Winnipeg Goldeyes pitcher Matt Rusch has been named the American Association pitcher of the week after the right-hander won a pair of games last week including a 13-strikeout win on Saturday night that clinched the wild-card playoff berth for the Goldeyes.
The Goldeyes (55-44) will take the field at Shaw Park tonight at 7 to play the 100th and final game of the 2012 regular season when they host the North division-champion Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (64-35) in the last game of their three-game set.
Winnipeg won the first game 5-1 on Saturday night while Fargo completely dominated the Goldeyes on Sunday with a 15-1 win.
The Goldeyes and the RedHawks will have Tuesday off and then open the best-of-five semifinal series against each other with a pair of games at Fargo's Newman Outdoor Field on Wednesday and Thursday. The series returns to Winnipeg's Shaw Park on Friday at 7 p.m., and if necessary, Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
As he watched the Goldeyes take batting practice on Monday afternoon, Fargo manager Doug Simunic told the Winnipeg Free Press he believes games from here on between the two teams to be a lot closer than Sunday's score indicated.
"That was their hangover game. They've clinched their title, they had their little night out and came and played yesterday. Those things happen in those games. It's tough to bounce back after you've clinched something and everybody's happy," said Simunic, who managed the Goldeyes in 1994-1995.
"Playoff games don't usually lend themselves to that because the pitching is usually amped up a little bit more. I won't expect to see anything like that."
Lineup changes for the Goldeyes for Monday's contest include catcher Luis Alen, who got a day off from behind the plate on Sunday, playing first base with Kyle Day catching for a second straight game. Yurendell de Caster will be playing second base and Josh Mazzola will be in right field. Infielder Jose Duran will not start.
Rusch has a 10-4 wins-losses record and leads the league with a 2.40 ERA. He is tied with Brian Grening of the Kansas City T-Bones for the league lead in strikeouts with 113, which matches Goldeyes manager and former pitcher Rick Forney for the fifth most all-time by a Goldeyes pitcher in a season.