1To be frank: In the third game of the Winnipeg Goldeyes' home series against the Lincoln Saltdogs, there were walks, and then more walks. The Fish walked nine Saltdogs in all. There were six free trips in the first three innings alone, with starting pitcher Mark Hardy at the helm: walks that set up scores, and two walks with the bases loaded that sent a Saltdog right on home.
On the back of those bases-on-balls, and one sixth-inning error, when it was over the Goldeyes had lost 4-1. They pressed to come back in the seventh, they shut Lincoln down for a few innings in the middle, but by then the damage had been done. The winning score came in the second, when the bases were loaded and Hardy walked Lincoln centre-fielder Daniel Carroll, which pushed his teammate Brian Embery home. It was the second time that happened in the frame.
Not that the score on one side matters, though, if the tally on the other struggles to rise past "zero."
"You can't win if you don't score runs," Fish manager Rick Forney always says. It's a reflexive phrase, the baseball equivalent of "taking pucks to the net," the truths of it are self-evident. On Saturday night, the Goldeyes only scored one run, in the bottom of the seventh. As for hits, they only came up with one through the first six innings, an Amos Ramon double in the first. But he wound up stranded on base.
Oh, there were chances to tie it up, although they came late, and that's what made this one sting. In the seventh, catcher Luis Alen walloped out a double that scored Josh Mazzola, and minutes later Alen himself stole third base. But with two outs on the board, two Goldeyes on base and Alen raring to make the final dash home, shortstop Nate Samson struck out.
In the eighth, a chance again: when Lincoln relief pitcher P.J. Zocchi walked Fish outfielder Mike Coles, who led off. The left-fielder promptly stole second while Ramon was at bat, and pounced on a Saltdogs error to scamper on to third. But then Ramon went down swinging, then Fehlandt Lentini and Casey Haerther made quick outs, and Coles' scoring chance sputtered to a halt.
Still, there were the typical bright spots. The bullpen came out strong: rookie relievers Gabe Aguilar and Kaohi Downing each took two innings of work, and neither gave up a run. Lentini sprang after a fly by Embery that flew deep into centre field, and his gorgeous diving catch was met by a swell of cheers.
Plus, the fan who won the 50/50 was pumped, as he shouted his achievement clear across Shaw Park, and the resulting giggles in the stands broke the quiet of the limping game. So there was a little levity in the stands, at least, to break the long faces that filed out of the dugout and into the clubhouse.
After splitting Friday's double-header against Lincoln and dropping Saturday's tilt, the Fish still have a chance to split the series today in a 1:30 p.m. game at Shaw Park. On Saturday afternoon, Forney said the team expects to have a new pitcher in the mix for the matinee, as he's been hunting for a starter to fill a hole left after Alex Capaul was dismissed earlier this month.