Winnipeg Goldeyes Score Second Comeback to Take 2-1 Series Lead: American Association Playoffs
The Winnipeg Goldeyes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 3 of their best-of-five series against the Lincoln Saltdogs. Then they saw Lincoln score six unanswered runs and were trailing 6-2 with more than half the game gone. No worries though. The Goldeyes just did what they do best; never quit, throw in that great bullpen, and let their hitters do their thing. They know that more often than not, if given the chance, their hitters will come through. They did that tonight.
After splitting the first two games of the series in Winnipeg, it was clear that the Goldeyes wanted to make a statement right off. Jake Blackwood spoke loudly from the very start, hitting a 1-2 pitch for a home run and giving the Goldeyes a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The team had to be feeling pretty good, not only because they had the early lead, but also because they had their 12-game winner on the mound.
Nick Hernandez led the American Association in wins during the regular season, and entered the playoffs with seven straight wins. When Winnipeg scored a run in the third to increase the lead to 2-0, they had to feel like they were clearly in the driver’s seat. It seemed that this was absolutely the truth when Hernandez struck out the first five batters of the game. It looked like he was just not going to be beaten this night.
In the bottom of the third things would unravel quickly for Winnipeg. Mike Gilmartin doubled to lead-off the inning, but Hernandez struck out the next two batters. Following a walk, Matt Forgatch lined a double into the gap to cut the Goldeyes’ lead in half. With runners on second and third, the Goldeyes chose to intentionally walk slugger Ian Gac and face Brian Joynt. Joynt hit a ball to left fielder Donnie Webb that should have ended the inning, but he misplayed the ball, allowing all three runners to score, and suddenly the Saltdogs had the lead.
In the fifth Lincoln would add to the lead, and it was Joynt at the center of the rally again. With Ian Gac at first and two down, Joynt got all of a Hernandez pitch to move the score to 6-2. It was Hernandez last inning of work.
Lincoln starter Kevin McGovern had been relieved in the third inning, and was replaced by Justin Kuks. He cruised through his first three innings of work, but in the sixth the Goldeyes figured him out and got themselves right back into the game. Reggie Abercrombie and Donnie Webb started the inning with back-to-back singles, bringing the red-hot Josh Mazzola to the plate. He took a called strike and then launched the next pitch for a three-run home run. The lead was 6-5 Lincoln, and it was a tenuous one.
Mackenzie King had replaced Kuks to end the sixth inning and returned to the mound for Lincoln in the seventh. Casey Haerther led off the seventh and after falling behind the count 1-2, he worked it full before homering to tie the game. It was the second time in the series that the Goldeyes were behind by four runs and battled back. The question was whether they could close the deal or not. It would take an extra frame to find out.
Both teams held the other scoreless through regulation, forcing the game into the 10th inning. Abercrombie, who had three hits on the night, singled to lead-off the inning, and moved to second on a balk and third on sacrifice. After Mazzola walked, Alen hit a fly ball to right field to score Abercrombie and give the Goldeyes their first lead since the third inning.
Brendan Lafferty had pitched incredibly well in the eighth and ninth innings. In the 10th he turned the game over to Chris Kissock, who pitched a perfect inning, striking out two for the save. The Goldeyes finished with 16 hits on the night, with both Blackwood and Abercrombie rapping out three each.
The two teams will square off again Sunday night with the Goldeyes having a chance to close out the series. Matt Jackson will go for Winnipeg against Zachary Varce.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA