Costly win for Goldeyes
Team MVP Murphy injured in Game 1 win over Redhawks
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The Winnipeg Goldeyes opened their playoffs with a win but suffered a potentially catastrophic blow along the way.
The Fish prevailed over the visiting Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks 6-3 in front of 2,116 at Shaw Park in Game 1 of the American Association West Division semifinals Wednesday.
The club lost all-star Max Murphy to an injury in the process.
“It could’ve been real easy for that game to get away from us the last four, five innings,” said manager Rick Forney. “They showed a lot of fight today, for sure.”
It was the 11th playoff series in the storied rivalry between the clubs and first since 2012 when the Goldeyes won 3-1 en route to their first league title.
The second-seeded Redhawks flexed their muscles early when lefty John Silviano mashed a fastball over the left field wall, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead in the top half of the second inning. It was the last time the Fargo club lead the contest.
The Goldeyes, who entered the playoffs as the third-seed in the West Division on a two-game heater, jumped on a reeling Redhawks’ squad that entered the series following a long road trip that saw them go 2-7.
Reggie Pruitt Jr. started the bottom of the fourth inning with a leadoff walk before Dean Stafford Jr. punched a single to right field. Pruitt Jr., one of the fastest Goldeyes on the roster and playing in his first post-season game since 2019, safely reached third.
With runners on the corners and no outs, the stage was set for Raul Navarro. The shortstop, who was named to the league’s post-season all-star team earlier this week, pulled the next pitch to left field for an RBI single to knot the game.
Two batters later, Murphy, who had already crushed a double earlier in the night, continued to show his experience in fall ball by pulling a pitch to left field to score Stafford.
After Navarro smoothly slid to the club’s third run of the inning, disaster struck the surging club.
Logan Hill chopped a slow roller back to the mound, where Redhawks’ pitcher Kevin McGovern overthrew the catcher, who, while reaching for the high throw, collided with a sprinting Murphy. Despite home plate being wide open, Murphy immediately collapsed to the turf, holding his lower left leg, which appeared to be limp.
The park fell silent for nearly 20 minutes as the Goldeyes’ MVP lay on the ground, writhing in pain.
Murphy, who led the league in home runs and RBI this year, exited the game on a stretcher.
“It is great to win, but it came at a huge cost,” Forney said. “We’re not talking about just losing the best player on our team. We’re losing the best player in the league, he’s the league MVP. You can’t replace him.”
Forney said Murphy was getting X-rays to confirm what the team believes is a broken leg.
Murphy was awarded the run, despite not officially touching home plate. The collision swelled the Goldeyes’ lead to three runs.
“Nobody really did anything wrong, it’s just unfortunate what happened to Max, he’s our best player,” said catcher Dean Stafford Jr. after the game.
“It definitely stunned us, for sure. But we did a good job as a team of letting that — I don’t want to say ‘fuel us’ — but keep going. Like I said, he’s the heart and soul of our team, so when he went down it was very hard on us.”
After allowing a fifth run in the inning, courtesy of a scorched single from Ian Sagdal, McGovern didn’t return to the game.
The Redhawks’ ace, who helped the Fish to back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017, conceded five hits, four earned runs and two walks across the 16 batters he faced.
The other starting arm, Goldeyes’ Landen Bourassa, had a different experience on the bump.
The ground-ball-inducing righty struck out three batters while allowing just four hits and one run over seven innings of work.
“Landen hasn’t gone seven innings too many times and today he did it against a really good team,” Forney said. “He threw a lot of strikes today, he found the zone and he gave us seven really good innings today.”
Winnipeg won the first battle but will try to avoid losing the war without their MVP going forward.
“We have a .300 average and 31 home runs to replace. We all have to step up and do our part because we lost an MVP-calibre player. It’s going to be tough but I think we can do it,” Stafford Jr. said.
The Goldeyes will look to sweep the best-of-three series in Fargo on Friday.
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.
Updated on Thursday, September 8, 2022 6:48 AM CDT: Minor copy edit