Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Ace comes up big in blazing-hot KC
KANSAS CITY - It's the dog days of summer, in the land of T-Bones, and Winnipeg Goldeyes manager Rick Forney is desperate for a more forgiving hind leg to a tumultuous 2012 American Association season.
He'd even settle for a truce with the baseball gods.
Entering a critical six-game road trip Tuesday night - three games against Kansas City and three at Sioux City - the Goldeyes are chasing the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks for a division race while clinging to a slim lead for a the wild card berth ahead of both the T-Bones and Explorers, their immediate concerns.
After a series of key injuries that have seen the Goldeyes level off to a 13-13 record in July, however, Forney has come accept more modest expectations.
"Just pray every day someone doesn't go down," Forney said. "That's why we didn't have batting practice (Tuesday night). We don't want someone to drop of heat exhaustion."
Indeed, it was 39-degrees (100 degrees Fahrenheit) when the Goldeyes sauntered on to Community America field Tuesday night. And they stayed hot, as veteran right-hander Ace Walker pitched a gem, and the visiting Goldeyes, now 40-28, opened the three-game series with a 4-1 victory.
With the win, the Goldeyes pulled to within 3.5 games of the division-leading Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (44-25), who lost 4-0 to St. Paul on Tuesday night. St. Paul (38-30) remains two back of the Goldeyes in the wild card race, while the Kansas City (38-32) is now three back of Winnipeg.
Walker spread five hits over 8 1/3 innings (six hits, one earned run, three walks, seven K's) to improve to 6-3 on the season.
Walker gave credit to three things after the win; hard work, the defence, and his home town.
"I've been working really hard, running and lifting weights, to make sure my body was ready for something like this," he said, after a sterling 124-pitch performance. "For me to be successful, I need the guys playing well behind me and that's what they did tonight."
As for the heat, the righty shrugging, noting that his hometown of Prague, Oklahoma recorded a temperature of 40-plus Celsius on Tuesday. "That's just straight heat," he said.
Ironically, when it came to pitching, Walker spared his heat for accuracy, with 81 strikes on the night.
"I was struggling early," Walker noted. "But (Goldeyes pitching coach) Bill (Pulsipher) told me to settle down, just be myself."
After three scoreless innings, the Goldeyes struck first on a solo home run launched by third baseman Amos Ramon in the top of the fourth. Winnipeg struck for a pair in the sixth when veteran Yurendell de Caster doubled and later scored on a fielder's choice by teammate Kyle Day. Ramon singled to score Day, giving the Goldeyes a 3-0 advantage.
The T-Bones only run on Walker came in the bottom of the sixth, an RBI double off the bat of Kansas City's Trevor Coleman.
The Goldeyes' fourth and final run came in the top of eight, when catcher Luis Alen scored on an RBI single from Josh Mazzola.
Winnipeg reliever Chris James earned the save, with the final two outs.
"It's huge," Walker concluded. "We were talking about it even before we left (Winnipeg). These games are going to be big. If we can focus on each one as it comes on this road trip, I think we'll do really well."
The Goldeyes will continue their three-game series with Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday night, before heading to Sioux City for three.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2012 C8
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