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Kansas City wins in controversial fashion

Kansas City wins in controversial fashion

Kansas City wins in controversial fashion

TERRY HERSOM For the Journal

SIOUX CITY – Whether or not the rules were properly applied is now water under the bridge.

What you have – officially, that is -- is a 5-4 victory that may end up sending the Kansas City T-Bones to the league playoffs for the first time in their seven seasons of American Association baseball.

And, much as the Sioux City Explorers didn’t like the way they blew a 4-2 lead on a bizarre eighth-inning play, the more offended party could actually wind up being the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

Kansas City’s controversial victory, after all, pulled the T-Bones into a tie for the league’s wild-card lead with Fargo-Moorhead, both teams now at 53-41 with six games to play after the RedHawks dropped a 7-1 verdict to the Central Division-leading Lincoln Saltdogs.

Still very much alive, meanwhile, are the Gary SouthShore RailCats, falling 8-1 in Sioux Falls but sitting only one game behind the co-leaders at 52-42.

Trailing 4-2 after seven innings, Kansas City was definitely on the ropes to some degree after X’s reliever Chris Powell teamed up with first baseman Tyler Ogle on a nifty play to rob Marcus Lemon of a base hit leading off the eighth.

With the dangerous duo of Kevin Keyes and Kyle Petty due up, Sioux City Manager Steve Montgomery turned to rookie Ryan Flores, whose baffling slider has given both sluggers problems. However, Keyes, the league’s home run leader with 24, drew a one-out walk and then Petty, another long-ball threat, also trotted to first without putting the ball in play.

One fly ball later, there were two outs with the runners still at first and second when Chantz Mack jerked the first pitch he saw into the right-field corner. Keyes easily raced home on the play while Petty approached third base and Mack had not yet reached second when first baseman Tyler Ogle launched a relay throw to third. When the throw got away from third baseman Eudor Garcia, the ball bounded into the Sioux City dugout and was ruled out of play.

Petty, quite appropriately, was waved home with the tying run, then came the disputed call that awarded Mack both third base and home, scoring the run that proved to be the game-winner.

“Once the throw is made from a position player and the ball goes out of play, you’re awarded the base you’re going to and then an extra base after that,’’ said Montgomery. “(Mack) had not touched second base when the ball was thrown. That’s all. It’s a blown call.

Thus ended what looked like it might become the second longest Sioux City winning streak in a season sabotaged by injuries and the loss of three key contributors to major league organizations. Although the X’s had put together an eight-game win streak early in the campaign, this was the fourth time they’d reached three wins in a row without getting No. 4.

Of course, the X’s have next to nothing at stake, having been erased from the postseason picture either during or even before the club-record 10-game losing streak they finally halted last Thursday. Still, having won four out of five since then, Montgomery’s team looked like they might corral yet another.

It would have been a special treat, too, for pitcher Keith Picht, a reliever who has turned in some solid performances while making five late-season starts. Picht, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, left after six innings with the ill-fated 4-2 advantage.

The Explorers gained that lead with two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth, three singles and a pair of walks made it a 2-2 contest. Then, in the fifth, back-to-back one-out doubles by Levon Washington and Nate Samson sent the X’s in front 3-2. Two batters later, Eudor Garcia’s second single of the night send the lead to 4-2.

Even with the hard-luck defeat, it was a noteworthy outing for the Explorers, facing a highly regarded pitcher acquired by the T-Bones to fortify their playoff bid. Jared Mortensen was making his debut for K.C. after going 8-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 10 starts for the Texas AirHogs. He didn’t factor in the decision after allowing eight hits and four runs in six innings.

The Explorers, now 43-51, host the T-Bones again Wednesday and Thursday nights before a season-ending four-game series with arch-rival Sioux Falls starts with two games at the Bird Cage before wrapping up Sunday evening (6:05) and Monday afternoon (2:05 p.m.) at Lewis and Clark Park.