The Winnipeg Goldeyes have picked up exactly where they left off.
Friday night in Grand Prairie, Tex., the Goldeyes got a great start from Matt Rusch, a homer from Josh Mazzola, three hits from Leonard Davis, a three-run sixth inning and a lock-down ninth inning from closer Patrick Keating to open the 2013 American Association season with a 4-2 win over the Grand Prairie AirHogs.
“We were hitting on all cylinders,” said Goldeyes pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea on TSN 1290's post-game show. “We were throwing strikes, getting hits, playing defence. It was a good performance.”
Indeed it was. The Goldeyes trailed 2-1 heading into the sixth when Mazzola homered and the Fish put up a three-spot and took the lead for good.
The inning opened with a double from Fehlandt Lentini and after Nick Liles flew out, Davis singled home Lentini. Davis then scored ahead of Mazzola, who hit the game-winning two-run bomb.
Meanwhile, as Davis and Mazzola each drove in two runs, the pitching staff was terrific. Rusch, who got the win, allowed two runs over five complete innings. Brendan Lafferty, Chris Kissock and Allen Caldwell each pitched a scoreless inning of relief and Keating shut it down in the ninth.
While Rusch scattered six hits over five complete, the bullpen allowed only two over the next four. Rusch had five strikeouts while the bullpen added six – Lafferty had two, Kissock and Caldwell had one each and Keating struck out two in the ninth, including the final hitter from Grand Prairie, Joe Staley.
“Rusch came out throwing strikes, kept our defense on their toes and they were making plays behind him,” said Vermilyea. “When you're throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters you can be very successful.
“I mean you know you can't win ‘em all unless you win the first one and Matt gave us five solid innings and that's what we were looking for from him. Then we got an inning each from four relievers and now, if we need to, we can run them all out there tomorrow night.”
Vermilyea was extremely impressed with the prowess of Davis, a former Washington Nationals minor league player of the year. The Goldeyes DH went three-for-four, drove in a pair and scored one.
“Leonard Davis is getting better every day,” said Vermilyea. “He's getting his timing down, he's really starting to hit his stride. Leonard's looking good.”
Rusch (1-0) got the win for Winnipeg. The man who earned the victory in the final game of last fall's playoffs is off to a great start. Keating got the save, as five Goldeyes pitchers did not walk one AirHogs hitter.
Starter Derek Blacksher (0-1) took the loss for Grand Prairie. He lasted just five innings, walked none, struck out one, and allowed four runs.
The Goldeyes and AirHogs go at it again Friday night in Grand Prairie. The game can be heard live with Paul Edmonds on TSN 1290 beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m.