JUST one night after a sputtering offence sparked up against the Wichita Wingnuts for a 7-6 win, Winnipeg’s bats went silent again Tuesday night.
This time, it's easy to understand why. See, there was no weak Link in the Wichita lineup -- Jon Link, that is, as the Wingnuts starting pitcher kept the Goldeyes muzzled and largely off the bases over eight full innings.
The dominant performance prompted Goldeyes manager Rick Forney -- a former pitcher himself -- to tip his hat to the visitor, calling it the best pitching performance he's seen in eight years.
"You can see why he played in the big leagues," Forney said of Link, who played in nine games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. "Good velocity, he had good tilt on his fastball. He pounded the bottom half of the zone. He had a curveball, a slider, a change-up going. We didn't have a chance. Sometimes you get beat by a better guy, and that guy is above this league."
To be clear, in eight innings on the mound, Link scattered eight hits, walked just one and -- obviously -- saw nary a run.
So yeah, as the Goldeyes' bats faded in the face of that threat, Winnipeg's own pitcher Matt Rusch fought for four tight innings to keep them in it. Then in the fifth, it all fell apart. By the time the game was over, every Wingnut in the order notched a run against the Fish (except outfielder Stephen Yoo, who only had one at-bat), and only Yoo and one other didn't record a hit.
The Goldeyes couldn't find a way to answer back. Oh, there were moments where they might have snagged a run or two: in the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Scoma and Nick Liles were waiting on base when Leonard Davis thwacked the ball along the field, but a quick double-play closed out the inning. Three innings later, a Casey Haerther double put Liles in a scoring position but the Fish already had two outs on the board, and a Davis fly ball made it three.
Upshot: It was a glorious night for a baseball game, and a healthy throng of 6,067 fans turned out Shaw Park to snag free red T-shirts commemorating the team breaking the five-million attendance mark in its 20-season history. It was one of the best turnouts of the young home season so far -- too bad they mostly got to watch the Wingnuts run circles around the home team.
Jon Link, see above. If there's any doubt, the flurry of professional admiration from Forney should lay them to rest.
Wingnuts outfielder Jared McDonald put together a robust offensive game, with three hits in five trips, four runs batted in -- including a sixth-inning homer that scored two other runners -- and two runs of his own.
óó KEY PLAY
The Wingnuts had already drawn blood in the fifth inning. But moments after a McDonald run and on a Tim Rotola single, and with the bases loaded, Wingnuts second baseman Abel Nieves walloped out a grand slam that sent Shaw Park into a symphony of groans and a smattering of appreciative, if slightly resentful, applause.
óó FISH WRAP
The missed scoring chance in the bottom of the fourth could have left the Fish rattled right across the roster, Forney mused.
"You know you're probably not going to get a lot of opportunities to score off that guy, you need to cash in there, but we weren't able to get anything," the manager said. "As a pitcher, you see that, you go out and you're a little bit tighter, and (Rusch) wasn't able to make two strike pitches. He really struggled in the fifth."
óó ON THE HOOK
The Goldeyes wrap up the three-game series against Wichita today in an 11 a.m. tilt at Shaw Park. They then get a rare day off before gearing up to host the Can-Am League's Quebec Capitales in an interleague series.
-- Melissa Martin