The season staple of early-inning leads and clutch hitting for decisive runs has suddenly ended right now with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
It led to another trend-breaking experience Saturday night, after the Mobile BayBears again silenced the Blue Wahoos bats in a 3-0 victory, amid a sellout crowd of 5,038, for their third straight win in this weekend series at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
"A tough night offensively," said Blue Wahoos manager Ramon Borrego. "It's been tough last three days. That's the problem right now."
And for the first time all season, the Blue Wahoos (26-17) have lost a series, following eight consecutive series wins. Pensacola was the first team in Southern League history to win the first eight series of the season since the league switched to a five-game series format. They will try and salvage wins in the final two games, beginning Sunday at 1:05 p.m. with ace starter Brusdar Graterol on the mound.
It hasn't been pitching that currently ails the Blue Wahoos. Three pitchers combined Saturday to record 15 strikeouts against Mobile.
But the Blue Wahoos batters managed only two hits Saturday and got only one base runner to second base. This followed a four-hit game Friday in an 8-2 loss.
"We could not put anything together," Borrego said. "We are trying to find a way right now. Guys need to adjust a little bit."
The game featured one of the more spectacular settings for a Saturday sellout. Crystal blue sky and a brilliant sunset gave way to a full moon rising above Pensacola Bay.
The crowd pushed the Blue Wahoos season attendance to just under 80,000 for 18 home home games and their season average is the third-best behind much larger cities Birmingham and Jacksonville in the Southern League.
Saturday's crowd, which included PGA Tour star and team co-owner Bubba Watson and his family, was treated to the antics of the Fur Circus from Atlanta, an emotional moment with a Home Run For Life Event, and then the always-popular post-game fireworks.
The fan experience the Blue Wahoos always seek to enhance was on full display.
Borrego is hoping his team can quickly return to the steady performance that pushed the Blue Wahoos to a fast start.
"We have to do damage early. We haven't been able to do it," Borrego said. "We've hit a lot of ground balls these past two games. We've got to get balls to the gaps."
Travis Blankenhorn had one of the Blue Wahoos two hits and also reached base on a walk. Mitchell Kranson had the other.
The lack of offense spoiled strong pitching. Adam Bray, who was acquired in a trade to the Minnesota Twins organization last year, was tried as a spot starter for two innings. He gave up a run on back-to-back doubles but avoided more damage by striking out the next two batters.
Jorge Alcala followed with five solid innings, highlighted by nine strikeouts. Jeff Ames finished with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. A walk, a passed ball and a wild pitch led to a pair of BayBear runs in the sixth.
"We've had great pitching," Borrego said. "We just need to get our offense back."
- A special, joyous experience Saturday for Caleb Castle, a senior at Robertsdale (Ala.) High School in nearby Baldwin County, who was honored with a Home Run For Life event after the fifth innings.
- Four Blue Wahoos players, outfielders Mark Contreras and Travis Blankenhorn, along with infielder Taylor Grzelakowski and pitcher Randy Dobnak, participated in the Kids Baseball Camp at the Whiting Field Sports Complex as Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
- The two hour free clinic from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, was co-sponsored by Pen Air Federal Credit Union, was for kids ages 6-14. In addition to the players, Kazoo was at the event along with the Blue Wahoos Navy Military mascot.
- The fireworks show was provided by game sponsor High Point Hotels.
- The Fur Circus from Atlanta entertained fans throughout the game and will return Sunday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.