The only thing hotter than the temperature at Canwest Park on Sunday afternoon were the Goldeyes' bats -- and the players' tempers.
On a 30-degree day that felt more like 40 due to the intense humidity, the Fish (38-35) cranked out 19 hits and three homers, beating the first-place Kansas City T-Bones (42-29) 17-7 in front of 5,119 fans.
The Goldeyes had a pair of six-run innings, running through the entire order in both.
Outfielder Justin Justice unquestionably had the play of the game when he tracked a deep Brian Joynt foul ball and took flight to make a gorgeous diving catch in the dirt. ("It's a little hard over there," he said, commenting on a rough landing.)
He was strong at the plate as well, making Mensemeat out of a sixth-inning offering from reliever Hunter Mense, crushing it over the right-field wall for his ninth homer of the season. He finished 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs, only a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
The benches cleared in the bottom of the seventh when Mense deliberately plunked Dee Brown in retaliation for Brown taking an extra base in the previous inning when the Fish already had a commanding eight-run lead. Cooler heads ultimately prevailed and no punches were thrown. Mense was ejected, and Brown stayed in the game.
"(Mense) thought Dee was bush (league) for stealing," said Fish outfielder Aharon Eggleston, who helped play peacemaker when tempers flared.
"But in this league no lead is really safe. So he was just getting in scoring position but the pitcher took offence to it.
"Everyone kind of knew what it was for so everybody was just calming each other down."
Mense wasn't the first T-Bone to hit the showers early. In the top of the third, outfielder Keanon Simon took exception to home plate umpire Matt Kainz taking his time recovering from a foul ball that caught him on the right arm and charged out of the Kansas City dugout, spewing a string of unprintable opinions in Kainz's direction.
Outfielder Ryan Fox also risked getting himself tossed, voicing his displeasure over a called strike in the eighth. Popular opinion in the press box was that the T-Bones just wanted to get back to an air-conditioned hotel room as soon as possible.
The W -- their 11th in the past 16 games -- gave the Goldeyes their fifth consecutive series win -- "I think that's our longest stretch this season," said manager Rick Forney after the game -- clearly a promising trend heading into the home stretch of the season.
"We're finally getting some hits, and not only just getting hits but timely hitting," said Eggleston, who had four, including a solo homer in the second.
The Fish continue a 10-game homestand today when they welcome the 37-36 Gary SouthShore RailCats to Winnipeg for a crucial four-game series. The RailCats are hot on the heels of the Fish, sitting only one game back in the standings. A series sweep would obviously put some nice distance between the two as the regular season begins to wind down and the playoff chase heats up.
"Everyone has an interesting schedule down the stretch," said Forney.
"I think everything is far from being decided."
Men in the masks
-- It was a tough weekend for the umpires. Not only did Matt Kainz get hit on Sunday, on Saturday night home plate umpire Derrick Dubell had a foul ball catch him in the mask, knocking him out of the game.
-- Hockey fans in attendance got a pleasant surprise, as Winnipeg-raised NHLers Dustin Boyd (Montreal) and Colin Wilson (Nashville) hung around the concourse to meet fans and sign autographs. The players were promoting the fifth annual Believe in the Goal SuperStar Summer Showdown, a charity hockey game in support of the Believe in The Goal Foundation, a foundation that supports young people dealing with cancer.
-- Goldeyes' all-star shortstop Wes Long made his Single-A debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Sunday, leading off and playing second base. He finished 1-for-4 with a triple and an RBI. It's Long's first stint in affiliated ball since 2006.
-- Immediately after the game Fish manager Rick Forney announced the acquisition of reliever Drew Graham, who took the mound for the T-Bones only a day earlier. Forney said Graham's "legit power fastball" -- he was hitting 96 m.p.h. on the gun on Saturday -- is a welcome addition to a rotation not known for its velocity.