Wichita provided plenty of pre-show boom on Fireworks Night at Joe Becker Stadium on Friday.
The Wingnuts smacked four home runs, accounting for six of their runs in a 7-2 victory over the Joplin Blasters in the opener of a three-game series.
The loss extended Joplin's losing streak to six games and dropped the Blasters (14-26) to 10 games behind the South Division-leading Wingnuts (24-16). Game 2 of the series is at 7:05 tonight.
Forty games in, Blasters manager Gabe Suarez admits the recent tailspin is quickly killing Joplin's hopes of a postseason run.
"It's one thing or the other and I think everybody's getting tired of it," Suarez said of the skid. "Until we do something about it, it's going to keep happening. We've got to step up and do something about it."
On a large scale, pitching, or lack thereof, has been the biggest issue for the Blasters this season. Home runs and walks have been the staff's key bugaboo, and that trend continued Friday.
Joplin walked five Wingnuts — three of which came around to score — pushing the season total of free passes to 198 (4.95 per game) to go along with 55 home runs allowed.
"It's getting ahead in the count," Suarez said of the Blasters' inability to keep the ball in the yard. "Getting behind hitters in this league, they're going to punish you. You've got to get ahead in the count. You've got to throw quality strikes and you've got to have an out pitch."
Making his first start with the Blasters, Ethan Rosebeck — signed earlier in the day from the Pecos League's Roswell Invaders — surrendered only three hits over four innings in his American Association debut. Unfortunately for the right hander, all three of those hits cleared the outfield wall.
Two-run homers by Matt Chavez and Brent Dean made it 4-0 in the top of the second. After Joplin got a run back on Willie Cabrera's eighth homer of the season in the second, Harrison Kain connected off Rosebeck (0-1) in the fourth to make it 5-1.
Former Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves major leaguer Brent Clevlen homered off reliever Josh Hodges in the sixth to make it 6-1. Kain's sacrifice fly in the eighth accounted for the only Wingnuts run that wasn't scored off a long ball.
Of course, Joplin's struggles don't solely lie on the pitching staff. Lack of offense has also been a problem of late.
Despite nearly matching the Wingnuts in hits (Joplin had seven, Wichita eight), the Blasters couldn't duplicate their muscle. Wichita native Garrett Gould — a second-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009 — started for his hometown team and surrendered a run on three hits in three innings before relievers Jesse Pratt and Chase Johnson combined to hold the Blasters scoreless over the next five innings.
Luis Terrero capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly off Wichita reliever Fabian Roman in the ninth.
Suarez said his team could use a shot in the arm.
"We were fine at the beginning of the season, and at this point it's a little bit of confidence," Suarez said. "We've got to get that confidence back. I'm tired of saying it's early in the season. Now's the point where you've got to turn it around or else it's going to get too late and we're going to get too far behind."
WINGNUTS 7, BLASTERS 2: Wichita hit four home runs, which accounted for six of the team's runs on Friday, to extend Joplin's losing streak to six games.
TRANSACTIONS: After trading RHP Patrick Mincey, who was scheduled to start on Friday, to Fargo-Moorhead for cash late Thursday, the Blasters released OF Cie Arell and signed RHP Ethan Rosebuck — who started on the mound in Mincey's place — and INF Tyler Shannon, who started at shortstop and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Friday.
ON DECK: Game 2 of the three-game set is at 7:05 tonight. The Blasters are scheduled to send newly-acquired RHP Raul Rivera to the mound for his first start with the team. Wichita's has yet to name a starter for tonight's game.