The Wild Things won a home game – something of a rarity this season – Wednesday night and didn’t even need to play nine innings.
Washington used a good start by Michael Austin and a four-run inning, which included a two-run homer by left fielder Blake Adams, to defeat the Evansville Otters 4-2 at soggy Wild Things Park.
The game was stopped because of rain with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Following a 46-minute delay, the game was ended. Evansville had a runner on second base at the time play was stopped.
It was only the fifth win in 17 home games for Washington and word of the victory and Adams’ key home run traveled far and quickly – all the way to Texas only seconds after the game was declared official.
That’s when Adams stopped on his way from the dugout to the clubhouse and talked with his uncle, Deric Bruner, who was at Wild Things Park. Bruner, who resides in Oklahoma but is in Pittsburgh this week on business, had his cellphone with him and was talking to Adams’ father, David Adams, back in Longview, Texas. The younger Adams was able to fill in dad with all the details of his two-hit night out of the leadoff spot in the Washington lineup.
“I feel like I’ve been hitting balls hard all year,” Adams said.
What he didn’t have is much to show for those hard-hit balls. Adams took a .211 batting average into Wednesday but might have started to turn the corner last weekend when he had three hits, including a home run, in a series at Joliet.
“We sat him for several days. He wasn’t where he needed to be. Since then, he’s been swinging the bat better,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn explained. “The biggest thing with Blake is for him to not pull the ball every time. He had a single up the middle tonight and that was the best thing I saw from him. His home run at Joliet was to straightaway center field.”
Washington did all of its scoring in the third inning, combining four hits with one Evansville error. The big hit of the inning was the two-run homer by Adams, his fourth home run of the season for the rookie from Tarleton State in Texas. It was a line-drive shot over the tiers of advertising in left field and came on an 0-2 pitch from Evansville starter Tyler Vail (1-3). It scored rookie shortstop Chase Slone, who was making his professional debut, and gave the Wild Things a 3-0 lead.
“I hit a fastball,” Adams said. “It was a good pitch but I was sitting on the fastball. He threw me curveballs on the first two pitches.”
The inning began with a single by center fielder Cameron Baranek. Slone followed by reaching on an error and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Second baseman Ryan Cox gave the Wild Things a 1-0 lead when his chopper up the middle was snagged by Vail, who made a leaping grab with his momentum going toward first base. He was unable to stop and throw to home plate, opting instead for the out at first base as Baranek raced home and scored the game’s initial run.
Adams followed with his two-run homer. Washington second baseman Shaine Hughes kept the inning going with a sharp single to right field and was able to come all the way around to score when Hector Roa doubled to the wall in left centerfield, making it a 4-0 lead for the Wild Things.
Austin (3-4) cruised through the first five innings, allowing only two hits, one a leadoff double in the first inning by David Cronin.
“I was happy with how Austin threw the ball,” Langbehn said. “We worked a lot on Sunday, his bullpen day, he implemented what we worked on. He did a better job and didn’t get offspeed happy.”
In the sixth, Cronin dropped down a perfect bunt single. Two batters later, Ryan Long, the hero of Evansville’s 5-4 win Tuesday night, hit his second home run in as many games, a two-run shot to right centerfield, cutting Washington’s lead in half. It was Long’s league-leading seventh home run.
Two batters later, Dakota Phillips doubled down the right-field line and that was all for Austin. Reliever B.J. Sabol replaced him and threw only one pitch before play was stopped because of rain and lightning. The game never resumed.
Slone was added to the active roster Tuesday, one day after third baseman Wander Franco was placed on the suspended list. Franco was batting .283 with four home runs and was one of the top defensive infielders in the leaguer with only four errors. He opted to leave the team and did not play in the final four games of the Wild Things road trip that ended Sunday in Joliet. Slone was signed out of Wright State University, where he batted .264 with six home runs this spring.