Cameron Baranek’s gameday routine is to check the lineup card shortly after he arrives in the Wild Things’ clubhouse.
Baranek’s name wasn’t on the card under the starting lineup Sunday afternoon when manager Gregg Langbehn filled it out, about 2 1/2 hours before Washington’s game against Schaumburg. By game time, however, Baranek was there, in center field, after Blake Adams was scratched from the lineup.
“It’s a good thing I was in there,” Baranek said.
That’s because Baranek had a hand in four of Washington’s five runs, which gave the Wild Things’ pitching staff wiggle room that was greatly appreciated but not necessary.
Baranek went 2-for-3, scored two runs, drove in a pair and hit a solo home run. That was more than enough offensive support for Washington starter Nick Wegmann and three relievers as the Wild Things shut out Schaumburg, 5-0.
It was Washington’s second shutout in its last eight home games and showed what it can do when given a lead. Washington has a 20-5 record when leading after five innings and is 20-1 when leading after seven innings.
“Our pitching staff has been doing a good job,” Baranek said. “If we can give the starting pitchers an early lead, then it takes a lot of pressure off those guys.”
That’s because Washington’s bullpen has been very good. The Wild Things are tied with Windy City for the fewest blown saves (6) in the league.
Wegmann (4-5) blanked Schaumburg on six hits over 5 2/3 innings, then turned the game over to the bullpen. James Meeker, worked out of a sticky situation that he inherited in the sixth and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Jesus Balaguer struck out two in the eight inning and Zach Strecker pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
“When our bullpen is lined up, that’s the way it has been for us. We’ve been successful,” Langbehn said. “There just hasn’t been enough opportunities to use the bullpen the way we want.”
Wegmann did his job, too. The lefty stranded Schaumburg runners in each of the first four innings en route to his first win since June 22. He had three no-decisions in his last five starts. Wegmann had a 3.58 ERA in July but did not have a win to show for it.
“His numbers this month have been very good,” Langbehn confirmed.
Washington gave Wegmann a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Baranek hit a leadoff single off Schaumburg starter Payton Lobdell (2-5), stole second base and scored on a double by J.R. Davis.
Baranek hit a one-out, opposite-field home run in the fifth that made it 2-0. It was his sixth home run of the season.
“Every day I hit in the batting cage, working on my swing. I was out there today, hitting off a tee,” Baranek said. “It’s good to see some of the work is finally paying off.”
Schaumburg had runners on first and third with two outs in the top of the sixth when Langbehn called upon Meeker to replace Wegmann. The righthanded reliever got Brook Carpenter on a bouncer back to the mound that ended the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Shaine Hughes smacked his second single of the game and scored on Hector Roa’s 12th home run of the season, a drive down the left-field line that made it 4-0. Roa moved into a tie for the Frontier League’s home run lead.
Washington scored another insurance run in the seventh on a crazy play. With runners on first and third with one out, Baranek flied out to left field but Stephen Lohr was doubled off first base for the inning’s third out. Alex Murphy, however, had tagged and crossed home plate before Lohr was thrown out retreating to first base. The play was one of four double plays turned by the Boomers.
“We pitched well in this one, we played good defense and got extra-base hits when we needed them,” Langbehn said.
The Wild Things concluded their six-game homestand with a 2-4 record. None of the four losses were by more than two runs.
“We haven’t played poorly. We just haven’t done enough to win in every game,” Langbehn said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s not like we’re getting blown out. We just haven’t been doing enough to win consistently enough.”
Washington begins a seven-game, six-day road trip Tuesday at Windy City before moving on to Florence. The Wild Things and Freedom will play a day-night doubleheader Saturday. ... Washington’s win prevented Schaumburg from moving into first place in the East Division. The Boomers trail Lake Erie by a half-game.