Another loss, another pitcher injury piled onto growing stack as Nevada swept Fish with 9-6 triumph at Nevada
NEVADA, Mo. — It’s tough to tell which are accumulating more-rapidly these days for the embattled 2018 Chillicothe Mudcats – losses or injuries.
Already without – for the entire weekend series at Nevada – two of their four position players selected for last week’s MINK League All-Star Game because of health issues that developed during that event and its associated activities, the Mudcats had one of their two All-Star pitchers trudge off the Lyons Field mound in the fourth inning with, according to Doug Doughty, Mudcats general manager, his throwing shoulder ailing Sunday night.
The premature departure of starting pitcher William Cain in what eventually settled out as a 9-6 loss – Chillicothe’s fourth-straight – came with head coach Caleb Bounds having only one other full-time pitcher available to him for the evening. With oft-used lefthanded hurlers Tristen Sewell and Noah McClanahan on what Doughty related to the C-T as short family vacations, only righthander Hayden House reportedly was listed on the Mudcats’ official lineup card as a potential replacement.
When Cain (0-2), who had started and pitched six innings last Tuesday before working two-thirds of an inning the next night in the All-Star Game, wasn’t able to continue after having allowed three runs and four hits to the first six Nevada batters of the fourth inning, House was summoned.
He kept any more runs from scoring that inning, temporarily keeping the Fish within 5-3. However, he did allow two runs of his own – one unearned – during the fifth and sixth frames before Bounds turned to combo players/pitchers Nate Gawelko and Jack Cavanaugh for an inning on the hill apiece to close out the team’s latest rough night.
For Gawelko, it was his first pitching since impressively making his mound debut for the Mudcats in back-to-back games June 23-24. However, after not allowing any hits or runs in those two appearances, he was roughed up by red-hot Nevada – which won its seventh in a row – for two hits and two runs. Cavanaugh – originally recruited primarily as a pitcher, but, due to some arm tenderness, having thrown only two innings since starting and winning the team’s third game of the season – threw a scoreless eighth behind Gawelko.
Even with two replacement pitchers due to have joined the Mudcats prior to last night’s home doubleheader against Ozark, the late June departure of three hurlers, the Doughty-related decision by little-used Gabriel Seijas to go home and rest his sore shoulder, some neck pain which has limited Lane Threlkeld’s availability recently, and now Cain’s injury will compound the team’s shortage of arms.
Even with Threlkeld apparently feeling better, according to the general manager, and Sewell and McClanahan due back shortly, the uncertainty marking the mound corps will make the challenge of reversing the team’s won-lost fortunes that much greater.
Sunday night’s third-consecutive loss at Nevada, coupled with the 2-1 loss to St. Joseph in Chillicothe’s last game before the All-Star “break,” means the Fish are back at their low-water mark for the season – six games under .500 – at 10-16 overall and 9-15 in league competition.
Six games below .500 – this year’s team also was 2-8 and 3-9 earlier – not only is the lowest point for this year’s club, but also the farthest below break-even any Mudcats team ever has been. None of the prior 16 clubs had been more than four games under .500.
With the current situations health-wise and in the level of play, the prospects of the Mudcats continuing their distinction of having never had a losing season are dwindling almost daily.
While the league’s ultra-generous playoffs setup (three of four teams in each of the two divisions qualify) and the similar struggles of late of fellow North Division members St. Joseph and Clarinda (Iowa) mean the Mudcats still are viable in the playoffs race, pure mathematics are less forgiving, in terms of having a winning or break-even final record.
With only 20 regular-season contests remaining at the start of last night’s doubleheader – the first games in a stretch of 13 of 15 at home (including the July 10 outing at Trenton), the daunting numbers shape up this way: Chillicothe must win at least 13 of its last 20 to assure itself of extending its notable stat of success.
It also could preserve the distinction by finishing the regular season no worse than four games under .500, still sneaking into the playoffs, and then posting several wins among five potential postseason games.
Pulling off either of those scenarios will require a much-enhanced level of play than the shorthanded Mudcats had at Nevada.
The already-spotty offense was undercut by the non-availability of the team’s top two hitters to date, Chillicothean Derek Hussey and Gaven Strobel, after they departed the All-Star festivities at Joplin gimpy. Then, when it did produce some scoring, the pitchers usually could not help sustain that positive momentum with a scorelesss next half-inning.
Shut out Saturday night, the Fish pushed at least one run across in eight of the 18 innings played Friday and Sunday. However, on six of those eight scoring occasions – only one of which plated more than one run, Nevada either matched or exceeded the Chillicothe output in its next at-bat.
A microcosm of that deflating trend took place in Sunday’s fourth inning.
The Mudcats rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the top of the fourth inning. A walk to Andrew Williams, a single by then-right fielder Cavanaugh, Dalton Robison’s RBI single to right-center field, a run-scoring wild pitch, and Jared Fry’s 2-outs double to deep left-center field – his first extra-base hit of the summer – gave Cain a lead to protect.
His right shoulder presumably already barking at him, the Chillicothe hurler could not protect the lead even one pitch. His first offering sailed over the left-field fence for the first of two Lukas Polanco solo homers in the game. Polanco also had a 3-runs blast in Chillicothe in the Mudcats’ June 16 10-4 win.
Sunday, after Polanco tied it, a 1-out error was followed by three singles in succession, kayoing Cain and giving Nevada (13-9, 13-9 MINK) a lead it kept the rest of the way.
With Polanco’s two pokes Sunday, the host Griffons finished the 3-games series with five home runs at their power-friendly park. However, they also hit two in three games at Chillicothe’s more-spacious Shaffer Park stadium.