It was a rough road trip with just two wins in seven games and losing two position players, but the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team is still in first place in the American Association's North Division.
There will be lineup changes tonight when the Goldeyes host the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks at 7 p.m. at Shaw Park after going 2-5 on the seven-game road trip, losing third baseman Amos Ramon to an injury and with infielder Yurendell de Caster moving on to Mexico.
The Goldeyes (20-12) ended the trip Wednesday on a winning note by earning a 4-1 victory over the Sioux Falls Pheasants (17-15) in Sioux Falls, S.D.
However, the team will be without Ramon for six to eight weeks after he suffered a separated shoulder in a home-plate collision in last Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Explorers in Sioux City. The Goldeyes confirmed de Caster will leave today to join a Mexican League team.
The good news for the Goldeyes is with Wednesday's win, the team increased its lead to three games at the top of the North Division.
In Wednesday's game, catcher Luis Alen and centre-fielder Chris Roberson hit home runs en route to the win. Sioux Falls (17-15) came within one by scoring their only run in the bottom of the fourth. Alen scored what stood as the game-winning run with his solo homer in the fourth inning. Roberson, whose homer came in the top of the ninth inning, scored three runs.
Goldeyes starter Matt Rusch pitched eight innings, allowing just one run on eight hits and striking out seven.
"(Rusch) was the stopper today," Goldeyes pitching coach Bill Pulsipher told TSN 1290 radio. "The good way to stop a losing streak or a bad run is to have a dominant outing and that's exactly what we needed today."
De Caster, who went 16-for-28 at the plate on the seven-game trip, played his final game for the Goldeyes as he will take the opportunity to earn more money in the Mexican League, which is the AAA level.
Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier said "you roll the dice" when signing an experienced veteran like de Caster, who has played in the Mexican League before. During his 31 games with the Goldeyes, he played the infield corner positions, hit .351, was second on the team in hits with 40 (to Jon Weber with 42) and tied for first in home runs with four with Josh Mazzola and Roberson.
"It wasn't completely out of the blue. We knew when we signed him, he had just been released from a Mexican team, and he told us if the opportunity arose, he would probably go back," said Collier.
"Independent leagues have no agreement with the Mexican League. Players are free to go and we receive no compensation from them. The same thing occurs if they decide to leave a Mexican League team to join us."
Starting today, the Goldeyes will play seven in a row at home including four against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and three against Sioux City on June 25-27.
Fabian Williamson (2-4, 3.60 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Goldeyes on Thursday while Fargo is expected to start Tyler Herron (1-2, 3.86).
Earlier this week, Goldeyes manager Rick Forney signed outfielder Dan Barbero for the second time this season. Barbero, 29, appeared in six games for the Goldeyes earlier this season before being released on June 7. Also signed was pitcher Brian Beuning, 31, who pitched for the Goldeyes in 2007 and 2008. He pitched 2.1 innings in Tuesday's 9-4 loss in Sioux City to the Explorers.