Winnipeg Goldeyes manager Rick Forney believes Wichita Wingnuts outfielder Brent Clevlen is this year's American Association MVP and teammate Jake Kahaulelio is a close second.
Saturday night in front of 5,839 partisan Goldeyes supporters at Shaw Park, Clevlen homered and doubled and Kahaulelio drove in the winning run, as the 'Nuts edged the Goldeyes 4-3 to win their seventh straight game and lock up another series on the road.
"I really believe Clevlen and Kahaulelio are two of the Top 4 or 5 hitters in the league," Forney said, after his team lost its third straight game on Saturday night. "I think Clevlen is the MVP of our league, but we're going to have to find a way to get him out. Right now, our pitchers are having a tough time getting either one of them out.
"And yet, for the second straight night, we lost a one-run game to them. They're just doing a little bit more than we are."
With the loss, the Goldeyes fell to 47-32 on the season, still first in the American Association's North Division. With the win, Wichita improved to 55-23, the best record in the league.
The Goldeyes opened the scoring for the second straight game. In the bottom of the fourth, Donnie Webb led off with a single went to third on a single by Tyler Kuhn and scored on a ground out by Casey Haerther.
Wichita tied it in the top of the fifth, as former Detroit Tigers outfielder Brent Clevlen hit a long solo homer into the trees in left-centre field.
The Wingnuts made it 2-1 in the sixth on a solo homer by Ryan Khoury and then Winnipeg's Jake Blackwood tied the game at 2-2 with a solo homer leading off the seventh.
Wichita put it away in the eighth as Jake Kahaulelio hit a two-run double off Goldeyes starter Ethan Hollingsworth. That ended Hollingsworth's night and gave the 'Nuts a 4-2 lead.
The Fish added a run in the bottom of the eighth, as Kuhn singled, went to second on a walk to Haerther and made it to third on a shot to the wall in left field off the bat of Reggie Abercrombie that was caught right against the fence by Wichita's Jake Luce. The next hitter,
Josh Mazzola, drove one to the warning track for a sacrifice fly that scored Kuhn.
But that's as close as the Fish would get.
Wichita reliever Mike Zouzalik (2-0, 3.27 ERA) got credit for the victory, while Hollingsworth (6-1, 3.94 ERA), who pitched a solid 7 2/3 innings and allowed just four runs on seven hits, suffered the hard-luck loss. Fireballing Matt Nevarez, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to get his league leading 22nd save.
The Goldeyes and Wingnuts will meet in the final game of this four-game series on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 at Shaw Park. Tim Brown (3-3, 4.04) will get the start for the Wingnuts, while Chris Salamida (5-3, 3.41 ERA) will take to the bump for the Goldeyes.