Wahoos Can’t Break Losing Streak With Birmingham

July 8, 2019

The Blue Wahoos held leads three times Sunday in effort to break a losing streak against the Birmingham Barons.

In each case, prosperity was short-lived.

For the third time in this series, the Blue Wahoos suffered a walk-off loss, but the one Sunday occurred in the most bizarre way, after reliever Zack Weiss’ two out, wild pitch in the 10th inning caromed down the left field line, allowing two runs to score in the Barons’ 6-5 win at Regions Field in Birmingham.

It became the fourth consecutive loss for the Blue Wahoos (9-9 second half), after they entered the road trip on a six-game win streak.

The Barons (13-5 second half), who had the Southern League’s worst record in the first half, won their eighth consecutive home game, their 11th overall in the past 12 games.

Birmingham’s eight-game home win streak is the club’s longest in six years. The Barons and Blue Wahoos will play again Monday and Tuesday as part of a six-game series.

The Blue Wahoos loss continued their recent struggles on the road. They have now lost 12 of their last 14 road games.

They seemed in position for a breakthrough Sunday. Trailing 4-2 in the ninth, they tied the game with singles. Mark Contreras led off the ninth with a base hit. Joe Cronin followed with a single. Aaron Whitehead moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.

Jordan Gore grounded out to first, allowing Contreras to score. Travis Blankenhorn came through again with a big hit, this time his two-out, RBI single to right field tied the game.

After Blue Wahoos’ reliever Hector Lujan, who pitched two scoreless innings Sunday, retired the Barons with a double-play after two batters reached on singles, the game went extra innings.

In the 10th, Alex Kirilloff began on second base in the MILB extra-inning format. Lewin Diaz drove him home with a double. But Birmingham reliever Hunter Schryver retired the next three batters to keep it a one-run game.

Weiss started the bottom of the 10th in relief of Lujan. He walked Joel Booker, after Luis Gonzalez was placed on second base. Blake Rutherford singled to load the bases.

Weiss then got Gavin Sheets, the Barons’ hottest hitter, to ground into a double play that began with a force out at home.

One out away from a win, calamity ensued. Weiss’ pitch got away from catcher Ben Rortvedt and the ball bounced down the line allowing Booker to score, then Rutherford, who kept running and beat the throw to the plate.

The game began three hours earlier with Kirilloff blasting a first-inning, solo home run, his second in three days.

Blue Wahoos pitcher Charlie Barnes held that lead until Birmingham tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning when Sheets hit a solo homer, his 11th HR this season. It also extended his on-base streak to 25 games. He is rated the No. 17 prospect in the Chicago White Sox organization by MLB Pipeline.

The Blue Wahoos regained the lead in the fifth inning when Joe Cronin’s double was followed by Jordan Gore’s one-out double.

But in the sixth inning, the Barons knocked Barnes out of the game after Booker and Rutherford singled and Sheets hit a run-scoring double. Alex Phillips replaced Barnes and got the first out, but gave up an RBI signled to Damek Tomscha, then a ground ball out that scored Sheets with the third run of the inning.

It stayed 4-2 until the eventful ninth and 10th innings.

Four Blue Wahoos players had multiple hits among the team’s 12 for the game. Blankenhorn, Kirilloff, Contreras and Cronin all had two hits.  Eight of the Blue Wahoos batters reached base at least once in the game.

The vital statistic again was the Blue Wahoos finishing the game 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

The series continues Monday with the Blue Wahoos’ Jorge Alcala (5-5, 5.81 ERA) going against Birmingham’s Matt Tomshaw (3-4, 3.29).

The good news for the Blue Wahoos is their road woes haven’t cost a big drop in the standings. Jacksonville (10-8) leads the South Division, but the other four teams are within three games. Pensacola and Biloxi are tied for second with 9-9 records.

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