By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
The Rochester Red Wings finally got a little help from Mother Nature on Friday night.
It was 68 degrees at sun-drenched Frontier Field when the doubleheader against the Pawtucket Red Sox began, and while the temperature slowly dipped toward 60 throughout the 14 innings of baseball, it stayed dry.
The respite was long overdue, especially for an organization that already has had four home games wiped out by inclement weather and three others that were played in conditions so miserable the team issued rain checks.
You know what else is long overdue? Winning. Except while we all knew the weather eventually would be improving, this Red Wings team won’t be.
Friday’s doubleheader sweep by the PawSox — they won both games 6-1 — dropped the Wings record to 16-28, worst in the 14-team International League.
The losing is no mystery, either. They entered the night ranked 11th in the IL in team hitting, 12th in team pitching and 13th in team fielding.
Which means for the sixth consecutive season, and for the 12th time in the past 13 years, there will be no Governors’ Cup playoff games in Rochester.
Which means promotions like Friday’s between-games event — Renew Your Vows with imitation minister “Grant Anderson” — and Saturday’s tribute to the city’s baseball past — the Rochester Hustlers from a century ago — will be even more important to the ballpark experience this summer.
Going to the ballpark can be fun regardless of the product on the field. It’s much more fun when the home team wins.
“That’s how you spell fun,” Wings manager Joel Skinner said. “W-I-N.”
The current losing baseball is far from enjoyable. To play or watch. How uninspiring was the baseball on Friday night?
In Game 1, Teddy Stankiewicz threatened to no-hit the Wings. He was perfect through 11 batters before walking Jake Cave with two outs in the fourth. He gave up the first hit, a single to Tomás Telis, in the fifth and the PawSox finished with a combined three-hitter.
Wings starter Lewis Thorpe gave up just one run in his four innings but the bullpen wasn’t so good, allowing five runs over two innings on seven hits and a walk.
In the nightcap, Pawtucket scored three times in the second inning against D.J. Baxendale with four hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly, and another three times in the third against Zack Weiss on three hits and a walk to open a 6-0 lead.
The Wings did score once in the fourth — but only once. They loaded the bases to start the inning, including walks to the second and third hitters. But Jake Cave hit the first pitch he saw to second for what became an zero-degree-of-difficulty double play (a run did score), then Zander Wiel struck out on three pitches.
And just like that, a bases-loaded, no-out threat was over in four pitches.
“We had some chances but they had a nice double play and were able to get out of the inning and keep the damage down,” Skinner said.
It’s in many ways the theme of the homestand, however. In five games, the Red Wings are 1-for-37 with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-10 for Friday, which is a big reason they scored just once in each game.
For the homestand, the record is 1-4. They have scored only five runs. This after a 1-5 road trip. Which followed a 2-3 homestand.
“When you don’t have balls flying around, when you don’t have a lot of base runners, it seems like nothing’s happening,” Skinner said.
At least the weather should be decent for the rest of the weekend.