Bennett Stars in Dogs Debut, Chicago Downs Gary, 8-5
By Jack Ankony, The Chicago Dogs
A series sweep of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks wasn’t in the cards for the Dogs on Thursday night, falling in game three of the series 8-4.
Fargo’s Will Zimmerman cranked a three-run home run in the sixth inning, which chased Dogs starter Garrett Christman and turned out to be the game winner. While the Dogs lost their first game since Saturday at Milwaukee, Ryan Lidge continued his hot streak at the plate.
With zero outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, the Dogs cleanup hitter ripped a single to right field on a 3-0 count. The hot-hitting Lidge was given the green light, and rightfully so, as he is now batting .358 on the year to fuel the Dogs offense.
Dogs manager Butch Hobson recently moved Lidge up to fourth in the batting order after batting sixth or seventh for the majority of the season. But for Lidge, this new role hasn’t felt different or affected his production at the plate.
“Honestly, the way our team is I feel like there’s always runners on when I’m at the plate, so I haven’t really changed anything,” Lidge said.
Before each game, Lidge makes sure to formulate a gameplan based on the tendencies of the opposing pitcher. But whether Lidge faces a hard-throwing starter or someone who mixes in plenty of offspeed, his main focus is trying to see the ball as deep as he can.
Lidge extended his hit streak to 14 games on Thursday night and is now tied for fourth on the team with 15 RBI. While Lidge has been igniting big innings for the Dogs all year long and owns the seventh-highest batting average in the American Association, he is still yet to hit a home run.
Lidge said some of the best balls he has hit this year have been to the deepest part of the field, but more so that he prefers home runs to come naturally. When Lidge steps up to the plate trying to hit the ball out of the park, he tends to pull his head and confuse his mechanics. As long as his batting average stays near the top of the league, Lidge is not worried about the long ball.
“Obviously it’s there and you see it every day because you see your name there on the scoreboard, but I try not to get into my head about it,” Lidge said. “Hopefully [home runs] come in bunches.”
As the Dogs main catcher, Lidge is also tasked with creating a gameplan with the starting pitcher and bullpen arms. The Dogs have recently transferred four pitching contracts to MLB organizations, which means Lidge is starting to get to know new faces on the team.
On Thursday night, that was Max Foody, a left-handed pitcher who figures to work in the bullpen in an effort to replace Kevin Marnon, Paul Schwendel, Tyler Ferguson and Connor Grey, who left this week after being signed by MLB organizations.
For Lidge, the main focus when working with new pitchers is getting to know them. Before Thursday’s game he made a point to not only ask Foody what pitches he throws and how he likes to attack hitters, but also to form a personal relationship.
“Butch and the staff are going to bring guys in that they think are going to help us compete for a championship here and we’re going to trust that,” Lidge said.
Although the Dogs have recently lost four of their best pitchers, Lidge’s confidence in the Dogs has not waivered. Before this series, the Dogs trailed the RedHawks for the division lead by a half of a game, and after winning two of three, the Dogs now hold on to first place in the North Division.
Lidge considers the Dogs a confident bunch, and beating a team like Fargo-Moorhead only adds to that.
“We feel like we are the best team in this league, and I think that’s how it should be,” Lidge said.