ST. PAUL, MN – In a summer that saw the Winnipeg Goldeyes set a new American Association single-season record for offensive walks, Maikol Gonzalez drew perhaps the most important walk of the year on Sunday night.
Winnipeg faced elimination in the best-of-five Division Series against the St. Paul Saints, and the game was tied at 4 in the top ninth when – with the bases loaded, two out and a full count on Maikol Gonzalez – the Goldeyes shortstop walked in a run to give the Fish a 5-4 lead they never relinquished.
“Sometimes (walks) make a big difference,” Goldeyes manager Rick Forney said after the game. “I can’t think of a better time to work a walk. (It was a) great, patient at-bat. It was a tough situation … so Maikol did a good job.”
The win keeps the Goldeyes’ playoff hopes alive. Winnipeg and St. Paul are now tied at two games apiece in the best-of-five series and will play Game 5 on Monday night at 7.
The Saints struck first, scoring on a ground rule double in the bottom first to take a 1-0 lead, but the Goldeyes came out swinging in the fourth.
Gonzalez hit a leadoff single and stole second, Willie Cabrera walked and Reggie Abercrombie singled to centre to drive in Gonzalez and tie the game at 1. Josh Romanski then advanced on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. Cabrera scored, Abercrombie stole home and Casio Grider followed with a solo home run to give Winnipeg a 4-1 lead.
But the Saints tied things back up in the bottom half of the inning. Tanner Vavra tripled to far right, and Breland Almadova hit a ground rule double to the same right corner to make it 4-2. Alonzo Harris singled to advance Almadova to third, and the pair pulled off a delayed double steal to cut the Goldeyes’ lead to one. Harris later scored on a sacrifice fly to centre to tie the game, and neither team scored again until the top ninth.
David Rohm led off the inning with a single to third base. After Casio Grider flied out to the Saints’ catcher in foul territory, Wes Darvill singled, and Carlton Tanabe advanced both runners on a 4-3 putout. St. Paul elected to intentionally walk Adam Heisler, which loaded the bases for Gonzalez.
Starters Duke von Schamann (0-0, 12.00) and Kody Knaus (0-0, 8.30) took no-decisions. von Schamann allowed four earned runs on 10 hits, struck out two and walked one through three innings for the Goldeyes.
Victor Capellan (1-0, 0.00) gave up one hit and struck out five through two scoreless innings for the win, and Winston Abreu picked up his second save of the playoffs after he pitched a scoreless ninth. Closer Ryan Rodebaugh (1-1, 3.00) took the loss for the Saints.
“These guys are warriors,” Forney said about his bullpen, noting Victor Capellan has pitched in all four games of the series and starters von Schamann and Kevin McGovern could see innings in Monday’s game.
Edwin Carl, Game 2’s starter, pitched two outs in the bottom fourth, including a swinging strikeout against Tony Thomas.
“The biggest outs of the game were by Edwin Carl,” Forney said. “He hasn’t pitched out of the pen all year … the whole game could’ve changed if he didn’t get anybody out.”
Forney will send Mikey O’Brien (0-1, 1.29) to the mound for the winner-take-all series finale, while the Saints will starter Mark Hamburger (1-0, 0.00).
“It’s anybody’s game,” Forney said. “Hopefully Mikey can get through six good ones, and we’ll do the best we can to match up.”
Tickets for all Goldeyes home games are available at the Shaw Park box office or by calling 1-855-GOLDEYE or visiting ticketmaster.ca. All Goldeyes games are broadcast live on 93.7 CJNU and at cjnu.ca.