The Jefferson City Renegades do not look like a playoff team.
In Thursday's 6-2 loss to the Joplin Outlaws, the Renegades' pitchers hit more batters, seven, than its hitters had hits (five). Head coach Mike DeMilia was ejected in the top of the fourth for arguing a "fair ball" call on a liner former Renegade Mike Million hit down the third-base line.
Jefferson City stranded 11 runners and struck out 10 times. The Renegades are 3-14 in the month of July, a slide that saw them tumble from the top of the MINK South Division and an above .500 record to 12-23 and fighting for the division's final playoff spot. Joplin locked up a playoff spot with the win, and Jefferson City trails Nevada by 1 games for the right to play the Outlaws on the road with three regular-season games remaining, none against each other.
"Actually, (our approach) does have to change," DeMilia said after the game. "I'm not sure what the answer is, if I knew the answer, we'd already be doing it. But our approach does have to change, and I won't sleep much tonight thinking about what we need to do differently."
Dede Cole was 2-for-4 and Carter Mize and Paul Haupt each drove in a run for the Renegades, who brought Lincoln Orellana to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two out. Orellana, hitting .288 on the season, stepped in hitting 1-for-4 and struck out looking against Nozomu Yamauchi.
It was a night of small errors compounding into trouble for Jefferson City. Starter Manny Martinez, who threw 5 good innings, gave up seven hits and three earned runs. But with two out in the third, he hit two straight batters to turn the Joplin order over, and David Butterfield hit an RBI double to open the scoring.
The Renegades responded by manufacturing a run in the bottom of the inning on a walk, an error and Mize's single to score Sam Creed. But Million's single and DeMilia's ejection — which he said he was not trying to do — turned into another hit-batter from Martinez and an error to put the Outlaws ahead for good.
"We're unfortunately making some mistakes that other teams aren't, and that's why we're sitting where we are," DeMilia said.
Despite the defense turning four double plays, Jefferson City had more defensive miscues than showed up in the errors column. Orellana lost a pop fly at the mound in the top of the fifth, and the left side of the infield collectively could not catch what should have been a foul out well short of the third base coaches box in the top of the eighth, and Joplin cashed in with a bases-loaded walk shortly after to extend its lead to 6-1. The outfield collectively also misplayed a few fly balls that gave the Outlaws extra bases.
Because Colton Hoelscher, Lane Threlkeld and Shane Fontenot all struggled in relief, and because of the lack of pitching depth, Orellana came on to pitch in the ninth and faced just three batters after a 4-6 double play on a shallow fly to center.
The Renegades need one of a few possible combinations of wins and Nevada losses to edge the Griffons for the last playoff spot before the regular season ends Sunday.
"We've got to take care of us," DeMilia said. "Everybody's saying, 'Oh what's Nevada doing?' Until we win a game, it doesn't even matter."
The Renegades will try to avoid the three-game sweep today at 7 p.m. at Vivion Field.