After a stinging loss to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, the thoughts that roiled through Rick Forney's head were surely studded with punctuation.
"Oh, I have a lot of general thoughts," the Winnipeg Goldeyes manager said with a laugh, as he prepared to climb on board the Goldeyes' bus for the four-hour drive back to Winnipeg. "But none of them are printable in a newspaper."
See, a baseball season is about winning games and winning series: Drop one and win two, split one against a team but take the next. When the Goldeyes started the season they were doing that, rolling over their first two series and splitting a third to win a two-week roadie. Then they started running into better pitchers, and some of Fish's own starters saw their prettier numbers start to fall.
So now come Forney's thoughts that are suitable for kids, the long and short of it: The Goldeyes have been playing bad baseball. "All across the board bad baseball," he said of the road-trip skid. "Not enough offence, some untimely errors, sometimes we're not pitching to well. We're not hitting good pitching. You need to be consistent, and we're not driving in runs, especially when we're in a scoring position."
In recent days, the Goldeyes coaching staff started raising the question of change. When you're looking at two wins in the seven, and just watched a record 8-0 start slump to a less boastful 12-11, that's inevitable -- and fans may see some roster changes in the weeks ahead, Forney said.
The solution will depend on the nature of the problem, and for the Fish, the recent blunders came from all directions. The end of this latest seven-day road trip, a three-game stint against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks over the weekend, was sloppy, with the Fish dropping a stingy 3-1 decision on Friday, then failing to complete a comeback in a 6-3 loss on Saturday, and taking the final bristles of the broom in a toothless 7-2 loss on Sunday afternoon.
The Sunday game saw Alex Capaul back on the mound after only three days rest, as scheduled starter Peter Gehle had been hit in the head by a foul ball and was kept out as a precaution. But Capaul got yanked just over two innings into the game, after giving up seven hits and watching six RedHawks scamper past home plate. "It's kind of unfortunate," Forney said of Capaul's short rest.
The manager reported that Gehle is back in the rotation and will start tonight's home game against the Wichita Wingnuts at Shaw Park.
On the first stop of the road trip, the Fish battled past the Sioux Falls Canaries to a 5-1 win, then watched their defence stumble in back-to-back losses: in a 6-5 loss on June 4, a trio of painful fielding errors that helped put the Canaries ahead. The next day, the Sioux Falls squad ran circles around starting pitcher Capaul, and solid Goldeyes' bats couldn't quite close the 10-7 gap. But these Fish can still bite, and they did just that the very next night, torching Sioux Falls in a 12-1 victory.
So what to make of it then, of this inconsistency, of the bats that come up empty in fits and spurts? "I think we got some guys that are pressing a little bit," hitting coach Tommy Vaeth said. "When you try to start doing a little too much at the plate, the results aren't going to be there. Fargo pitched well against us, sometimes you gotta tip your hat to them... but you gotta put the work in."
Even in this road trip, though, there are bright spots. Casey Haerther slugged out some whoppers, starting with the June 3 game in Sioux Falls where he hit a homer, and did it again two days later -- he has five on the year, now, the most of any Fish. Ryan Scoma finished out the road trip with 10 base hits in 30 at-bats for seven RBI to keep him atop the Goldeyes' RBI leaderboard.
So when the Fish get back onto home turf tonight, ready to bandage up the bleeding and stop the slide, Vaeth doesn't expect to change up the routine. "They're grown men, they know what they need to be doing," he said. "You just ride it out and be ready when things turn around. We're going to stay positive around here. In a couple of weeks, we'll have forgotten all about this."