Lake County Captains beat Bowling Green Hot Rods, 4-2
EASTLAKE, Ohio – Despite striking out 16 times Wednesday evening, the Lake County Captains (9-4) used timely hitting and great pitching to defeat the Bowling Green Hot Rods (4-9) by a final score of 4-2.
The Captains got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning. Catcher Richard Stock started the frame by hitting a triple off of Hot Rod starter Ryne Stanek (3-4, 3.63 ERA). Right fielderJorge Martinez then promptly drove in Stock with a RBI single to right that gave Lake County a 1-0 lead.
However, Bowling Green immediately responded in the top of the fourth inning. Shortstop Juniel Querecuto started the inning with a leadoff single off of Captain starter Mitch Brown (2-6, 3.61 ERA). After Brown struck out second baseman Kean Wong for the first out of the inning and Querecuto stole second base, a series of mistakes by Brown would cost his team the lead. First, Brown hit Johnny Field with a pitch. Then, with designated hitter Armando Araiza at the plate, Brown threw his 14th wild pitch of the season that put runners on second and third with only one out. Araiza then plated Querecuto with a fielder's choice to tie the game at 1-1.
Lake County took the lead right back in the bottom of the fifth inning. Left fielder Torsten Boss started the inning by working a walk off of Stanek. Dorssys Paulino and Stock then followed Boss with consecutive singles to load the bases with nobody out. After the consecutive singles, Martinez hit into a double play that plated Boss and allowed Paulino to advance to third. With two outs, shortstop Ivan Castillo tripled over James Harris' head in left field to give the Captains a 3-1 advantage.
The Hot Rods managed to get a run back in the top of the sixth inning by taking advantage of more mistakes by the Captains. Left fielder Darryl George started the inning by hitting what should have been an easy ground out to third baseman Paul Hendrix; however, Hendrix threw the ball past Grant Fink at first base and George was able to reach first safely. Wong then doubled to left to put runners on second and third with one out. Wong's double was originally ruled an out, but the umpires concluded that Boss trapped the ball and did not actually make the catch. After the double by Wong, Brown threw his second wild pitch of the night that allowed George to score from third and cut the Captains lead to 3-2.
However, Lake County was able to score another run in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to the Indians' 2013 first round pick Clint Frazier. After working a 2-0 count, Frazier hit an opposite field solo home run. The home run was Frazier's sixth of the season, and it increased Lake County's advantage to 4-2.
Despite the two wild pitches, Brown was very effective against the Hot Rods. He got the win after he pitched six innings, gave up three hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, and struck out seven. The seven strikeouts tied Brown's career high.
When asked about Brown's performance, Captains manager Mark Budzinski had nothing but positive things to say about his young right-hander.
"Over his last five or six starts, Mitch has been able to keep his fastball down in the zone," Budzinski said. "He was able to work both sides of the plate and had a great breaking ball tonight."
Brown, who has only given up three earned runs in his last 28.1 innings, has looked much better in his last several starts. Budzinski credits much of Brown's recent success to his ability to locate his fastball.
"I think that is the biggest difference," Budzinski said. "His fastball command has been a lot better, and that feeds into his plus breaking ball."
Captains pitching coach Rigo Beltran also credited much of Brown's early struggles this season to his young age and lack of experience.
"One thing you have to remember is that at the start of the season, Mitch was only 19 years old," Beltran said. "His mental approach has really come a long way since then. He has been able to slow things down and control his emotions."
Stanek also had a great outing for Bowling Green, but he took the loss. Stanek gave up six hits, four runs, one walk, and struck out twelve. The twelve strikeouts by Stanek tied the Hot Rod single game record.
Trevor Frank pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his sixth save of the season.
The win for the Captains and the loss by the West Michigan Whitecaps guaranteed Lake County sole possession of the first place in the Midwest League Eastern Division. When asked about what differences he has seen from his team over the last several weeks, Budzinski stated that the team has improved in all facets of the game.
"I have been very pleased with the way the guys have carried themselves all year," Budzinski said. "But the last six weeks we have played much better baseball. The pitching has been good, the defense has been much better, and we have had much more timely hitting."
The Captains and Hot Rods are scheduled to conclude their series Thursday evening. Jordan Milbrath (2-8, 3.45 ERA) is scheduled to start for Lake County, while Bruedlin Suero (0-1, 1.29 ERA) is the scheduled pitcher for Bowling Green. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m.