WINNIPEG, MB – The Winnipeg Goldeyes (29-25) beat the Gary SouthShore RailCats 9-5 at Shaw Park on Friday night.
The Goldeyes have won eight of their last 11 games, and Friday’s win moves the club four games above .500 for the first time this season.
The Goldeyes scored early and often against RailCats’ starter and knuckleballer Zach Staniewicz. Three straight walks in the opening inning allowed the Goldeyes to load the bases with no outs. Staniewicz nearly escaped the jam before David Rohm worked out a two-out walk to force in Adam Heisler with the game’s first run. Casio Grider followed with an RBI single on a line drive to left.
“It’s not an easy adjustment (against a knuckleballer),” said Goldeyes’ manager Rick Forney. “Obviously, you don’t see knuckleballers very often, if you see one at all in your career. I think the biggest adjustment you need to make is (to) stay patient and wait for him to throw strikes and be willing to see a couple of them your first at bat, because it’s not something that you see very often.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to be patient when someone’s throwing you 60 mile-an-hour knuckleballs and some of them appear to be in the top of the strike zone. You see it real good, and you want to swing, but I thought the approach was very, very good today. When you’re willing to take that free pass, as I’ve been saying throughout the whole season, our offence is kind of driven by us taking walks. We’re a good base running team. We were taking a free pass, whether it was a walk or a hit by pitch today, and turning it into a stolen base situation where we’re immediately in scoring position. Offensively, guys did a real good job.”
The RailCats cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the second. Frank Martinez tripled down the right field line with one out and scored on Jeremy Hamilton’s groundout to second.
Winnipeg answered back in the bottom of the second inning when Heisler crushed a two-out, solo home run to right-centre field.
The Goldeyes broke the game open with a four-run bottom of the third. Singles from Willie Cabrera and Jacob Rogers bookended a Reggie Abercrombie hit batsmen to load the bases with no outs. Cabrera scored on a sacrifice fly to deep left from Rohm. Two batters later, Ridge Hoopii-Haslam lined a three-run home run to left to extend the lead to 7-1. Winnipeg has homered 18 times in the last eight games, while scoring 69 runs during that same stretch.
“He’s (Hoopii-Haslam) a good player,” said Forney. “He really is. Just unfortunately, he’s on a team full of veteran players that have been around the block a little bit. There’s a lot of experience in our lineup, and it’s really hard to pick your spots where you’re going to play him. He’s a good player, and if we pick our spots and try to get him out there, he can do some good things if we can get him some reps.”
Duke von Schamann (5-4) earned the win, allowing four earned runs on eight hits over six and two-thirds innings. von Schamann walked one and struck out one. von Schamann was facing the RailCats for a third time in four starts.
“Duke’s been doing a good job,” added Forney. “The last four times out, he’s just really throwing a lot of strikes, not really beating himself. He’s doing a much better job of making quality pitches with two strikes and doing a better job of closing out innings with two outs.”
Maikol Gonzalez singled leading off the bottom of the fourth, stole second base, and later scored on a two-out, RBI single to left-centre from Rogers. With two hits in the game, Rogers extended his hitting streak to eight games in a row.
Rohm laced a triple to right-centre to open the sixth and scored on a sacrifice fly to the wall in left from Grider.
In the top of the sixth, Abercrombie robbed former Goldeye Tillman Pugh of a base hit with a sliding catch in centre field on a sinking line drive.
The RailCats rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to pull within 9-4. With second and third and no outs, Jaime del Valle plated Martinez on a groundout to first. John Holland followed with an RBI single. Two batters later, Cameron Newell hit a two-out, RBI double that scored Holland from first. Kyle Anderson relieved von Schamann and retired Matt Petrone on a first-pitch groundout to second to end the rally.
Anderson worked a perfect top of the eighth on five pitches, and recorded a leadoff out in the ninth. Three straight singles from del Valle, Holland, and Randy Santiesteban loaded the bases. Eric Eadington relieved Anderson, and ended the game on an unusual double play. Eadington induced a groundball to second from Newell. After forcing out Santiesteban at second base, Newell beat out Winnpeg’s initial double play attempt at first. However, Rogers fired across the diamond to nail Holland who had rounded third base. Eadington earned the first save of his career.
Staniewicz (0-1) took the loss, allowing nine earned runs on 10 hits in eight innings. Staniewicz walked four, struck out five, and earned credit for his first career complete game.
All nine Goldeyes’ starters reached base at least once, while seven had at least one hit.
Game two of the series is Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. Ethan Carnes (4-1, 3.98) takes on right-hander Charle Rosario (5-3, 3.22).
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.