Defence wins championships, but offence wins games.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes (55-38) flexed their first-place muscle Tuesday night with a 13-5 victory over the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, and though the pitching and fielding were more than adequate, the bats were absolutely blazing in front of the 6,112 fans at Shaw Park.
The Fish, who are thinking nothing but playoffs at the moment, retain a four-game lead in the American Association's North Division, as the second-place St. Paul Saints also won Tuesday night, defeating Sioux City Explorers. The team's magic number is now at three.
The Fish recorded 17 hits off a combination of three RedHawk pitchers, including eight off 24-year-old Josh Smith, and four Goldeyes managed home runs on the evening:
Wes Long and Bryan Myrow each recorded their tenth of the season, late-season recruit Fehlandt Lentini managed his sixth of the campaign, and infielder Justin Bass, who is nursing a bad ankle, continues to pace the team as he cranked a two-runner in the bottom of the eighth to officially seal the deal. It was his fifteenth of the season.
"It was a fun night," Bass said. "When we're clicking like this, it's a lot of fun to be out here."
Despite the easy win, the RedHawks came out of the gate swinging in the first inning and looked like they were ready to hurt the Fish as their third-baseman, C.J. Retherford, started things off with a two-run homer of his own in the top of the first to bring in himself and shortstop Zach Penprase.
Retherford's second jack of the season highlighted a rough start for Goldeyes starting pitcher Luis Villarreal, who gave up three hits on his first three batters. But he and the other Goldeyes quickly turned things around.
Jon Weber, one of the team's main power sources, put the Fish on the board with an RBI single in the bottom of the first to bring in Price Kendall before Winnipeg dominated the second with a five-run inning:
It started with Lentini revving the engine with an RBI double, bringing in Wes Long to tie the game at two. Ridge Carpenter hit an RBI-groundout to bring in Ott and put the Fish ahead by one before Kendall knocked his second standup double of the game in the second inning, bringing in Lentini and giving the Goldeyes a two-run lead. After another Weber RBI, the Fish were up three runs heading to the third and suddenly engulfed in momentum.
That's when Long hit his tenth homer of the season to start the third inning off right.
The standout shortstop cranked a no-doubt-about-it blast over the left field wall and put the Goldeyes up 6-2.
Brian Myrow added to the tally with a two-run homer of his own in the fourth inning to score himself and Kody Kaiser before Lentini hit his solo homer in the fifth, which put the Fish up 9-3.
After a second homer from Retherford (there were six homers in the game) and an appetizer-like rally from Fargo, Bass put the nail in the coffin with his two-run jack in the eighth, giving the Fish of final tally of 13 runs.
"It was big for me," Bass said after the game. "I've been struggling at the dish lately, so it was a nice booster to get that hit."
On the other side, Villarreal managed 7 1/3 innings of work, allowing four runs off seven hits and recorded four strikeouts in the process before Winnipeg showed off its mighty bullpen, personified by Clayton Uyechi and Aaron Cook, who allowed a combined one run.
"We're watching the standings closely," Bass said. "But we have to win these games no matter what our division rivals are doing."
Bass is absolutely correct, as the Fish are still at least two wins away from clinching the division.
Game 2 of the four-game series against the 'Hawks goes tonight at 7 p.m.
North Division standings