SIOUX CITY – There was nothing too mysterious about a four-game series with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, American Association baseball’s reigning champion and a solid threat to win back-to-back titles.
Finishing off their first four-game series sweep at Lewis and Clark Park since 2004, the Goldeyes showed off the riches of a talented roster while the Sioux City Explorers’ hard-luck stories just continued to stack up.
Snapping a scoreless tie with four runs in the fifth inning – their fourth four-run inning in a span of just 13 frames since Tuesday night – Winnipeg’s North Division leaders was credited with a 4-0 victory in a Wednesday night game that went 6 ½ innings before play was stopped due to rain and efforts to resume were abandoned after a 52-minute wait.
The win followed a 5-4 squeaker in the completion of a suspended seven-inning contest the Goldeyes led 5-2 when play was halted by a league curfew shortly after midnight Tuesday night. And, that decision came after late-inning rallies allowed the Fish to win 7-5 in 10 innings Monday and then 9-5 in Game 1 of Tuesday’s twin bill – a contest the Explorers had been six outs away from winning with a 5-1 lead.
This certainly wasn’t the total embarrassment the X’s had suffered July 11-13 at Shaw Park, where Winnipeg walloped the two-time defending Central Division champions 16-2, 9-2 and 12-0 – a three-game, 37-4 shellacking like the Explorers have probably never experienced in their 25-year history.
Indeed, the X’s took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning of the 10-inning series opener Monday and then surrendered a tie-breaking grand slam in the final inning of the Tuesday game they’d seemingly had in hand after Dre Gleason’s three-run homer in the fourth.
Then, after falling a run short in the contest interrupted late Tuesday night, this scheduled nine-inning series finale boiled down to Winnipeg’s one big inning after Sioux City lefthander Hobbs Johnson matched Winnipeg’s Edwin Carl with four scoreless frames.
The Goldeyes loaded the bases on three straight singles to open the fifth inning, the last of these on a bunt by David Rohm. Josh Romanski flew out to centerfielder Tony Campana and baserunner Jordan Ebert chose not to risk making a dash for the plate until a wild throw by Campana changed his mind.
Johnson came off the mound to field Reggie Abercrombie’s swinging bunt, losing his footing on slippery turf that allowed the 37-year-old veteran to collect an RBI single for a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, David Bergin hit a two-out flare just beyond the infield, permitting two more runs to cross and provide what became the last of the scoring.
Winnipeg’s Carl, improving to 7-3, allowed just two hits in the six innings the Explorers batted before play was stopped by the umpires. Tempers flared briefly and the X’s Kramer Sneed, slated to start Thursday night’s series opener here against Wichita, was ejected as he and his teammates questioned why the hosts were sent out to play defense in the top of the seventh and then denied their own half-inning on offense.
It was just that kind of series for the Explorers, who have now dipped three games under .500 for the first time all season, falling to 33-36 after a five-game losing streak that is now one shy of their season worst.
Winnipeg improved to 40-29 with 21 wins in 30 games since a 19-20 start and took over sole possession of first place in the North as Fargo-Moorhead, 38-29, had a series finale with Sioux Falls bagged due to rain.
In the completion of the suspended Game 2 from Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Explorers made a game of it after resuming a seven-inning contest with a 5-2 deficit in the top of the sixth inning.
Trailing 5-1 after Winnipeg added four fifth-inning runs to an unearned tally Tuesday night, the X’s got a two-out double from Tanner Vavra and an RBI single from Tony Campana to whittle the deficit to three before the league curfew halted play at 12:05 a.m.
Wednesday evening, Eudor Garcia’s two-out double in the bottom of the sixth made it a 5-4 contest. Then, in the final half-inning, Campana’s third hit of the game and his second and third stolen bases threatened to tie it up.
With Campana on second and one out, Joel Davis struck out on four pitches. Then, with the speedster taking third, Jayce Ray swung over the top of a 3-2 pitch from Victor Capellan, hitting a game-ending tapper back to the mound.