Hernandez's return to the United States results in 5-3 Lake County Victory
EASTLAKE- Roberto Hernandez made his return to the United States pitching for the Lake County Captains (16-16) on Thursday night. Behind a solid outing from the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona, the Captains were able to pull out a 5-3 victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps (17-15).
Hernandez (1-0, 1.80), who pitched for the Captains in 2003, returned to the mound at Classic Park after returning to the United States this past Saturday. In five innings, the big right hander gave up three runs, with just one being earned, on six hits. He struck out four Whitecap hitters and did not walk a batter. In total, Hernandez threw 66 pitches and 46 of were strikes.
“It felt good,” said Hernandez of finally returning to the rubber. “In the first inning, the ball was a little bit up, but after that I got the ball down and was throwing strikes.”
The Indians hurler ran into trouble in the first inning when a two out error by third baseman Todd Hankins extended the frame, brining West Michigan first baseman Aaron Westlake to the dish. Westlake put the Whitecaps ahead 2-0 when he drove a sinker that didn’t sink deep over the center field fence for his seventh home run of the season.
“I just tried to play against the ball, not the guy on the mound,” said Westlake of the blast. “I was looking for a fastball.”
The Captains struck back for a run of their own with a two out rally in the bottom of the second. Catcher Alex Lavisky and Hankins reached base with back to back singles to set the table for Leonardo Castillo. Filling it at first base for Jerrud Sabourin, Castillo knocked home Lavisky when the Whitecaps’ third baseman made a throwing error. Castillo ended the night 2-3 and his second two-hit game in as many nights raised his average to .201 on the year.
Lake County came back to tie it at 2-2 when they came to the plate in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Luigi Rodriguez was able to drive a two strike pitch by West Michigan starter Kyle Ryan (5-6, 4.10) to the center field fence. He then came around to score from second when Westlake misplayed a higher bouncer by right fielder Jordan Smith.
Roberto Hernandez would face his last bout of trouble in the top of the fourth when he gave up an RBI single to designated hitter Pat Leyland, the son of Detroit Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland, which put West Michigan ahead 3-2.
“I thought he threw well,” said manager Dave Wallace of Hernandez’s first outing of 2012. “He got better as the game went on.”
Wallace also praised his catcher, Alex Lavisky, who called his own game, for handling Hernandez.
“Roberto is not the easiest guy to catch,” said Wallace. “I though Lavisky did a great job [behind the plate.]”
“Early in the game [Hernandez] was not as sharp, but he got better as the game went along,” concurred West Michigan manager Ernie Young. “His fastball had more sinking action and he threw some plus change-ups and sliders in the fourth and fifth [innings.]
Hernandez last threw a four inning game in the Dominican Republic to go along with a plethora of bullpens. The right hander will throw a bullpen on Saturday before the Indians decide where he will start in his second rehab outing Tuesday.
Before ending the interview, the man Indians fans once knew as Fausto Carmona promised that he would be back to Progressive Field soon.
Lake County would take the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth inning to ensure that Hernandez would earn his 20th win of his Captains’ career on Thursday night.
With one out, Hankins reached base on a beautiful bunt single up the third base line and promptly stole second base. The Lake County utility man now has 27 steals on the season and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Gabriel Purroy. The next man to step to the plate was Castillo, who smacked a single between short and third to plate the Captains’ third run of the evening.
After Zach MacPhee flew out, the second baseman Jose Ramirez stepped to the plate with Castillo on first. The exciting Ramirez battled Ryan, coming back from down 0-2, to drive an RBI double to center field, giving him an even 10 RBI on the year.
“Jose battled from behind in the count and shortened up to put his barrel on the ball,” said Wallace. “For a guy his size, he has a lot of juice in his bat.”
Shortstop Francisco Lindor then chased Ryan from the contest when he grounded a single over the second base bag to plate Ramirez and give the Captains a 5-3 advantage.
Danny Jimenez came on in relief of Hernandez and tossed 2.2 innings, striking out three. He ran into trouble in the top of the eighth when he gave up a leadoff single to West Michigan center fielder Chad Wright. After a sacrifice bunt, Wright scored on an RBI groundout by shortstop Eugenio Suarez.
Ramirez and right fielder Bryson Myles were both ejected from Thursday night’s contest in the eighth inning.
“I thought the umpire overreacted to what [Ramirez] said and I thought it wasn’t in his direction,” said Wallace of his second baseman arguing a play at first base.
Myles was ejected in the bottom half of the inning after he struck out looking by home plate umpire Ryan Additon when he was arguing balls and strikes.
Jeff Johnson came on to get the final out of the eighth inning and pitched a near flawless ninth to record his 13th save of the season.
Thursday night’s game was delayed 1:02 by rain, but there was still an attendance of 3,199. The contest itself was finished in 2 hours and 43 minutes.
The Captains will attempt to take the rubber match of the series with West Michigan on Friday night. The game is scheduled to start at 7:00 with fireworks to follow. Lake County will give the pill to left-hander Elvis Araujo (4-8, 5.26) and West Michigan will counter with right-hander Marcelo Carreno (4-7, 3.63).