What a week of ups and downs for the Arkansas Travelers last week.
It started with a 5-3 triumph last Monday at Springfield and defeating the St. Louis Cardinals’ major league pitcher Chris Carpenter in his rehab debut. In the contest, outfielder Luis Montanez collided with Randal Grichuk in the outfield and broke two ribs. The injury puts him out of commission for four to six weeks. Grichuk missed three games because of a strained finger. The Travs then went on to lose four games in a row and combined for a total of six runs in those four contests.
"It was a long week," Travs manager Tim Bogar said. "We had been playing so well. Losing that many in a row, we had not been executing any aspect of the game."
The Travs (18-13 as of Monday) broke out of that stretch last Saturday and through Monday won three games in a row. After losing to Tulsa last Thursday in an 11-inning contest, 4-3, they turned the tables and defeated Tulsa, 6-5, last Saturday in 10 innings. They also won Sunday 7-2 to salvage a split with the Drillers. This past Monday, they defeated the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, 10-3 and are one game ahead of the Naturals. In those three contests, the Travs scored 23 runs on 40 hits.
"We almost gave that game (Saturday’s) away in extra innings," Bogar said. "I had a little talk with them, and we refocused, made adjustments and did what we were supposed to do."
Bogar believes the injuries to Grichuk and Montanez initially had an effect on the Travelers. The absence of those two players meant the loss of two quality at bats.
"I think we gave a collective sigh and played three to four games like that," he said. "We’ve started playing better and have been more intuitive and are thinking things through before they happen. We continue to get better."
Bogar knows part of the game is going through losing periods so he doesn’t get worked up about it. One thing he keeps in perspective is the age of his players and knows that plays a part in the up-and-down performances.
"Part of it at this level, you are dealing with a bunch of 21-year-old guys," Bogar said. "We expect them to play well every night, but they do make mistakes. Sometimes you get better by losing and making mistakes."
The Travs have put the Arkansas fans on a roller coaster ride with their spectacular performances and then not so great appearances. While it is frustrating for the fans, Bogar says it is also frustrating for the players. Bogar has mentioned many times that the Travelers are a team with lots of talent. The goal is to teach the guys to play the game correctly and know what to do and he sees them getting better at it.