It was a beautiful day for a baseball game, all blue sky and blazing sun, but the Winnipeg Goldeyes couldn't channel the heat into their play.
Instead, the Fish fell 4-1 to the Lincoln Saltdogs Sunday afternoon, squandering the fine work starter Kyle Anderson offered from the mound. With the loss -- their second in two days -- the Fish split their second home series, and fell to 10-7 on the season.
Given how well pitching kept them in the game, it was a disappointment. In 6.2 innings, Anderson allowed the Saltdogs just two hits and one earned run. He did stumble to start the fourth by walking Lincoln outfielder Brian Joynt, then plunked Saltdogs first baseman Ian Gac to put him on. Joynt ended up scoring a run on an error by catcher Luis Alen. The Saltdogs would score another before the inning was done.
"I just kind of lost the feel," Anderson said. "All I could do was kind of limit the damage, after that... You have to be completely committed every pitch. Sometimes you're throwing strikes, you end up going through the motion. Next thing you know, your focus isn't where it needs to be."
Can't pin that loss on Anderson, -- who, we should note, has been a pleasant surprise for the Fish this year. As of Sunday afternoon, his 1.19 ERA was the lowest in the league. That's a nice start for a guy who just came out of the short-season single-A Northwest League.
"Everyone's a little older and has more experience, so it makes you elevate your own game," he said. "I kind of challenge myself to do that, just to fit in and compete against these guys."
The problem on Sunday came in the bottom half of the innings, where Lincoln starter Marquis Fleming held the Goldeyes batters back. He struck out seven Fish in his seven innings, while allowing just five hits and one run. That lone Fish strike came in the fifth inning, when second baseman Jake Blackwood's single sent Ryan Pineda dashing home.
So it was the Fish ended the second series of their homestand, the same way they exited the first: just not enough run support.
Yeah, it's frustrating, especially given how robust this team's batting looks on paper. After the Goldeyes wrapped their 2-1 series loss against the Sioux Falls Canaries last week, manager Rick Forney lamented the team's dearth of timely hitting. In the first two games against Lincoln, the batters seemed to step up to the challenge, posting wins of 8-5 and 6-5 with some well-timed heroics.
But in the second two games of the series, that spark once again flickered out. "It's all good pitching," Forney said shortly after Sunday's loss. "Fleming is just a good pitcher... You gotta have a good game plan, you gotta make "em pitch to the top of the zone. If you're swinging at stuff down out of the zone early in the count, you got zero chance of hitting that guy."
Now, the Goldeyes look to the road to turn their fortunes around. They kick the trip off tonight, with the first of four tilts against division rival Sioux Falls Canaries, 6-10. (A three-game visit to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks will follow.) Sioux Falls is a good park for offence, Forney said, and he'll be looking for his crew to start loading up some runs.
"We got to do a better job with getting a lead-off hitter on each inning," he said. "Right now, we're really scuffling with men in scoring position, and scoring position. Good offensive teams hit with men on base, and get the two-out hits, and we're not doing that."