WINNIPEG, MB – The Winnipeg Goldeyes (9-7) lost 7-5 to the Lincoln Saltdogs at Shaw Park on Saturday night.
The Saltdogs (9-7) scored three runs in the top of the first inning, and managed to hold the lead through the end of the game. Pat McKenna was hit by a pitch with one out, and scored on the next pitch when Christian Ibarra doubled to left field. Curt Smith followed with a two-run home run to left-centre.
“We battled a bit today,” said Goldeyes’ manager Rick Forney . “We just unfortunately put ourselves in a big hole today. They got out of the gates fast. Mikey made some good pitches that got hit, and when he made some bad pitches, they were hit over our head.”
Saltdogs’ starter Matt Larkins (2-0) protected the lead in the bottom of the inning, and worked six frames to pick up the win. Larkins allowed four runs, two earned, on eight hits. Larkins walked two and struck out six.
The Goldeyes scored their first run in the bottom of the second. Wes Darvill reached on an infield single and moved to second on a single through the left side from Casio Grider. After Tanner Murphylaid down a sacrifice bunt, Larkins momentarily held Winnipeg off the board when first baseman Rene Leveret picked off a low line drive hit by Ridge Hoopii-Haslam. Adam Heisler then hit a line drive that struck Larkins’ body and deflected towards the third base line. The infield single scored Darvill and cut Lincoln’s lead to 3-1.
“We had opportunities,” said Forney. “We just weren’t able to get the big hit there, but we made some things happen in the middle of the ballgame. We took some walks, capitalized on some errors, but just lacked that one big hit in the gap to really get some things going.”
The Saltdogs responded with two runs in the top of the third. Ibarra doubled leading off before Smith was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt from Luis Alen, Leveret and Jon Smith hit back-to-back RBI singles to make it 5-1 in favour of Lincoln.
McKenna struck an RBI double to centre field that scored Chase Harris from first base in the top of the fourth. Later in the inning, Darvill made a leaping catch to rob Alen with the bases loaded. Murphy singled home Grider with the Goldeyes’ second run in the bottom of the inning. Grider had reached on an infield single and stolen second base.
Alen beat out a potential inning-ending double play ball with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth to scratch across Lincoln’s seventh and final run.
Mikey O’Brien (3-1) took the loss for the Goldeyes, allowing seven earned runs on 11 hits in five and one-third innings. O’Brien walked two and struck out six, while throwing first pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced.
Winnipeg began mounting a comeback with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Aided by three Saltdogs errors and an RBI single from Heisler, the Goldeyes pulled within 7-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Darvill drew an eight-pitch walk, stole second base, and eventually came home when Murphy singled to right-centre.
Zac Westcott worked around a leadoff single from Heisler in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the two-run lead, while Jeff McKenzie earned his third save of the year with a perfect bottom of the ninth.
Zach Dando pitched two shutout innings in relief. Cameron McVey struck out two during a scoreless ninth in what was his 100th career outing as a professional.
“The bullpen was good today,” said Forney. “Zach Dando gave us six really good outs, and did it quickly, so we were able to keep some offensive flow there. McVey got himself into a little bit of trouble, but he’s got the ability to create some swings and misses.”
Heisler had four hits and reached base five times. Grider’s stolen base on Larkins in the fourth was noteworthy as the Saltdogs’ right-hander led American Association pitchers in 2015 with a 77% caught stealing rate.
The Goldeyes turned three double plays for a second time in three games, including a nifty stop byMaikol Gonzalez in the top of the second. With Pat Kelly at the plate, Gonzalez stabbed a tough hop to his left and made the flip to Grider at second who was able to avoid Brandon Jacobs’ slide, and complete the throw to first.
The series concludes Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Kevin McGovern (0-0, 1.23) faces left-hander Bennett Parry (1-0, 3.86).
Tickets for all Goldeyes’ home games are on sale now by calling 1-855-GOLDEYE, visiting www.goldeyes.com, or stopping by any Ticketmaster location, including the box office at Shaw Park. For information on season tickets, 10-Game Mini Packs, or group outings, call the Goldeyes’ office at (204) 982-2273.