After starting an eight-game road stretch last week on a high note, the Arkansas Travelers returned to Dickey-Stephens Park on Wednesday on a down swing.
Last Tuesday, the Travs (30-31 as of Monday evening) went to Springfield and took three games from the Cardinals before suffering a 16-inning disappointment to the end the series. Starting a four-game series at Northwest Arkansas last Saturday, by Monday, Arkansas had lost three of those games.
“We need to get ourselves back on track,” Travs Manager Tim Bogar said. “I think the 16-inning game was a letdown, and we should have won it. We haven’t played well, and we need to get back to playing how we play.”
In both a 7-5 loss to the Naturals last Sunday and a 6-5 loss last Monday, the Travelers led in both contests before allowing Northwest Arkansas to notch the wins. In Sunday’s loss, Arkansas led by as many as three runs two different times. In Monday’s setback, the Travs led 4-1 in the third inning but were kept scoreless until the ninth frame.
“We need to concentrate on the things we do well,” Bogar said. “We need to play better defense and have better at bats and execute our pitches better. We need to not let their guys beat us and get out the guys we should get out.”
After wrapping up the series at the Naturals on Tuesday, the Travelers return home for series against Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas. In the hunt to win the first half of the North Division, they have seven games left in the first half of the season. Five of those are against Tulsa (including a doubleheader Thursday) and two against the Naturals. Going into the final game Tuesday at Northwest Arkansas, the Naturals were tied with Springfield and both clubs were half a game ahead of Tulsa. So the home stand becomes important.
“We’re fine and just have to get back to doing what we do well and get our heads on straight,” Bogar said. “Our focus changes some as we are still trying to make the guys better but the end result of the games is more of a focus. It will be good to get home and try to finish out in front of our fans.”
Last week, Arkansas went to Springfield and won three consecutive games before losing the finale of the series, 7-6, in 16 innings. The Travs tied the game with a run in the eighth and took a 6-4 lead in the top of the 10th but couldn’t hold on for the victory. The night before, the Travelers won the game in the top of the ninth on Jimmy Swift’s two-out, two-run home run that gave them a 4-3 victory.
“We played real well and I’m not disappointed in the Springfield trip,” Bogar said. “We went in a game back and when we left we were one up.”
The 16-inning marathon is so far the Travelers longest game of the season. The 5:25 it took to play is also longest time thus far, and they recorded season highs with 22 strikeouts and 10 walkouts. That game also moved Arkansas to 1-4 in extra inning contests.