SIOUX CITY | The tradition-rich Winnipeg Goldeyes have another postseason playoff berth within their sights.
And, the Sioux City Explorers? Well, a team that has been out of the hunt for several weeks is starting to play more and more like a team that has been out of the hunt for several weeks.
A starting opportunity for utility infielder Jeff Squier underscored an embarrassing second inning for the X’s Tuesday night, surrendering five unearned runs to help the Goldeyes chalk up a 9-3 victory in an American Association baseball matchup at Lewis and Clark Park.
It was the seventh win in the last eight games for Winnipeg, a perfect 5-0 in that stretch against Sioux City, which has now gone 6-27 ever since a 5-1 surge in early July had them somewhat in contention at 23-26.
Rocked by the Goldeyes for the second time in five nights was X’s starter Jason Jarvis, fourth in the league with a 3.41 ERA before failing to make it out of the fourth inning in a 15-8 loss last Thursday in Winnipeg.
Jarvis, falling to 0-7 for his last nine starts, was rocked for 14 hits in this one, even though only four runs were earned when he left with the guests on top 9-3 in the top of the sixth.
Winnipeg’s Ray Sadler, a 32-year-old outfielder with major league service, capped a two-run first inning with an RBI double and it was his first of three consecutive at-bats that produced run-scoring hits.
The game, though, boiled down to a calamitous top of the second, which started with a supremely errant throw to first base on a routine bouncer to the newly acquired Squier, getting a start at third base.
A wild pitch and Luis Alen’s base hit put runners on the corners before Kevin Moesquit’s grounder got Casey Haerther hung up between third and home for the inning’s first out.
Tyler Graham, another of three Winnipeg regulars with major league service time, hit another ball to Squier -- a potential double-play ball -- and the ball caromed off his glove, letting the inning’s first run cross.
Then, when Amos Ramon followed with a comebacker to Jarvis, shortstop Leugim Barroso couldn’t haul in the pitcher’s throw. And, as another run scored, a team that hadn’t made more than three errors all season suddenly had three in the same frame.
Jarvis, apparently losing his focus, yielded base hits to the next four batters in a row and Winnipeg was well on its way to victory with an early 7-0 cushion.
The Goldeyes added two additional runs in the fourth inning on four more hits, but they were blanked over the final five frames, which included 3 2-3 innings without a hit against newly acquired reliever Mike Jefferson, a lefthander out of Louisiana Tech.
“I have to give Dave Nitz, our radio guy (who also broadcasts Louisiana Tech football, basketball and baseball), credit for that, calling Jefferson to my attention,’’ said X’s Manager Stan Cliburn. “I was impressed. He threw the ball over the plate and he was sneaky fast. Hopefully, we can have fun watching him pitch down the stretch here.’’
Rookie outfielder Sam Judah’s three hits were the offensive highlight for a Sioux City offense that has struggled all season. Judah singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth, scoring the X’s first run on a ground ball by Yusuke Inoguchi. And, the Explorers added their two additional runs in the fifth when Eliezer Mesa’s two-out single was followed by an RBI double by Anthony Kaskadden and a run-scoring single by Judah.
Meanwhile, Squier, whose two errors accounted for half of a season-high four errors by the X’s, was also hitless in his first four Sioux City at-bats, sending his average for 102 at-bats with Kansas City, Lincoln and the Explorers to just .118.
The Goldeyes, meanwhile, featured three hits each by Sadler, Ryan Scoma and Yurendell DeCaster, a 33-year-old from Curacao who joined the Fish last week after hitting .342 this summer in the Mexican League.
Matt Jackson, a recent addition who had been strafed for 22 hits in just over 12 previous innings, used Sioux City’s embattled lineup to whittle his ERA to 4.79, lasting eight innings before Kaohi Downing struck out the side in the ninth.
Winnipeg, improving to 44-37, pulled within 2.5 games of Gary, the leader in the race for the league’s one wild-card playoff berth. Gary, 46-34, had a Tuesday night road game with league-leading Wichita rained out and will face the Wingnuts in a doubleheader tonight.
The Explorers, suffering their fourth loss in a row, will hope to see veteran lefthander Richard Salazar snap yet another losing streak when he takes an 8-3 record and a 3.31 ERA, fifth best in the league, into a 7:05 matchup tonight.