For the first time in three years, there will be no playoff baseball at Wild Things Park in September.
That much was obvious weeks, if not months, ago, but it became official Sunday afternoon when the Lake Erie Crushers defeated the Schaumburg Boomers, thus eliminating Washington from playoff contention. That happened about an hour before the Wild Things took the field and played a game against the Windy City ThunderBolts that showed why Washington and the playoffs are going their separate ways.
Windy City used three consecutive two-out singles in the ninth inning, the last by Zach Rheams off Washington closer Zach Strecker, to force extra innings, and Tyler Alamo belted a two-out three-run homer in the 10th that gave the Thunderbolts an unlikely 10-7 victory.
“Can’t finish,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said. “The offense dried up and …”
Washington scored three runs in the first inning, two in the third and one in the fourth to forge an early 6-3 lead.
The Wild Things were the beneficiaries of several odd plays early, none more so than one in the sixth inning. With Washington leading 6-4 and two outs, Windy City had runners on second and third when Tanner Gardner’s single to right field appeared to tie the score. Zach Taylor easily scored from third base on the play and Brynn Martinez looked like he sidestepped the tag of Washington catcher Cody Erickson, who had taken a throw from right fielder Hector Roa. However, umpire Ron Whiting did not make a call because Martinez had stepped around home plate. Erickson went back and tagged Martinez, who had started to return to the dugout thinking he had tied the score.
The Wild Things protected the 6-5 lead until the ninth. Strecker, who was trying for a six-out save, retired the first two batters of the ninth before pinch-hitter Micah Coffey, Tyler Straub and Rheams each singled to make it 6-6.
“We recently made a major change at the top of our batting order, and it has made everyone else have better at-bats,” Windy City manager Brian Smith said. “These guys we have now, we trust them.”
Windy City had two runners on base with two outs in the 10th against rookie reliever Matt Marsili (0-1) when Alamo hit his 13th home run of the season and second of the game. It was a no-doubter to left field.
The ThunderBolts added an insurance run when Coffey singled and scored on a triple down the right-field line by Straub.
Roa hit his league-leading 16th home run to start the bottom of the 10th but it was Washington’s first run since the fourth.
The Wild Things had several chances to deliver an early knockout punch but couldn’t get a clutch hit. Leading 6-5 in the sixth, Washington had runners on second and third with no outs but did not score.
“We did a lot of things right except finish the game,” Langbehn said.
Colby Blueberg (4-1) was the winning pitcher with two innings of relief.
It was Washington’s final game of the season against East Division opponents. The Wild Things went 22-26 against the East including 8-4 against Windy City.
“For us, 4-8 sounds a lot better than 3-9,” Smith said. “Too bad it took 12 games for our pitchers to get it through their heads that Washington will hit breaking balls. You have to throw fastballs against them, which is what our bullpen did.”
The Wild Things have a rare two-day break before beginning a two-game series Wednesday at Florence that starts a string of 10 consecutive games against opponents from the West Division, where the top four teams in the standings are separated by only two games.
Prior to the game, Washington signed rookie outfielder Terrence Pinkston, who played this spring at Maryland-Baltimore County, where he hit .312 and stole 27 bases. Pinskston started in center field against the Thunderbolts and went 1-for-3 with a walk. … Martinez went 4-for-5, his first career four-hit game. … Roa, Erickson and Ryan Cox each drove in two runs for Washington. Erickson had two doubles, including a run-scoring one in the third after fouling off six two-strike pitches.