NWA hoping for more offense
SPRINGDALE — The Northwest Arkansas Naturals will look for some timely hitting as they return for a fourgame home stand.
The Naturals (9-9 second half) have struggled to come up with big hits lately, going just 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position in the last two games. They have also lost six of 10 in July, while averaging just 3.4 runs per game. Northwest Arkansas, which won the first half North Division title, still leads the league with a .270 team batting average, but has hit only .256 so far this month.
Northwest Arkansas manager Vance Wilson said his team currently doesn’t have many true power hitters and must rely on execution at the plate. He also said the Naturals need more from the middle of the order to protect three-hole hitter Samir Dueanez, the team’s lone big power threat.
“We’re more of a small ball team,” Wilson said. “Right now, we need more from the four- and five-hole hitters. We need Zach Walters to step up a little bit to protect Sammy.”
Duenez is hitting .267 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs. He leads the team in homers and RBIs and ranks in the top five in the Texas League in both categories.
The starting rotation has a different look as Josh Staumont, rated the No. 2 prospect in the Royals organization by Baseball America, was sent down from Triple-A. In addition, Glenn Sparkman, who has spent time in Northwest
Arkansas before, is back after he returned to the Royals from Toronto, which selected him in the Rule 5 draft.
Sparkman threw two scoreless innings of relief on Monday and will start on Saturday for Northwest Arkansas, but will be in a piggyback situation with lefthander Jake Kalish. He went 0-2 with a 4.58 ERA with the Naturals in 2016 coming off Tommy John surgery.
Staumont has struggled with control this season, something that dogged him earlier in his career. But he seemed to have turned a corner last season in Northwest Arkansas with pitching coach Steve Luebber. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 73 in 501/3 innings for the Naturals, while walking just 37.
But this year, he walked 63 in 76 innings for Triple-A Omaha. Staumont will start Thursday against Tulsa.
Pitcher Ashton Goudeau was placed on the disabled list Monday with an oblique injury. He came out of his last start on Saturday after just one inning. Lefty reliever Tim Hill was also promoted back to Northwest Arkansas from Wilmington.
Foster Griffin ( 6-1, 2.47 ERA) will start on the mound for the Naturals tonight. He retired two batters for the U.S. team Sunday in the Futures Game as part of the Major League All-Star festivities.