HILLARY SMITH: The end was picked in the beginning

2013-08-25T18:00:00Z 2013-08-26T03:10:04Z HILLARY SMITH: The end was picked in the beginningHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
August 25, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

After two years sitting on the bench for the playoffs, the RailCats goal from Day One of the season has been singular: reach the postseason.

Every at-bat has been to reach the postseason. Every pitch has been to reach the postseason.

Any player whose goal didn't match that of the rest of the team didn't last long in the Gary clubhouse.

The singular goal hasn't really changed since Greg Tagert joined the RailCats franchise, it just came up shy in 2011 and 2012. Those two years off is two years too long for too many on and around the team.

Disappointment was an understatement after the RailCats lost the wild card race in the last game of the 2011 season.

"I'm not happy with the way that we fell off (in 2011) and fell out of the race," owner Pat Salvi said in April 2012. "I was very disappointed and I don't want to see that happen again. It's unacceptable. We have to be the strongest team at the end. We have been strong and faded at the end, and we just can't let that happen."

Then came 2012, when the RailCats faded early, finished strong, but the race at the end was to make sure the team hit at least a .500 record.

Now the RailCats are clinging ever-so-tightly to the top of the wild card race. The win Sunday helped. What hasn't helped is that Winnipeg is in the midst of a six-game winning streak that catapulted the Goldeyes to No. 2 in the race.

The RailCats can't stop winning.

They ended their home stretch by giving up a lead in the ninth inning. That's how the RailCats are used to winning games, not losing them. In fact, it was so odd, it has only happened once this year: last Thursday.

At this point, any fading down the stretch – or over the last seven games of the season – could spell doom. Thanks to a game from June that will never be made up, the 1/2 game becomes a detriment of the 'Cats fall behind in the race.

The RailCats play in Kansas City next, then end the season against the El Paso Diablos, a team in its last season in its home city ending the regular season on the road. El Paso was 37-55 heading into Sunday's game, the second-worst record in the league.

As much as every loss in May and July contributed to the situation the RailCats are in now, the wins in May will not dictate how this season is judged.

How the season ends is all that mattered at the beginning, too. 

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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