THE Winnipeg Goldeyes, winners of 11 series so far this season, have just seven home series left to play this season and only 39 games overall.
Manager Rick Forney has often said crunch time is the last 40 games. The Goldeyes play two of their remaining home series this week at Shaw Park hosting Les Capitales de Quebec tonight (7 p.m., TSN 1290) through Thursday followed by the Sioux Falls Pheasants on Friday through Sunday also at Shaw Park.
To earn an American Association playoff spot, the Goldeyes need to either win the North Division or get the one wild-card berth. As the stretch run begins, we bring you five reasons you should step up to the plate this week and check out the Goldeyes.
1. Fight with Fargo
The Winnipeg Goldeyes (37-24) and North Division rival Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (38-23) are locked in a neck-in-neck battle for first place. The Goldeyes held first for 54 straight days until Fargo took over after winning 14 straight games earlier this month. They now hold a one-game lead over Winnipeg.
This race is only going to get more heated. Any losses from now on by either team will hurt as its archrival can gain ground. There's still two more series two be played between the two including the Goldeyes hosting the RedHawks to close out their regular season at home on Sept. 1-3.
2. Slick Mazzola
Right-fielder/first baseman Josh Mazzola is on a 19-game hitting streak, the longest of the season by a Goldeyes player. Not bad for a guy who in the third game of the season, struck out in five straight at-bats in Amarillo, Texas. Hitting .301, Mazzola is the team's right-fielder who has also shone at first base where he's played 22 games after some positional switching when third baseman Amos Ramon was out with a shoulder injury.
3. Centre-field spotlight
Chris Roberson is a switch-hitting, fleet-footed athlete taking care of business in centre field on a daily basis for the Goldeyes. Roberson tracks flying baseballs in the outfield with such precision, he makes tough defensive plays look easy and never fails to entertain with his sheer athleticism. He leads the team with nine home runs and is second on the team with a .323 batting average. He was named the AA's Pointstreak batter of the week for last week after he had seven extra-base hits and a .516 average in seven games.
4. Super starters
Baseball aficionados and casual fans alike can appreciate the work being done this season by the Goldeyes' starting pitchers. The top three -- Ace Walker (2.89 ERA), Chris Salamida (4.52) and Matt Rusch (2.45) -- have 13 wins among them. Against Quebec, fans can expect to see Todd Privett tonight at 7 p.m. followed by Walker on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Salamida on Thursday at noon. When Sioux Falls visits for three games, rookie Rich Hawkins is expected to start on Friday at 6 p.m. with Rusch on Saturday at 6 p.m. and Privett on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
5. Christmas in July!
We love Christmas, and so do the Goldeyes, who are hosting "Christmas in July" on Wednesday. The first 1,500 fans get a Goldie snow globe and, with the Christmas Cheer Board as the beneficiary, all fans are asked bringing a new, unwrapped toy to Shaw Park or make a cash donation. The Winnipeg Free Press sports department is a major supporter of the Christmas Cheer Board with our annual Spirit of Christmas fundraising campaign so we think it's never too early to start helping the Christmas Cheer Board.
DIAMOND DUST: Winnipeg traded rookie outfielder Ridge Carpenter to Sioux Falls on Monday for a player to be named later and released pitcher Billy Spottiswood.
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