EASTLAKE- The Lake County Captains fell by a count of 2-1 to the first-place Lansing Lugnuts in front of an over-capacity crowd of 8,245 on fireworks night Saturday at Classic Park.
Lake County could not break through with the clutch hit against Lansing pitching. Although the team pieced together ten hits, they left 12 runners on base, including two in the first, second, third, and fifth innings. With runners in scoring position, the Captains managed just one hit in nine at-bats.
“It’s all about driving in the runs,” manager Dave Wallace said. “We had some good at-bats and hit balls hard. Some days they find gaps and some days they don’t.”
Meanwhile, the Lugnuts could only muster two hits against Captains’ starter Joe Colon (4-4, 2.92), but capitalized on their opportunities to push across two runs. That was all the Lansing pitching staff needed.
Starter Marcus Walden (3-1, 2.16) pitched just four innings, surrendering one run on seven hits, walking two. He struck out three Lake County batters. He was relieved by Blake McFarland (2-1, 4.13), who tossed four scoreless innings, earning him his second win of the campaign. Closer A.J. Meyer retired the Captains in order in the ninth to earn his Midwest League-leading 14th save.
“They have some pretty good arms, both starting and out of the pen,” said Wallace of the Lansing pitching staff. “It was pretty much what we expected.”
In the first game of their three game set with the Lugnuts, the Captains fired the opening salvo in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Catcher Alex Monsalve led off the inning with a single off Lansing starter Marcus Walden and advanced to second when first baseman Jerrud Sabourin walked. With second baseman Robel Garcia at the plate, however, Monsalve was picked off second base by Lugnuts catcher Carlos Perez. Garcia walked and third baseman Leonardo Castillo hit into a fielder’s choice, leaving runners on first and third for center fielder Todd Hankins. The Orlando, Florida native, hitting out of the leadoff spot for the second consecutive night, delivered, blooping an RBI double into right field to give the Captains an early 1-0 lead. For Hankins, it was his fourth RBI of the past two games and 14th on the season.
The Lugnuts responded with two runs in the top of the 6th. Third baseman Kellen Sweeney reached to lead off the inning on an error by shortstop Francisco Lindor. It was the Indians’ top overall prospect’s fifth error of the season. Sweeney advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and a Colon wild pitch pushed him to third. Second baseman Kevin Pillar, the leadoff hitter, hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Sweeney. It was the 21st RBI on the season for the Blue Jays’ 32nd round pick in 2011.
With two outs, right fielder Chris Hawkins kept the inning alive with a single. Second baseman Andy Burns followed by lining an RBI double in the left-center field gap, plating Hawkins and giving Lansing a 2-1 advantage after six innings of baseball.
Including the 2nd inning, in which they scored their lone run, the Captains got their leadoff hitter on base in only three frames. In the eighth inning, Sabourin shot a single past diving Lugnut first baseman K.C. Hobson. Garcia squared to bunt, but could not get it down, popping out to third base in foul territory. Hitting out of the nine spot, Castillo brought the crowd to its feet when he drove a McFarland fastball deep to left field. Pillar, however, made the catch with his back against the fence. Hankins ended the inning with a hard line out to left, stranding Sabourin, the 12th and final Captain left on base on the night.
Lake County starter Joe Colon was the tough-luck loser in Saturday night’s contest. Colon carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning against the first-place Lugnuts. He lost his perfect game in the top of the 5th when he walked Lansing’s six hitter and designated hitter Kevin Patterson. On the night, the 22-year old right-hander tossed six innings, giving up two runs, although neither was earned, on just two hits. He fanned two hitters and walked one. On the night, he retired 12 Lansing batters on ground ball outs, as opposed to just three in the air.
“I’m proud of the way he is throwing the ball, attacking guys,” said Wallace when discussing Colon’s recent stretch.
Colon has dominated in the month of May after going 1-2 with a 5.08 ERA in April. The loss tonight pushed his record in the month to 3-1, but it marked the second time he did not give up an earned run in four starts. He has pitched 29 1/3 innings and given up just four earned runs, posting a miniscule ERA of 1.23.
“With [Colon’s] stuff, it is going to be the norm with him going deep in games if he continues to attack guys like that,” said Wallace.
Mason Radeke and Cole Cook combined to blank Lansing in three innings of work out of the Captains’ bullpen. The duo did not allow any runs or hits, walking three and striking out three.
The crowd of 8,245 was easily the largest of the young season at Classic Park, exceeding the ballpark’s capacity of 7,250 by nearly 1,000 fans. Although the Captains could not send the crowd home happy, manager Dave Wallace was pleased to see the stadium packed.
“That was awesome,” Wallace said. “The energy in the stadium tonight…with a crowd like that, you really draw from them.”
Catcher Alex Monsalve, who saw his modest six-game hit streak end on Friday night, responded by tacking on two more singles Saturday night. He finished the night 2-3 with a walk, raising his average to .236.
Monsalve’s streak ending left Francisco Lindor with the longest current Lake County hit-streak entering Saturday’s game. Yet, Lindor’s seven-game streak too came to a close after the shortstop went 0-5 with two strikeouts in the game.
Bryson Myles began Saturday night’s contest as the designated hitter after sitting out the series against South Bend to rest his ailing hamstring. However, after singling in his second at-bat in the third inning, Myles was replaced by Alex Lavisky.
“We told him to be smart,” said Wallace of Myles trying to return from injury. “We could see he wasn’t comfortable on the bases. We want Bryson to be Bryson. It’s not worth him going out, chancing it, and making it worse.”
Wallace said that Myles will sit to rest his hamstring through the Captains’ off-day on Tuesday, after which his condition will be re-evaluated.
Lake County and Lansing square off Sunday at 1:00 pm in the second game of the three-game series. Right-hander Cody Anderson (4-1, 1.89) will be matched against left-hander Justin Nicolino (2-0, 1.33). Nicolino is the fifth-rated prospect in the Blue Jays organization by Baseball America.