With a chance to clinch their first home series in a sweltering Wednesday matinee, the Goldeyes stepped up at Shaw Park and watched it slip away.
The Fish fell 6-1 to the Sioux City Explorers in the third and final game of their home-opening series, following a 6-5 loss on Monday and a tight 2-1 win on Tuesday. Goldeyes starting pitcher Matt Jackson wasn't exactly great -- five innings, nine hits, five earned runs -- but mostly, the story was the same as most of Monday and all of Tuesday: just not a lot of offence coming from the plate.
"We've got to do a better job hitting with men in scoring position," manager Rick Forney said. "Right now, we're a little bit short in that area."
The Goldeyes had a couple of prime chances on Wednesday, and outfielder Ray Sadler -- a big slugger with four home runs already this season -- was there for both. The Fish had the bases loaded in the third when he stepped up and promptly struck out. They did it again in the bottom of the eighth, when reliever Rob Wort gave up three walks to load the bases. Sadler wielded his bat and struck out again.
To be clear, the loss is definitely not on Sadler. He was one of only three Fish hitters to notch a base hit, with the others being Josh Mazzola, who singled and Jordan Guida, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and a solo home run to put the Goldeyes on the board.
Maybe Fish hitters are getting impatient, maybe they're trying to do too much. Maybe they were just stymied by Explorers starter Kohei Tsukada, a Tokyo hurler in his first pro year on this side of the Pacific. In his six innings on the mound, the Goldeyes mustered just four hits and one run against him, while Fish hitters struck out five times.
"It was all over," Guida said of Tsukada's pitches. "There was a lot of movement and he left a few pitches up."
If there was a bright spot on Wednesday, in front of all the schoolchildren buzzing in the afternoon heat, it was Guida.
Usually, the 25-year-old Arizona product serves as backup catcher. But on Wednesday, with outfielder Donnie Webb out with an injury he suffered in Tuesday's game, Guida parked himself in right field and took a regular turn at the plate. From there, he cranked the thermostat on his hot season start.
Guida joined the Fish last season after spending parts of 2012 bouncing around the Detroit Tigers organization. He appeared in 42 games with the Goldeyes, often in a pinch, and took the time learning behind veteran catcher Luis Alen. This season, he's figured into five games and is swinging for a .583 average through 12 at-bats.
"It's tough, but it's going well," he said. "I've just been working my tail off and keeping a good attitude. It's easy to get discouraged when you don't play every day. I've learned more and I've matured a little bit as a player and (Forney) has seen that... As a young player coming in, you try to do so much out there. You really just have to play the game. Hit the ball, run, throw. Simple things."
The sample size is small, yes. But his boss is pleased with what he sees.
"He's been real patient for the last year... and when he gets the opportunity, he's taking advantage of it," Forney said. "You can see him in the box right now, he's a lot more comfortable than a lot of other guys. He's going up there with a plan and waiting for his pitch and right now he's getting the barrel to it when it happens."