So you were waiting for the low point, maybe? How about the fifth inning of the second game of Monday’s doubleheader? A boiling day, a team in trouble in many ways, and a handful of diehard fans in the stands at the Stadium. Edinburg was in the process of being doubled up by the last-place Coastal Bend Thunder, a motley crew of ragtags who had come into the day 16.5 games behind the home side. The nadir was at hand.
The Roadrunners have been dismal lately, losing focus, having issues with hustle, and generally trying to give away first place. After one particularly lackluster effort in the field, on which a pair of fielders barely seemed to react as a mildly stroked ground ball dissected them, a fan let them have it.
“Hey, you got no range to your left….or to your right!” shouted the leather-lunged fan, who apparently had started Thirsty Thursday festivities a few days early. The Thunder players cracked up.
And though he was exaggerating, this frustrated fan, there was no denying it: the ‘Runners were dying on the vine, the lead down to a single game now. Though they have miraculously managed to hang onto first place through a stretch of sub-.500 ball, this team needs a wakeup call, and fast.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
It all seemed so gay back on Independence Day when the club was 25-8 and storming over every foe using sharp bats and great pitching. But since then, manager Vince Moore’s bunch is just 15-20, as each area of play has suffered. Now injuries are piling up and momentum gained from the nice beginning is long, long gone.
“I tell you, some of these guys think that they can just turn it on when we get to the playoffs,” grumbled Moore, as he watched an infield boot that would eventually lead to yet another pair of unearned runs. “But it doesn’t work like that…I have to say it, some of these guys have just quit. It’s been a lesson to be learned for me this summer.”
Two weeks back, Moore noted that he would get to see the character of his squad when the inevitable summer swoon came calling. The verdict for now is not so good.
“I understand that you have injuries and you have bad times,” he said. “But some of our players are not even trying it seems. They have no approach at the plate and they just jog after balls that are hit. It’s hard to take.”
Edinburg lost 6-3 and 6-2 Monday, and the Amarillo Dillas, 2.5 games back before the night, are hot on the trail.
Veteran pitcher Eric Montoya commented that with Amarillo heading to the Panhandle for a long homestand at a park where it is hard to beat, the ‘Runners had better get it together.
“It’s a real struggle right now and I’m not sure we have the sort of team that is going to pull out of this,” said the 8-game winner. “I mean, you have to play your way out of it, but right now, we aren’t doing it. Not even close.”
The mood in the dugout right now is sullen, quiet, and accusatory. Moore says that in situations like this, players don’t even realize that they’re getting down on themselves, and others.
“But I can see it, and I don’t like it,” said the 6th-year skipper, who let out an impromptu bear’s growl at one point during Game Two. The reaction? Not much. They are just down right now, and nothing seems to help. Not even the silly games orchestrated by relief pitcher Rey Silva, a master of hijinx whose boyish nature and obvious love for the game are manifest in his constant facilitation of secret rites during the “Circle Game.”
The ‘Runners walk around making a circle with their thumb and forefinger, and any teammate who looks into the dreaded oval has been “got.” The other pastime these days is a rather inventive game of tag, where between innings whoever is “it” will attempt to sneak up on an unsuspecting sleeper to gently tap him on the shoulder.
But lately even the fun and games are no fun, as the clubhouse is swollen with solitude even in the midst of 22 bodies. One veteran outfielder who wished to remain anonymous suggested that if guys do not want to gut it out and play hurt, they need to just go home.
“I can understand where he’s coming from,” admitted Moore, adding that in some cases, the injuries are enough to keep a fellow out of the lineup. “But we don’t want to lose someone for the year.”
One guy who has battled through the pain is infielder Wilmer Pino, a hustling cat who notched three of the four hits Edinburg managed in the second loss to the doormat Thunder. Third baseman Wilson Batista has also played hard throughout the losing streak, and the manager noted that he hopes some of their moxie will rub off on the others.
“You always have some guys who are willing to keep working hard, and we have a few,” Moore said. “But not enough. These guys have to start acting like they want to play, and lately, it just hasn’t been the case.”
Along with the recent pall, a gallows humor has arisen, as if some of the ‘Runners are trying to jumpstart the unit with hyperbole.
“We just need a week off,” joked reliever Aaron Guerra, who pitched very well in Game Two after subbing for another ex-UTPA Bronc, starter Evan Cunningham.
Starter Mark DiBernardo, a clever wit among many, answered, “Hey, when’s the next hurricane?”
NOTES: The clincher of the homestand came Tuesday, and then it was off to Harlingen to see if luck would improve against the suddenly competitive WhiteWings.