Relief pitcher Kaohi Downing was briefly the cure to what was ailing the Winnipeg Goldeyes on Saturday night.
Downing pitched four hitless, scoreless innings in middle relief but it wasn't even close to enough as the Sioux Falls Pheasants (30-36) laid a beat down on the Goldeyes (38-28) with a 15-9 victory in front of 5,318 fans at Shaw Park. The Goldeyes allowed a season-high 21 hits. They had 14 hits of their own.
The two teams meet again today at 1:30 p.m. for the final meeting of the three-game set.Todd Privett (4-4, 3.61) will start for the Goldeyes while Sioux Falls will go with Mitchell Clegg (5-4, 5.25).
"(Downing) came into a tough situation but he gave us a chance today, he was fantastic, he threw more strikes today with his fastball, his slider, I'm super proud of him and the effort that he gave us," said Goldeyes manager Rick Forney. "But we've got to find a way to win baseball games and get guys consistently doing their jobs. When guys aren't, it's a struggle to play winning baseball."
The Goldeyes were down 8-1 in the top of the third inning when Downing came in. He held the fort while his teammates battled their way back into the game, scoring three runs in the third and four in the fourth to tie the game.
The rally was capped by a two-run home run by catcher Luis Alen.
Winnipeg even had a brief 9-8 lead when Chris Roberson crossed the plate on a Sioux Falls error in the sixth.
Forney said the game's turning point came in the seventh inning when he matched left-handed reliever Zach Baldwin with left-handed batter and former Goldeye Ridge Carpenter. Carpenter hit an RBI single that tied the game at 9-9.
"We had a one-run lead with an 0-2 count with Baldwin facing Ridge Carpenter. You've got to put that guy away right there. The next thing you know, five runs score after that. That's just unacceptable and that essentially cost us the baseball game," Forney said. Sioux Falls scored five runs in the seventh and two in the eighth to run off with the game.
After Downing left, the Goldeyes struggled defensively and on the mound burning through four relievers - Craig James, Baldwin, Griffin Bailey and Dexter Carter -- who collectively gave up seven runs on 11 hits.
Four innings was Downing's longest appearance of the season.
"I probably had four outings in a row (before this one) that were rough outings so it's nice to come into those situations where you can just come in and throw. What I did today is something I hope to build on and keep it going," Downing said.
"Now we need to keep our wild-card lead and get back to Fargo for the divisional (lead). All we can do is keep on hitting. We hit awesome today, we just have to keep it up."
The Goldeyes sit five games back of North division leader Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, who have won six straight games. Winnipeg leads the wild-card race by 2.5 games over St. Paul.
Sioux Falls chewed up the Goldeyes' starting pitcher, rookie Rich Hawkins, who lasted only two innings allowing eight runs on 10 hits with one strikeout.
The Pheasants had former Goldeye pitcher 36-year-old Barry Fowler record the win, his first of the season.
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