By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Perhaps Zak Wasilewski should swing the bat too.
The Tazewell product put together a stellar effort on the mound, but the recent doldrums with the bats continued for Bluefield as the Blue Jays dropped a 5-1 Appalachian League decision to Johnson City in front of 864 spectators at Bowen Field.
Bluefield (10-7), which has lost four straight, did snap a 27-inning scoreless streak, but still managed just one run and two hits against a trio of Johnson City pitchers.
“You know what, that is the good thing about baseball, you get to come back out the next night and try to fix it,” Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said. “You don’t have to wait a week, a couple of days, everybody goes through it, it is just something that has be managed and fought through.”
Since scoring six runs in the bottom of the eighth against Elizabethton on July 4, the Blue Jays have scored just three runs, and just one in the last three games. Bluefield was shut out 3-0 and 7-0 in its previous two games.
“Sooner or later those things will tend to even it out,” Holmberg said. “What do you do? You keep working hard, I don’t think anybody is immune from going into a little slump.
“Some are early in the season, some are in the middle of the season and the worst thing is to have one at the end of the season. Looking at it from that perspective, it is good that we are going through it now and not later.”
Wasilewski left with the score tied at 1-1 after five innings. The Tazewell southpaw threw 66 pitches, allowing four hits and one run, striking out two and walking one in his third straight solid outing for the Blue Jays.
“Zak did well, Zak pitched extremely well, you bet. You couldn’t ask for a better outing out of him,” Holmberg said. “He has made some real nice improvements in a short period of time and I think that can lend itself to some confidence.
“That confidence thing applies to the hitters too, but I couldn’t be more happy with Wasilewski’s outing. He threw the ball very well.”
Johnson City (10-7), which out-hit the Blue Jays 9-2, was able to reach Yeyfry Del Rosario for an unearned run in the sixth and three more runs in the seventh, keyed by a solo home run from Kenneth Peoples-Walls, who also had an RBI double to score a run against Wasilewski in the first.
Peoples-Walls, a fourth round draft choice out of a California high school in 2011, led all batters with three hits, raising his average to .361 with his mother in the Bowen Field stands.
“We are going to try and keep his mom in town because he has played well since his mom has been in town,” said Johnson City manager Joe Kruzel, with a smile. “We might end up trying to get her either an apartment or a hotel room for the rest of the season.”
Bluefield was able to snap its 27-inning scoreless streak in the fourth against Hansel De Los Santos, who walked Mitch Nay and then allowed a two-out RBI double to right center field by Dawel Lugo.
Bluefield, who put the ball in play, striking out just four times in the game, received its only other hit on a double by Jonathan Davis in the third.
“It goes in streaks, they are a very good ball club, well-coached and they do some things well,” Kruzel said. “They hit some balls hard, they have been right at us, but they are a very dangerous team and we understand that.”
Johnson City took the early lead when Vaughn Bryan singled to right, Brett Wiley was hit by a pitch and Peoples-Walls blooped a Wasilewski pitch down the right field line and Bryan hustled home when the ball skipped away from Derrick Loveless.
Wasilewski, who retired the final three batters in the first, allowed singles in the second and fifth, along with a walk, but also retired nine straight hitters at one point in the game. He worked out of a first and third and one out jam in the fifth.
Lugo’s double pushed across Nay in the fourth to tie the score at 1-1. Johnson City pitchers De Los Santos, Anderson Gerdel and Zach Loraine retired 15 of the final 16 batters in the game, with Loveless drawing a walk in the sixth.
“I think it is a matter of just continuing what we do,” Holmberg said. “We might have a different plan or a different approach, sometimes you get too anxious and you get too eager and you don’t trust your swing and you try to do too much. You try to hit a 4-run home run with nobody on.”
Ronnierd Garcia reached on a one-out single in the sixth, moved to third on an error by second baseman Tim Locastro and scored on an infield out by Kyle Grieshaber.
Another error in the seventh led to another run for the Cardinals.
“You can’t give the other team four outs or five outs,” Holmberg said. “Those extra outs seem to come back to haunt you and they have for us.”
Richy Pedroza reached with a one-out walk in the seventh, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a single from Bryan. Wiley struck out, but catcher Jorge Saez had to throw to first and Bryan — who had moved to second on a throw home — ran to third base.
Angel Rojas’ throw to that base was low and eluded Nay to allow Bryan to score. Peoples-Walls then ended Del Rosario’s night with a solo home run over the left field fence.
Johnson City had just finished getting swept in a three-game series at Princeton last week, and could now do the same to Bluefield with a win tonight over the Blue Jays.
“We have been fortunate,” Kruzel said. “We have pitched better this series, we have made some plays defensively and definitely got some timely hitting. It has been a total team effort.”
Bluefield, which has dropped into a first place tie in the East Division with Burlington, has scored just three runs over the last four games, but had averaged 5.2 runs per game during a 10-3 start to the season, which is what Holmberg will remind his Blue Jays.
“We have played rather well defensively, we have swung the bats real well and we have pitched rather well up until starting with the Elizabethton series and in this series with the first two games,” Holmberg said. “You just have to tell the guys just to remain positive, and they do, and just keep working, and they do.
“We will see what happens, we will just keep plugging along.”
Bluefield will host Johnson City tonight, with Alberto Tirado and Jairo LaBourt on the mound for the Blue Jays. That will be followed by a six-game road trip before returning to Bowen Field on July 17.
“Baseball has a funny way of humbling you and some nights the ball bounces your way and some times it doesn’t bounce your way,” Holmberg said. “Right now things just aren’t going our way.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Bowen Field
Johnson City.........100 001 300 — 5 9 0
Bluefield...............000 100 000 — 1 2 2
Hansel De Los Santos, Anderson Gerdel (7), Zach Loraine and Roman Wick. Zak Wasilewski, Yeyfry Del Rosario (6), Alvido Jimenez (7), Justin D’Alessandro (9) and Jorge Saez. W—De Los Santos (1-1); L—Del Rosario (2-1); S—Gerdel (1). HR—Kenneth Peoples-Walls (1). Att—864.