Captains finally beat Whitecaps at home, 8-7
EASTLAKE- It took one of the wackiest games of the season for Lake County (26-28) to finally end its five-game losing skid, defeating West Michigan (25-30) 8-7 to avoid the sweep.
As the old adage goes, you never know what you are going to get in baseball. That was the case in the eighth inning of Friday night’s contest at Classic Park.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor led off the Captains’ half of the eighth inning with a single, his only hit in four chances. Right fielder Jordan Smith attempted to sacrifice, but Lindor was safe at second. After retiring catcher Alex Monsalve on a strikeout, Whitecap manager Ernie Young decided to intentionally walk Sabourin to load the bases. Then the wackiness ensued.
Jordan Casas hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to left field. However, West Michigan left fielder Jason Krizan fell down in pursuit of the ball. Krizan quickly recovered, but in the process lost his glove when he stepped on it attempting to get back up. That did not stop the left fielder, who continued to track the fly ball. Instead of giving way to the center fielder or shortstop, Krizan attempted to make a basket catch, but had the ball ricochet off his gloveless-hands into center field. By the time he retrieved the ball, three runs had scored and Casas pulled into third on a three-base error.
Manager Dave Wallace was unusually speechless when asked about the play after the game.
“It was a weird, weird play, but we will take it,” said the Lake County skipper.
Third baseman Leonardo Castillo followed with an infield single to plate Casas, leaving the Captains ahead by a count of 8-4 entering the ninth inning.
For the second consecutive contest, Wallace decided against bringing in closer Jeff Johnson to open the ninth. Instead, he chose to leave in Francisco Valera (2-3, 4.20), who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, on the mound. The decision backfired when Valera surrendered a single followed by a Brandon Loy two-run home run to open the frame. The second bomb of the season for the Whitecap second baseman marked the end of the road for Valera, who gave way to Johnson.
For the second consecutive contest, it was not an easy appearance for Johnson. The Lake County closer gave up a two out RBI single to West Michigan Steven Moya. The 6’7” right fielder then stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position. However, Johnson buckled down and the strikeout artist retired designated hitter Dean Green to end the ballgame.
It was the tenth save of the season for Johnson, who suffered the loss on Thursday afternoon after blowing a save opportunity. Valera notched the win for the Captains to improve to 2-3 on the season.
“We know [Jeff] is mature mentally,” said Wallace, referring to Johnson coming back after blowing the save yesterday. “He is the same guy every day, no matter if he has being doing great or doing poorly.”
The game, after being delayed 31 minutes due to rain, moved slowly through six innings, leaving the Captains trailing 3-1. Their lone tally came on a leadoff solo homerun off the bat of Robel Garcia, his third of the season.
West Michigan once again pushed the lead to three in the top half of the seventh inning. With two on and one out, reliever Manny Carmona stuck out center fielder Chad Wright, bringing the red-hot Eugenio Suarez to the dish. The switch hitting shortstop drove an RBI double into the left-center field gap. It was the third consecutive double for Suarez, giving him 19 on the campaign, and his seventh consecutive hit over the last two games. Suarez finished the series a scorching 9-13 (.692).
The back-and-forth action of the late innings continued when Lake County came to bat in the bottom half of the frame. With one out and two men on, center fielder Jordan Casas smacked an opposite field double to score first baseman Jerrud Sabourin. After a Leonardo Castillo fly out, Garcia delivered in his second at-bat in as many innings. The nineteen year-old native of the Dominican Republic drove a two-RBI single to right field, bringing his tally to 19 on the season, and tying the ballgame at 4-4.
On the evening, the Captains were outhit by West Michigan 11-9. However, they put together quality at-bats all evening, which finally paid off for the victory.
“These guys have been working their tails off,” said Wallace. “We know it will be just a matter of time until the bats come around.”
One of the guys who has continued to rake through the losing streak is Jordan Smith. The Willmar, Minn. native finished Friday’s game 2-3 with a triple, extending his hit streak to seven games. Over his past 11 contests, the 21 year-old has gone16-40, which equates to an even .400 batting average over that span.
“Jordan is putting together consistent at-bats,” said Wallace, when asked of the right fielder’s recent surge. “He is a guy who is very good at putting the barrel on the ball. He has plus-power and it’s just a matter of time until that shows.”
Starter Shawn Morimando (1-1, 4.67) lasted five innings in the start for Lake County. He surrendered three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out a pair.
A crowd of 7,352 took in the contest on Friday night, but may have been disappointed when the post-game fireworks display was cancelled due to windy conditions.
Bryson Myles, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring issue, is eligible to return on Monday, July 4. However, due to early rain today, Dave Wallace said that Myles was unable to run to test the hamstring. This should not serve as a setback and Wallace expects Myles to come off the DL “early next week.”
Beginning Saturday, Lake County opens a three-game series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The Captains are expecting a large crowd for Saturday night’s contest, which features the “Cleveland Sports History Night” promotion at Classic Park. For the game, Lake County will be wearing 1970s-era throwback Cleveland Indians uniforms and the TinCaps will also don throwback Padres jerseys. The evening will also feature post-game fireworks.
The Captains will send Felix Sterling (2-4, 5.90), who was roughed up in his last outing, to the hill for the game. He will duel with right-hander Matt Wisler (1-3, 2.96), who will toe the rubber for Fort Wayne.