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Goldeyes need to be sharper with playoffs fast approaching

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Another wrenching series loss to a middling club has weakened the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ chances at a division title with three weeks remaining in the American Association pro baseball league’s regular season.

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Another wrenching series loss to a middling club has weakened the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ chances at a division title with three weeks remaining in the American Association pro baseball league’s regular season.

The Fish (46-34) fell 4-2 to the visiting Sioux City Explorers (37-42) on Sunday afternoon in the last meeting of a three-game series, with 5,348 in attendance at Shaw Park.

Winnipeg has lost three of its last four series – two against also-rans in the division race — and is six games back of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks in the West Division.

It’s a far cry from the five-series heater coming out of the all-star break when the Goldeyes went 13-3 to cement themselves in the thick of the chase.

“That’s just baseball sometimes,” said Amos Ramon, Goldeyes’ hitting coach. “You go through those little ruts where that happens, but you go through really good spells where you win so many in a row. Even in those games we’ve lost, they were really close ball games. It could’ve gone either way.”

The Goldeyes have six series remaining in their schedule (three at home, three on the road), four of which are against teams that currently hold a spot in the newly formatted post-season.

Historically a battle for two wild-card spots in each division, the 12-team league’s new playoff format welcomes eight teams (top four from each division) to the fall dance. The Goldeyes have a sizeable 9.5-game cushion over the fifth-place Lincoln Saltdogs.

The Goldeyes’ toughest stretch will, presumably, come after the current homestand, in which they hit the road for 10 days to play three series, including consecutive battles against the Kansas City Monarchs and Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.

The Monarchs are three games ahead of the Fish in the West, trailing the Redhawks, who pace the division by three games.

“I think we’re right where we want to be. We’ve been playing really well the past couple of weeks. Things are starting to click on all cylinders and I think we’re in a really good spot moving forward. The next two weeks is going to be really fun with Kansas City and Fargo games coming up, so I’m really looking forward to that,” Ramon said.

Despite their recent stumbles, the Goldeyes are still generating plenty of offence. The defeat to the Explorers was just the fourth time in the last six series (18 games) the Goldeyes have failed to score more than three runs in a game.

The hottest hitter is David Washington, who boasts a .571 batting average to go with four home runs and 13 RBI in the last week.

“I think it’s just baseball being baseball,” said Washington, who had three hits and a walk Sunday. “I’ve kind of just been telling myself to just stick with it whether I’m feeling good or not. That takes a little bit of the pressure off.”

Washington is in his first season with the Fish after spending the previous two campaigns with the Milwaukee Milkmen. The 31-year-old infielder said he’s not putting pressure on himself to perform, and that that’s been — and will continue to be — crucial to his own and the club’s success.

“When it’s going well, the game just slows down a bit. The ball moves a little bit slower, you move from pitch to pitch a little easier and you just ride that wave,” he said.

Winnipeg Goldeyes' Justin Thompson pops up against the Sioux City Explorers Sunday at Shaw Park. Below, Ian Sagdal throws to first for the out. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Kevin Lachance is in his fourth season in Winnipeg. The infielder has played in this fateful stretch plenty and will be leaned on as a calming presence as the season concludes.

“It’s about playing our best baseball at the right time,” he said after Sunday’s game. “The teams that end up winning a championship every year are usually the teams that are playing their best baseball at the end. I think we’ve been playing good baseball for a while, it’s just about us putting it together over the next three weeks and making sure we’re where we want to be when the playoffs come.”

“I think the exciting thing is that we’ve shown in all phases of the game that we can be at that level that we want to be throughout the season. It’s just about everything clicking at the right time and working hard over the next three weeks to get there.”

The Goldeyes are vying for their first division title since 2017, when the club won the North en route to the franchise’s fourth championship. That won’t alter Lachance’s  leadership approach.

“When you start changing stuff at the end of the season, you get in trouble. So, maybe if anything, it’s just been ‘stay the course.’ We’ve been doing this all year, we’ve been playing good baseball for a while,” Lachance said.

“Just let things happen.”

The Goldeyes begin the last series of their homestand Tuesday night against the Kansas City Monarchs. Game time is 6:30 p.m.

jfreysam@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam
Reporter

Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.

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Updated on Monday, August 15, 2022 6:15 AM CDT: Adds headline, changes tile photo

Updated on Monday, August 15, 2022 11:16 AM CDT: Updates with writethrough, changes deck

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