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Powerful offence drives Goldeyes

But pitching woes stump boss Forney

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Seven games into the 2014 season, Winnipeg Goldeyes manager Rick Forney has seen the good, the bad, and -- truth be told -- a little ugly from his team.

En route to a 4-3 record through their first two series, the Fish were sometimes rocky on the mound, but mostly rockin' at the plate. The defence showed some holes, but the bullpen was great. They delivered statement games -- a satisfying 12-2 win in Amarillo, a 7-1 victory in Laredo earlier this week -- but also some messy tilts, marred by costly mistakes.

There was the season opener in Amarillo, for instance, where the Fish got torched for 11 runs in the first two innings, eight of them earned off starter Chris Salamida's arm. Then there was what the Goldeyes' own game recap frankly dubbed the "nightmare in Laredo," an 18-5 loss to a rested Lemurs team. That game was sunk by dismal pitching numbers and a whopping six fielding errors, which tied the team record set in 2002.

"When you watch what I watched yesterday, you could tell guys are exhausted," Forney said. "Yesterday wasn't very good."

That game is, perhaps, best forgotten. There are still 93 games yet to play in 2014. Time to move on.

Because no doubt, some things were working for the Fish in their first seven games. Shortstop Tyler Kuhn was outstanding. Outfielder Ray Sadler slugged big.

After wrapping up in Laredo the Fish had 128 total bases, the second-most in the league, and were third overall for hits (79) and runs (47). They'd belted out eight home runs, and led the league with three triples and 19 doubles.

Indeed, all their team hitting numbers -- slugging, on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) -- were right up in the upper echelon of the American Association. "If I want to sit and nitpick on little things, we could probably improve on situational hitting," Forney said. "But our offence is OK."

There was some good news from the hurlers, too. In his first start, Matt Jackson surrendered just four hits and nary a single run in just over six innings, as he helped launch the Fish to that 12-2 win over Amarillo. He walked one batter in that game, but struck out five. He'll start again tonight, as the Fish open a three-game series against the Lincoln Saltdogs.

Starter Kyle Anderson had a fine Goldeyes debut on the road too, registering a 0.93 ERA in two games -- one of which he started -- and 9 2/3 innings pitched.

Meanwhile, the Fish's bullpen crew of Taylor Sewitt, Brendan Lafferty and Chris Kissock has yet to give up an earned run in 10 innings pitched between them.

But if the Fish want to take this season by the reins, Forney agreed, the key will be getting the starting pitching settled in. The early returns are no doubt disappointing for Salamida, who was a killer for the Fish late last season.

Now, he's sitting with an ERA of 15.42 across his first two starts.

"He's just not throwing strikes," Forney said. "Then you're falling behind in the count, and when you do that, you make yourself one-dimensional, having to throw fastballs. It's hard to succeed at any level when that happens. But Chris is prepared to turn a corner."

Now, Forney will look to get his team to iron out some of the kinks in Lincoln, before the Goldeyes race home to host the Sioux City Explorers in their home opener on Monday.

"Right now we're just inconsistent from inning to inning," he said, in summary of what he's seen from this team. "But it's so early and you're doing a lot of travelling."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2014 C4

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