TOM VAETH isn't one to say he told us so, but the Winnipeg Goldeyes batting coach still called it good: Winnipeg's bats are coming around.
You see, less than two weeks ago, after a particularly dismal road sweep by the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks -- a series in which the Goldeyes only mustered six runs in three games -- Vaeth said there would come a day when the team's offensive struggles would be a forgotten.
Lately, it seems he's been right: The Goldeyes came home from that trip and won two series, including a pair of walk-off wins against Wichita and a 6-0 shutout of the Quebec Capitales last week. Then, in the first game of a short three-game roadie in St. Paul, the Goldeyes walloped the Saints 11-3 and battled to an 8-5 loss on Tuesday -- not the result they wanted, but the offence was pressing.
"We're just in a good cycle right now," Vaeth said Wednesday, before heading into the third game of the series against the Saints in St. Paul. "Everybody's upbeat right now. It's not hard to be that way when you win a couple of series, and you're putting together good at-bats throughout the lineup. That creates a lot of excitement throughout the clubhouse. I know guys are feeding off of that."
Consider Goldeyes outfielder Nick Liles. He struggled to get hits early in the season, but lately his swing has started to come alive. On Tuesday, he swatted two run-scoring singles. Working with Vaeth to tweak his stroke has helped.
"I've been feeling a lot better at the plate," Liles said on Wednesday during a team trip to the Mall of America. "You work on it in the cage and get it where you need it to be, and as you go into the game you try not to think about it."
Goldeyes staff are pleased with what they see -- if Liles and shortstop Nate Samson can keep coming up with hits to flip to the top of the order, Vaeth said, the Goldeyes should be good to go.
"Nick's done a really good job of correcting some things and making some adjustments with his swing and his approach at the plate," Vaeth said. "Right now he's in one of those grooves."
Getting Ryan Scoma back should help as well. The talented outfielder has been out with an injury and still isn't swinging, though he's expected to start picking up a bat again in the coming days. Vaeth described the left-handed batter -- who has 17 RBI in 21 games this year -- as "chomping at the bit" to get back in the order.
When Scoma gets back, he'll take his place in an order that, Liles said, is growing more poised as the season unfurls.
"We're getting pitches to hit," Liles said. "We're not chasing a pitch, we're not leaning out over the plate trying to do too much with the ball. When you have everybody hitting like that, now the pitcher... he's going to have to really battle, and it keeps rolling from there."
Now, the Goldeyes will look to roll through the Lincoln Saltdogs, who are in town for a four-game homestand that starts tonight at Shaw Park.
This is just the second time in the regular season the Goldeyes have faced the same opponent twice -- they lost two series against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks earlier this month -- but the Saltdogs have changed since they split a four-game stand against the visiting Fish in May.
Two of Lincoln's biggest threats are gone, snapped up by major league organizations in the last 10 days. On Monday, pitcher Joe Bisenius -- who led the Saltdogs to an 11-2 blowout win against the Goldeyes the last time the two teams played -- was snatched by the Atlanta Braves to play starter for their triple-A affiliate. Slugger Dennis Raben, whose .409 figure made him the American Association's batting average leader, was signed by the Kansas City Royals.
Meanwhile, Lincoln's hard-hitting infielder Ian Gac is on the injury list.