his first since May 26, also against the Wild Things. It was only the second blown save by Washington’s relief pitchers.
“Ryan is our most consistent hitter,” Evansville manager Andy McCauley said. “His reputation gets him pitched around and it’s tough. But when he gets a chance, like he did tonight, he delivers.”
The loss dropped Washington’s record to 0-9 in one-run games and leaves the Wild Things with a 12-23 overall mark.
“We can’t finish. That’s why we’re 11 games under .500,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said while tossing a league statistics sheet in a trash can. “We can’t hit with runners on base.”
Washington had taken a 4-2 lead by scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, two coming on a home run by designated hitter Mikael Mogues, his fifth of the season. Mogues’ blast was followed by an error and consecutive singles by J.J. Fernandez and Cody Erickson that gave the Wild Things a 4-2 advantage and put runners on second and third with no outs.
Washington, however, didn’t add to the lead and it proved costly. Evansville starter Jake Welch (2-1) got out of the jam without further damage, getting two strikeouts and flyout.
“Welch was teetering on the verge of getting knocked out of the game and we don’t score again after having second and third with no outs,” Langbehn said. “All you have to do is look at the bottom of the sixth and the top of the seventh and find out why we lost.”
Balaguer (1-1) gave up the home run to Long in the seventh but he inherited a jam. Lefty Nick Durazo replaced Bogucki and gave up consecutive singles to Hunter Cullen and J.J. Gould, the Otters’ Nos. 8 and 9 hitters. David Cronin advanced them with a sacrifice bunt.
Balaguer was called upon from the bullpen and he got Keith Greishaber to pop out to second base for the inning’s second out. Long then belted his three-run homer to right field.
“When Washington took the lead I thought we were in trouble,” McCauley admitted. “They have some good arms in the bullpen.”
Instead, it was Evansville that won the battle of the bullpens. Three Otters relievers blanked Washington over the final three innings.
Hector Roa, the Wild Things’ right fielder, had two assists, one on a strange play when Evansville’s Carlos Castro was at second base and tried to steal third but Mike Rizitello flied out to Roa on the pitch. Castro, who slid into third base, failed to retouch the base on his way back to second and Washington threw the ball to third for the final out of the fourth inning. … Evansville relief pitcher Taylor Wright got the final two outs of the eighth inning. He is the son of Villanova University basketball coach Jay Wright. … The Otters’ Danny Hrbek struck out two of the four batters he faced for his fifth save.