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Kevin McGovern is a lot of things to the Lincoln Saltdogs.

A teammate called him, "different, but effective."

Saltdogs manager Ken Oberkfell said, "He's a pitcher and he never throws anything straight."

Despite all the descriptive adjectives, McGovern was just plain good Tuesday night at Haymarket Park in a 4-2 victory over Wichita, the team with the best record in the American Association. The 25-year-old lefty from Philadelphia scattered seven hits, struck out six and walked just one to help the Saltdogs hang onto first place in the Central Division with 20 games left in the regular season.

Gary SouthShore lost to Sioux City 5-3 Tuesday, giving the Saltdogs a one-game lead in the division.

"We had to bounce back from last night (a 9-6 Wichita win) because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel — the possibility of making the playoffs," said McGovern, who joined Lincoln on July 9 after starting the season with the Trinidad Triggers in Colorado, in the Pecos League.

"Oh, McGovern, he's kind of goofy dude at times, but we all believe in him and he kept the best hitting team around off balance all night long," said Saltdog Jon Gaston, who hit a two-run home run in the fifth to put the Saltdogs ahead for good. "He's got a slider-curve that was really working and helped up get an important win."

Brian Joynt hit a solo home run in the fourth to give Lincoln (43-37) the lead. Mike Gilmartin was hit by a pitch to open the fifth inning and advanced to third on an error. He scored on a double play before Luis Nunez singled and Gaston hit his eighth home run of the season.

The Saltdogs didn't have much offense the rest of the game but didn't need much more. McGovern's six innings, two scoreless innings from reliever Connor Spink and the ninth from Marshall Schuler, who improved his team record to 29 saves, plus solid fielding helped Lincoln drop the Wingnuts (56-25).

Gaston, who is hitting .333 in his last six games, said he guessed right on his home run to right field.

"I guessed a fastball because it was a 3-2 count and (Wingnut starter Jason Van Skike) had thrown a couple of really good sliders and I was looking for the fastball, and there it was. Good thing it got over the fence because we needed some runs."

McGovern said the home runs helped his effort, too.

"Those pick up a pitcher a whole lot," he said. "Joynt fought off a good pitch for his home run, and I was feeling pretty confident with the lead after Gaston hit his out.

"And when I came out of the game after the sixth, I was still confident because our bullpen has been so good, and they were," he continued. "It was so important to come back after last night. We had just swept four from Gary and came back and lost last night.

"So this was big for us."

The Saltdogs finish the series and the homestand with Wichita at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.

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Ken grew up in Chicago and is a Doane College grad. His Mr. Sportsknowitall column appears Sundays, and he covers a variety of beats.

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