Chihuahuas look to right the ship

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Ruby Cerino

The El Paso Chihuahuas went 2-6 over their last home stand at Southwest University Park.

Luis Gonzalez, Sports Editor

 

El Paso will be hosting the Triple-A Championship game come mid-September, and in order for the Chihuahuas to play in that game, they must win the Pacific Coast League title.

With a third of the season now gone, the Chihuahuas have a 27-30 record that currently has them out of a playoff picture. Their 4-10 record over the past two weeks has prevented them from taking advantage of a myriad of opportunities to take over first place in the Pacific Southern Division.

“It’s been a struggle the last couple of weeks,” said team manager Pat Murphy. “That’s all I can tell you, it’s been a struggle.”

The Chihuahuas are currently in the middle of a four-game series with the division-leading Las Vegas 51s. On Sunday, El Paso was able to break a four-game losing streak with a 15-8 win after losing the opening game of the series 4-9 in the Sin City. It is a huge opportunity to close the two-and-a-half gap between El Paso and the 51’s, but the Chihuahuas have had opportunity after opportunity to close said gap before traveling to Vegas.

The 51’s were on a 10-game losing streak until they beat El Paso on Saturday.

El Paso was at home for most of those 10 games that Vegas dropped, playing an eight-game home stand at Southwest University Park against Iowa and Omaha. It was the perfect opportunity for Murphy’s team to take over first place, but the Chihuahuas went 2-6 at home and 2-8 over the 10-game Las Vegas losing streak.

The missed opportunities are the last thing Murphy wants his players to be worried about though.

“I hope the players aren’t. They’ve just got to worry about getting it going,” Murphy said. “We really haven’t been on a great run since early in the season.”

Both of the series during the home stand began with wins for the Chihuahuas and both wins were followed by three-straight victories for the visitors.

Against Iowa, El Paso opened the series with a 14-2 romp. Starting pitcher James Needy won his fifth game of the season, working six full innings and allowing just one run and striking out eight.

“It’s about going out there and pitching with conviction,” Needy said. “Our starters have been pitching well and we have a veteran staff that has a lot of experience.”

The Chihuahuas lost the next three games and were outscored 20-11. They stopped the three-game losing skid with a win in the series opener against the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Starting pitcher Jason Lane gave up three runs in a first inning that seemed to foreshadow another loss for the canines. The offense, however, came right back and scored three runs of their own in the bottom of the same inning.

“As a starting pitcher you set the tone of the game, and to put us in a hole right out of the gate is the last thing I want to do,” Lane said. “When you can’t be perfect all the time and you do and they bounce back, it’s like a second life.”

Lane settled down after the rough first inning and went on to pitch 26 of the 27 outs.

Lane’s box score was not impressive, allowing 10 hits and four earned runs on the night with just two strike outs, but he controlled the opposing offense, providing an impressive start—the longest of the season for any Chihuahua.

“There were not very many hard-hit balls after the first inning,” said Chihuahuas’ infielder Tommy Medica. “Anytime you have a starter who can go that deep into a game, it just helps you for the rest of the series as well as the next series, keeping that bullpen fresh.”

After the 7-4 win, the Chihuahuas went on to lose three straight again. They were outscored 20-8 by the Storm Chasers.

Once the Chihuahuas are done playing in Las Vegas, they will return home for a four-game series with the Sacramento River Cats starting on Thursday, June 11.

Lost opportunities have been the theme of the last few weeks for the El Paso Chihuahuas. Murphy and company hope this trend can be turned around, and they will continue to aim for the first-place spot in the division, while looking to achieve what is perhaps the toughest part of all minor league baseball—consistency.

“It’s embarrassing to play this poorly over the past 25 games,” Murphy said. “(To be) two (games) out of first is really fortunate (for us). We just got to keep going here and hopefully something will click.”

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected]