WooSox starter Josh Winckowski throws in the bullpen before the game against the Rochester Red Wings on May 11, 2022 at Polar Park. (Katie Morrison / MassLive)
WORCESTER -- In a way that’s reminiscent of the struggles the major-league club is facing, the WooSox just can’t seem to get everything to click at the same time as they dropped their sixth straight, 3-2 at Polar Park on Wednesday afternoon.
The WooSox looked primed to snap the skid as Josh Winckowski, Taylor Cole, Geoff Hartlieb and Zack Kelly combined to shut out the Red Wings through eight innings, but things got away from Kaleb Ort in the ninth and Rochester plated three runs to take the second game of the series.
A one-out walk in the ninth proved to be the beginning of the end for Ort and the WooSox. Though he got Richard Urena to fly out for the second out of the inning, three straight hits brought around three runs. The WooSox were able to get a little something going in the ninth as Jaylin Davis singled, but he was stranded on first.
Josh Winckowski tossed two strong innings, a planned shorter outing just in case a pitcher is needed in the majors in the coming days. Winckowski gave up a hit and a walk and struck out two.
“Just potential stuff that could happen up top that they don’t know yet,” WooSox manager Chad Tracy said of Winckowski’s shorter outing. “So we wanted to make sure between [Connor] Seabold, who threw yesterday, and Winc that there’s options available. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t know what’ll happen, but those things happen sometimes. And we’ll see where all that falls.”
Winckowski usually goes about five innings as a starter, but has experience in a relief role as well.
“I tried to keep it the same. I kind of came out a little bit hotter than normal, I guess you could say, obviously when you only have two it’s a little bit shorter, but relatively, it was all the same for me,” Winckowski said.
On the other side, the WooSox got a look at the Nationals’ top prospect according to MLB.com, Cade Cavalli, who turned in easily his best performance of the season and his longest outing of 2022. Cavalli allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings. The WooSox were finally able to get to Cavalli in the fifth for a run, as Rob Refsnyder led off the inning with a double and came around on a single from Ryan Fitzgerald.
The WooSox added an insurance run in the sixth. With one out and runners on first and second, two of the top prospects in Triple-A faced off as Cavalli faced off against Triston Casas. After a passed ball moved the runners to second and third, Casas took Cavalli to the warning track, but the deep drive stayed in the ballpark. Duran scampered home on the sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
The Red Wings had their best chance to score in the eighth when a bunt single, a single to right and an error loaded the bases with two outs. Zack Kelly, who was charged with the error as he couldn’t handle a throw while covering first, got Taylor Gushue to strike out to end the inning and the threat.
Jeter Downs turned a couple of eye-catching plays on defense, helped out by Casas on the other end of the 6-3 out. One was a backhand pick deep at short that he got over to first in time for the out to end the seventh inning, while the other was a slow roller that he fired across the diamond to end the sixth.
“[The defense] been awesome all year,” Winckowski said. “I don’t know what my exact percentage is, but I put it on the ground a lot, so I definitely rely on my infielders a decent bit. So having Jeter and Yolmer [Sanchez[ and Jonathan [Araúz] back there is like a huge confidence booster. Just lets me do what I do best and just pitch to contact.”
The WooSox will get back at it on Thursday night at 6:45 p.m.
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