By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
There’s no such thing as a sure thing in sports. Not on the golf course, not at the race track and not on the ball diamond.
That said, Engelb Vielma has been very close to automatic at shortstop for the Rochester Red Wings.
He doesn’t just make difficult plays look routine, he turns impossible plays into outs. He has range, he has an arm and he has slick hands.
“Every night he saves runs,” Red Wings manager Mike Quade said.
But even the best make errors, and an eighth-inning errant throw by Vielma on Monday night led to three unearned runs as the Columbus Clippers upended the Red Wings 4-1 at rain-dampened Frontier Field.
With runners on first and third and two outs, Vielma made a nice play to charge and field a bounding ball up the middle by Ronny Rodriguez but his throw to first was in the dirt and Matt Hague couldn’t make the scoop.
“We could talk for days about how good he is defensively,” Quade said of Vielma, who is surely the best defensive shortstop to play for the Wings during their 15-year affiliation with the Minnesota Twins.
“That’s one helluva compliment to him because you’re so surprised when he doesn’t make the play,” Quade said. “I’ve played with, and managed, a lot of good defensive players at that position and he’s one of the best.”
The miscue was his seventh error in 66 games at short. He robbed Tyler Naquin of a hit leading off the sixth by ranging far to his left to snare a grounder up the middle.
The loss cost the Wings a chance to gain valuable ground in the wild-card chase. They remain two games behind Lehigh Valley because the IronPigs lost 4-2 to Norfolk.
A terrific pitching performance by starter Tim Melville also was wasted. He allowed just one hit, a double in the third, while walking three and striking out nine through seven innings. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.55.
The Wings just couldn’t score nearly enough runs against Columbus starter Chris Narveson and three relievers. They had just five hits (two by Daniel Palka) and just one of their final 11 batters reached base (a two-out walk to Tommy Field in the ninth).
Notes: The three-game series continues Tuesday night and wraps up with a 1:35 p.m. matinee on Wednesday. Canandaigua native Shawn Morimando will start Wednesday for Columbus. While he was born in the Rochester area, he grew up in Virginia Beach, but he does still have relatives in the area.