SIOUX CITY – After back-to-back division championships, a disappointing 2017 season for the Sioux City Explorers is producing some more history, after all.
Outslugged 13-7 Sunday night by the Lincoln Saltdogs, the free-falling X’s absorbed their eighth loss in a row, becoming the first Sioux City team in the club’s 25-year history to both win and lose eight consecutive contests in the same season.
While a struggling offense finally showed a little life, the pitching just couldn’t keep up with the American Association’s winningest team – a Lincoln outfit steaming toward a Central Division title with a league-best 53-30 record.
Knotted up 5-5 after three endless innings to start things off, the Explorers simply couldn’t keep up in a game that left them one loss away from equaling the franchise-record nine in a row by the X’s of 2005.
Heading into their final day off of the season, the best Manager Steve Montgomery’s frustrated troupe can hope for is to be charged with the seventh eight-game skid on the books. And, this was a team that had equaled the fifth-best winning streak ever for the franchise, jumping out to an early 9-2 record with eight consecutive wins May 22-30.
This, of course, it not the same team, thanks to three talented individuals snatched up by major league organizations and then the injuries that left Montgomery scrambling for most of the summer.
Conversely, the Saltdogs have significantly changed course since being swept three games by the Explorers in their last visit here May 22-24. With two more losses after that, the Dogs were just 2-6 under second-year Manager Bobby Brown, a former Sioux City outfielder.
Now, though, Lincoln has a six-game cushion on the Gary SouthShore RailCats, recapturing second place from Kansas City with a 3-1 win over the T-Bonds on Sunday. Gary (48-37) and Kansas City (48-38) are also running a close 1-2 in the race for the league’s lone wild-card playoff ticket.
The Saltdogs capped off a three-game series in which they pounded the Explorers 8-2, 10-4 and 13-6, scoring 17 of their 31 runs for the weekend on a whopping 10 home runs.
A pair of three-run homers by Brandon Jacobs capped off the power surge for Lincoln, which snapped the early 5-5 deadlock with a four-run fourth inning capped by the first of Jacobs’ bombs.
The second one simply turned a 10-6 contest into an all but insurmountable rout for a team that also got four hits from Cesar Valera and three from Randolph Oduber, whose two-run homer opened the scoring in the first inning.
For the weekend, Lincoln batters pummeled Sioux City pitchers for 39 hits after 15 in this one were supplemented by a whopping 10 walks.
Lost in the shuffle, meanwhile, was just the second two-homer night of the season for the Explorers, a pair of dingers that let Tyler Ogle vault past LeVon Washington with a team-leading 10 on the season. The former University of Oklahoma standout has gone deep seven times in the last 16 games.
The X’s managed 10 hits, but it was just their fifth double-digit total in 13 games compared to the 12 consecutive games with 10 or more for opponents.
On top of all that, the bid to avoid matching the record nine losses in a row will be yet another challenge with the next assignment coming Tuesday night in Winnipeg, where the defending league champion Goldeyes are closing in on the North Division crown.
The murderous schedule assigned to Sioux City by the league only seems to get worse with three games in Winnipeg and then another three with Lincoln starting Friday at Haymarket Park.