THE Winnipeg Goldeyes are now nearly a speck in the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks' rear-view mirror, but a wild-card berth can still lead the Goldeyes to the playoffs' promised land.
The Goldeyes (48-35), who have 17 games remaining in the American Association regular season, slipped 6 1/2 games back of the North Division-leading RedHawks (55-29) on Thursday with a 1-0 loss to them in Fargo.
Thursday's game completed a four-game series between Winnipeg and Fargo with Winnipeg's only win coming in an 8-6 victory on Wednesday night with veteran pitcher Ace Walker earning the victory.
While it would be tough for the Goldeyes to repeat as the North Division pennant winner, they have a good shot at making the playoffs via the wild-card berth.
The three division winners earn automatic playoff berths while the wild card will go to the best team to not win its division. Winnipeg has a four-game lead on the Kansas City T-Bones and is five games up on the St. Paul Saints for the wild card.
Winnipeg has a chance to put more distance between itself and its wild-card rivals beginning tonight at Shaw Park when it opens a three-game series against St. Paul at 7 p.m. Game 2 is Saturday at 6 p.m., with the third game on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
The Goldeyes' starting pitcher tonight is expected to be lefty Zach Baldwin.
"We didn't play bad baseball (in the 3-1 series loss to Fargo), we know we've got a big series coming up starting (today) and our focus has got to be holding off St. Paul and holding off Kansas City, so that starts tomorrow," Bill Pulsipher, the Goldeyes' pitching coach told Paul Edmonds on TSN 1290 radio's post-game show Thursday.
"We wipe this clean, we got through this series. It wasn't what we wanted, but it is what it is. We can't sit here and hold our heads and say we're not playing good baseball, forget that. We've got to be ready to go out there (today) and show St. Paul we're going to be the team that's going to be taking that wild card."
Pulsipher said the best way the Goldeyes can hold off St. Paul and Kansas City is to "take care of our game each night.
"Chances are we're not going to win all 17 games (remaining) but we've got to win a good majority of those and I think that will take care of itself," Pulsipher said. "Just regroup. Pick ourselves up again and here we go."
In Thursday's game, Winnipeg's best chance to score came in the top of the eighth inning. Third baseman Amos Ramon, who had three of Winnipeg's four hits, got aboard on a single and moved to third on a single by left-fielder Kyle Day. But right-fielder Mike Coles grounded into a double play -- the third double-play turned by Fargo in the game -- to end the inning.
Fargo responded in the bottom of the eighth by scoring the game-winning run on a two-out double by shortstop Zach Penprase, which scored Marco Rodriguez. Goldeyes pitcher Chris Salamida (4-6) took the tough-luck loss.
Winnipeg's Josh Mazzola has 16 home runs and is two blasts away from being the league leader, while pitcher Matt Rusch leads the league with an earned run average of 2.48.
If the regular-season ended today, the Goldeyes would meet Fargo in a best-of-five semifinal series. Fargo, by virtue of having a better record, would get the choice of hosting the first two or the last three games in the series.
The Central Division-leader Wichita Wingnuts (47-36) and the South Division-leader Grand Prairie AirHogs (45-38) of Texas would meet in the other best-of-five semifinal series.
The Goldeyes will have one more shot at Fargo as the regular season ends for both teams with a three-game set at Shaw Park Sept. 1-3.
Winnipeg Goldeyes 48-35--
Kansas City T-Bones 44-40 4.5
St. Paul Saints43-405
El Paso Diablos 40-417
North: Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 55-29
Central: Wichita Wingnuts 48-36
South: Grand Prairie AirHogs 45-39