SIOUX CITY | Brilliant pitching and yet another display of dazzling defense.
The Sioux City Explorers are very likely the most wasteful team in American Association baseball.
And, after surrendering a 2-0 loss Friday night to the league’s premier club, it was more of the same for the frustrated X’s of Manager Stan Cliburn.
Two solo homers in the first inning did all the damage as the league-leading Wichita Wingnuts improved to 23-12 and saddled Sioux City with its third loss in a row on a steamy night at Lewis and Clark Park.
Veteran righthander Junior Guerra improved to 4-0, teaming up with two relievers on a five-hit shutout that marked the fourth blanking of the season for an X’s team that has scored just four runs while dropping their last three starts.
“You can’t win if you can’t score,’’ sighed Cliburn, whose team fell to 14-20 despite a 17th error-free effort that kept them entrenched atop the league defensive stats. “Nobody could come up with the big hit. I guess you have to tip your hat to their pitching staff.’’
Not far behind, though, were X’s starter Dan Jurik along with relievers Cody Satterwhite and Chris Bodishbaugh, blanking Wichita over the final eight innings of a game decided by two of the first four batters.
Jake Kahaulelio, hitting second for the Association’s strongest offense, launched the third pitch of the game over the left-field wall for his ninth home run of the season, moving into a tie for fourth in the league in that department.
Two batters later, C.J. Ziegler turned on a 3-2 delivery and hit a towering blast that a brisk southerly breeze narrowly deposited over the very same wall for a 2-0 lead and Ziegler’s league-high 13th round-tripper.
The two homers marked the 10th and 11th of the season off Jurik, the league leader in gopher balls. However, aside from the 15 runs those 11 bombs have produced, the 26-year-old righthander has allowed just seven additional runs in seven starts.
“Those guys (Kahaulelio and Ziegler) hit mistakes,’’ said Cliburn. “We threw a gem out there tonight. But the pitching we’ve faced, the guys who have beat us have spotted their fastballs really good.’’
After a one-out double by Abel Nieves in the second inning, a bunt single two batters later by Jared McDonald was the only other hit allowed by Jurik, whose teammates have won three times while losing 6-5, 2-0, 3-1 and 2-0 again in his other trips to the hill.
Sioux City had runners in scoring position in three different innings, stranding nine for the contest while striking out 11 times. And, a game-ending double play didn’t exactly help cheer things up as Alberto Espinosa struck out and pinch-runner Anthony Kaskadden was picked off first base.
“It’s a situation where your run (at first base) didn’t mean a thing,’’ said Cliburn. “I think the play was close. I think he was actually safe. But it can’t be close in that situation.’’
The shutout loss followed a 5-3 setback on Thursday as the teams opened a four-game series and the X’s picked up two of those runs in a futile ninth-inning rally. The night before that, Sioux City squandered a complete-game five-hitter by Jason Jarvis in a 2-1 road loss to the Lincoln Saltdogs.
Article courtesy of Terry Hersom of the Sioux City Journal