NWA hop­ing for more of­fense

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL - PAUL BOYD

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.

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