WICHITA, KS – The Winnipeg Goldeyes lost 7-5 to the Wichita Wingnuts in Game Three of the American Association Championship Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Saturday night.
The Wingnuts lead the best-of-five series 2-1. The Goldeyes now face elimination for a third time in the postseason, and must win Sunday’s Game Four to keep their 2016 season alive.
“We’ve got to move on,” said Goldeyes’ manager Rick Forney. “We’ve got to hope that they’ve got 18 innings of their best baseball left in them.”
The Wingnuts rode a five-run bottom of the first inning to the win. Zack Cox doubled to left-centre field with one out. After Brent Clevlen and TJ Mittelstaedt drew walks to load the bases, Matt Chavez lifted a sacrifice fly to centre that scored Clevlen with the game’s first run. Nick Van Stratten followed with a soft single to right field that brought in Clevlen. Harrison Kain capped the inning with a three-run homer to left-centre.
“We put ourselves in a really big hole,” said Forney. “Playing a team like Wichita, it’s tough to come back from stuff like that, but we just didn’t take care of the baseball, with the walks and the wild pitches. I can handle a guy hitting a home run, but you’ve just got to be clean with the baseball.”
The Goldeyes battled back with four runs in the top of the second. David Rohm extended his postseason hitting streak to eight games with a leadoff single to centre. Casio Grider then doubled down the left field line to put runners on second and third with no outs. Two batters later, Carlton Tanabe hit a comebacker to Wingnuts’ starting pitcher Jesse Pratt. Pratt barehanded the ball in mid-air, but his throw to first got away from Chavez to bring in both Rohm and Grider. With Tanabe on second following the error, Maikol Gonzalez lined a single to left two batters later that cut the Wingnuts’ lead to 5-3. Gonzalez stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Martin Medina. Wille Cabrera made it a one-run game with a line drive single to left. The Goldeyes went on to load the bases with two outs before Pratt escaped further trouble.
Goldeyes’ starter Mikey O’Brien (1-2) worked three consecutive scoreless innings after the five-run first. In the bottom of the fourth, O’Brien was helped when Gonzalez threw out Kain at the plate. Kain tried to score from third on a groundball from Leo Vargas.
The Wingnuts added two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Christian Stringer led off with a single through the left side. Zack Cox grounded out to first. On a reverse double play attempt by Rohm, the throw broke away from the second base bag and allowed Stringer to advance to third. Stringer then scored on a wild pitch. Brent Clevlen walked, stole second, and eventually scored when Van Stratten was ruled safe at first on a potential inning-ending double play groundball.
“We’re not doing enough on offence either,” said Forney. “We scored four runs in the second inning, because they made three errors with two outs. I mean, we’re not manufacturing our own offence. We had chances. The game was close. Unfortunately, both teams were a little sloppy. They just got a few more hits than we did and made a few more pitches than we did.”
The Goldeyes scratched out a run in the top of the eighth to pull within 7-5. With the bases loaded and two outs, Rohm walked to force home Adam Heisler . Wingnuts’ closer Frankie Reed relieved Chad Nading and retired Grider on a popfly to shallow left to strand the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
The Goldeyes brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth before Reed recorded the final out for his first save of the postseason.
“We’re comfortable in this spot, aren’t we,?” said Forney on being down two games to one. “We did it to ourselves again. We haven’t really played well the last two days. They’ve kind of played better than we have. We’re heading into Game Four, and I haven’t even gotten my closer into a game yet. We’re not in an ideal situation, being down two games to one, but there’s a lot of pressure to win that final game. It’s not that easy. I’m pretty confident in my group. We’ll be okay tomorrow.”
O’Brien took the loss, allowing seven runs, six earned, on four hits in four and one-third innings. O’Brien walked four and struck out three.
Eddie Medina (1-0) was credited with the win in relief, working three scoreless innings after taking over for Pratt in the top of the third.
Pratt took a no-decision, allowing four unearned runs on four hits in two and one-third innings. Pratt walked four and struck out two.
Gonzalez finished with three hits for the Goldeyes. Cameron McVey pitched two and two-thirds perfect innings in relief of O’Brien.
American Association Championship Series Schedule (Wingnuts Lead Series 2-1)
Game 1 – Wednesday, September 14th – Goldeyes 5 – Wingnuts 0
Game 2 – Thursday, September 15th – Wingnuts 9 – Goldeyes 2
Game 3 – Saturday, September 17th – Wingnuts 7 – Goldeyes 5
Game 4 – Sunday, September 18th – Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 5:05 p.m.
Game 5* – Monday, September 19th – Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 7:05 p.m.
Game Four of the American Association Championship Series is Sunday evening at 5:05 p.m. Edwin Carl (10-6, 4.70) will come back on three days of rest for Winnipeg. The Wingnuts go with right-hander Tyler Kane (2-1, 1.69). All the action can be heard locally on 93.7 FM CJNU and worldwide at www.cjnu.ca.
For information on 2017 season tickets, 10-Game Mini Packs, or group outings, call the Goldeyes’ office at (204) 982-2273.