Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Water rising, Fish don't know how to swim
Goldeyes steadily sinking in standings
As the skies opened up over Canwest Park on Thursday afternoon, Goldeyes all-star outfielder Kevin West's words from Wednesday's batting practice became somewhat prophetic.
"When it rains, it pours," he said, trying his best to explain what's happening to a Fish team virtually bereft of any good news in the last few weeks. Wednesday's loss was the 10th in their last 12 games, an ongoing funk featuring such ignoble highlights as a four-game sweep at the hands of the Joliet JackHammers -- at home, no less -- a 16-1 thrashing in Fargo last weekend, and two blown ninth-inning leads.
They've now fallen two games below .500 for the first time this season, and entering Thursday night's game against the Lake County Fielders, the fifth-place Gary SouthShore RailCats are only one game back of leapfrogging the Fish for pole position in the race for the last playoff spot in the Northern League.
Still, if you talk to most of the team's players, there's seems to be an underlying sense of optimism -- "We've got a great group of guys," "we just need to pull it all together," or as Wes Long put it Wednesday, "I think we're about to turn the corner."
Goldeyes manager Rick Forney isn't buying the all-smiles attitude.
"Players aren't interested in dwelling on negative things," said Forney on Thursday, "because that can have a carry-over effect, you know?
"And I'm as just as guilty of it as anybody! Sometimes I just don't want to talk about certain things that are going wrong because I spend my whole day thinking about it; I spend my whole night not sleeping because I'm thinking about it."
Forney, a long-time pitcher himself, is not one to call out his players, and is letting the results speak for themselves.
"It's easy to see guys in there are struggling. We're struggling to win games for a number of reasons," he said, adding that the team's inability to make "routine" defensive plays has been their Achilles' heel in the last few weeks.
"Honestly, it's been two plays," he said in reference to Tuesday and Wednesday night's losses. "We misplayed a fly ball two nights ago that cost us two runs early in the game... we kicked a routine double-play ball last night that cost us two runs, and we wound up losing by a run."
The team's infield defence certainly hasn't been helped by an injury to rookie Price Kendall. Kendall had been rock-solid at second base since joining the team, adding some impressive quickness on defence, speed on the basepaths and a reliable bat. But on Tuesday, he was caught in a rundown between first and second and when trying to evade the tag, his hand was stepped on by the cleat of a leaping Kyle Higgins. The injury forced Forney to shuffle his defensive line-up on Tuesday, which he said "absolutely" cost them late in the game.
Kendall returned to action on Wednesday, but missed a throw badly for a costly error.
"(The hand's) definitely still sore," he said before Thursday's game. "But I'm not going to miss any time for it."
Forney believes that the inconsistent D is responsible for much of the troubles the Fish have had on the mound and particularly in a bullpen that has been taking a lot of heat of late.
"If we can find a way to make routine plays we at least give ourselves a chance.
"It's not that our pitching's not good. This is basically the same group in there that was leading the league in pitching for awhile."
The staff was hurt by the loss of ace Mark Holliman to affiliated baseball earlier this year, forcing Zach Baldwin, one of the team's best relievers, into the rotation.
That said, Forney might have found a way to stop the bleeding. On Thursday morning he announced the addition of starter Jason Mackintosh, who was 5-0 with a fantastic 1.22 ERA earlier this year for the Maui No Koa Ikaika.
"We lost Holliman, so bringing in Jason gives us the opportunity to put Zach back in our bullpen."
No word on how Mackintosh feels about moving from Maui to Manitoba, however.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2010 C6
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