The Winnipeg Goldeyes are experiencing d©j vu.
Just like last year, when they won the American Association title, the Goldeyes will attempt to lock up a wild-card berth in the waning moments of the regular season.
In early August the Goldeyes were 61/2 games back of the Gary SouthShore RailCats for the lone wild-card spot. Now with one final seven-game homestand left in the regular season, the Fish have crept into the playoff picture, only 11/2games back of Gary. Both teams had the day off on Monday.
The Goldeyes closed the gap and improved their record to 52-41 by cruising through a road trip in St. Paul and Sioux Falls. They opened with 14-1 loss to the St. Paul Saints, but put together six wins in a row to close out the trip, including back-to-back-to-back complete game shutouts by Chris Salamida, Matt Rusch and Jason Jarvis.
Keeping the opposition off the board was one thing, but runs must be scored to win games. Casey Haerther has found his groove and it couldn't have come at a better time.
"When you get back into playoff time, you kind of step up your game a little bit. I've been working hard in the cage with (batting coach) Tom Vaeth," Haerther said. "I saw the ball well in St. Paul and it carried over in Sioux Falls. These last seven games are big and you always want to finish strong."
Haerther had nine RBI and seven runs on 11 hits during the trip and Forney believes he can be a guy to rely on as they close out the regular season.
"Casey and some other guys have really kicked it into another gear. Casey's done a good job of driving some runs in right now. That's kind of what we envisioned when we signed him," Forney said.
The Goldeyes have been playing some of their best baseball this month, yet still are on the outside looking in. But dwelling on the past is not an effective way of planning for the future.
"There's games throughout the whole year that you look back on and you could have won, but that's baseball and that's what happens. We're in the position we're in and I think we're in a good spot," Haerther said.
It's a spot the Goldeyes are familiar with. Last year, the team didn't clinch their wild-card spot until the first game of the final series against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks before moving on to win the championship.
"I certainly hope it finishes the same way," Forney said of this season.
For that to happen, Forney believes his team will have to continue putting runs on the board.
"We've really improved with getting on base early in the inning and doing a better job of hitting with men in scoring position, especially in scoring position with two outs."
Forney would rather be sitting in the playoff picture comfortably, but he's looking at his glass being half full.
"I'm still glad to be chasing and still have a good opportunity instead of being here this last week and playing for nothing."