With his tired bullpen needing a break, Alex Boshers was more than happy to deliver.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes starting pitcher tossed a gem during a soggy Monday matinee at Shaw Park, working into the eighth inning to lead the home team to a 2-1 victory over the Gary SouthShore Railcats in front of 5,992 fans.
Winnipeg improves to 13-10 on the season, Gary falls to 14-9.
It was the most complete performance of the season so far for the 27-year-old right-hander, who was acquired in a trade just before the American Association season began last month. Boshers had gone winless through his first four starts with the Fish but managed to put all his tools together in his latest effort.
"I had everything working for me," a clearly relieved Boshers told the Free Press following the game. He went 7 2/3 innings, giving up just one run on five hits while striking out six and walking one.
"I think that's what we can produce any night. And I feel like that's what I should be producing every night," said the Nashville native.
It was timely, too, coming less than 24 hours after manager Rick Forney had called upon six relievers to get through an eventual 6-5 loss to Chicago.
"I love my bullpen guys to death because they always have my back. Any time I can give them a day off I'm going to try and do it," said Boshers, who is in his fourth year of pitching in this league and has reached double-digits in wins the past two years with Wichita.
Forney said he wasn't counting on getting more than six innings out of Boshers, so his extended outing was a pleasant surprise. Winnipeg's five-man rotation has been cut down to four for the past week due to a shoulder injury to starter Shane Dawson. That means everyone has been working on short rest.
"That was probably as good as we've got from anyone on our pitching staff so far," said Forney. "He was commanding the zone, he kept attacking all day. One thing he didn't do is force my hand by pitching himself out of the game and losing command of the zone."
Then there's the fact the Goldeyes have struggled to score runs so far this season, with just 108 now in 23 games. That puts them sixth in the 12-team loop. Perhaps no greater illustration of that is the fact closer Victor Capellan already has 11 saves this year, which have come in Winnipeg's 13 wins. When they win, it's usually by the slimmest of margins, as was the case Monday.
"Our lack of run-scoring efficiency is bringing him in the game too much. It's not just him, it's some of our sixth, seventh and eighth-inning guys that are coming in the game, and with every pitch they throw the game's on the line," said Forney. "We're scuffling to have good consistent quality at-bats throughout the course of a game."
Winnipeg got just enough offence Monday in the form of a Reynaldo Rodriguez solo home run in the fourth inning and a Matt McCann two-out RBI single in the seventh. For Rodriguez, the blast off the left-field light pole was his third big fly of the season, and gives him a team-leading 17 RBIs.
Gary struck for their only run in the eight with a two-out double that scored an earlier single, but that's as close as they'd come.
"The bats are going to come around, we know that. We just gotta keep helping pick up the slack and they'll pick us up as soon as they can. Eventually we'll start banging runs left and right," said Boshers.
Capellan worked a perfect ninth Monday. He's lapping the field of other closers, as the next highest total in the league right now is just five. He's already halfway to the Goldeyes franchise record of 22 saves —with more than three-quarters of the season still left to play.
"That guy's an everyday warrior. He comes out and he just attacks people. He does the same thing every day. It doesn't matter the situation he's in, he's ready to roll. That dude is ready 100 out of 100 games," said Boshers.
Winnipeg and Gary continue their three-game series Tuesday night.
Pitcher Mitch Lambson, who was with the Goldeyes last season when they won their second consecutive championship, will get the start. He signed with a team in Mexico this past off-season but has been re-acquired by the Goldeyes following his release. He'll take the rotation spot of Dawson, who is expected to be out a while with his injury.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.