Lugnuts blank Captains, 2-0
May 20, 2012
EASTLAKE- For the second straight game, the Captains (21-22) fell to the Lansing Lugnuts (31-12), this time by a score of 2-0. With the loss, Lake County fell under .500 for the first time since May 14.
The Captains could not get anything going offensively for the second consecutive game against the Lugnuts’ pitching staff. Lansing came into the game leading the Midwest League in ERA (2.54), runs allowed (131), and second in strikeouts (352). All three were on display on Sunday afternoon at Classic Park.
Lansing threw fifth-rated prospect Justin Nicolino (2-1, 1.16) for four innings to open the afternoon. He allowed just two hits and did not walk a batter, striking out three. He was relieved in a piggyback starter situation by Aaron Sanchez(5-0, 0.58), the sixth-rated prospect in the Blue Jays organization. The nineteen year-old right-hander also worked four innings, giving up just one hit and striking out five, notching his fifth win of the season. For the second day in a row, closer A.J. Meyer worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his league-leading 15th save.
“I am impressed with their arms,” said skipper Dave Wallace of the Lansing pitching staff. “[They present] a good challenge for our young hitters. Our hitters need to stick to their plan, be disciplined, and lay off the pitcher’s pitch and hit [their pitch.]”
The Captains could only muster three hits on the afternoon. Leonardo Castillo, Lake County’s third baseman, managed the only extra-base hit, a one out double in the bottom of the eighth. Only three Captains reached scoring position against Lansing pitching. In total, nine Captains hitters were retired via the strikeout, including two from both center fielder Luigi Rodriguez and right fielder Jordan Smith. Only shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Todd Hankins escaped being victimized by the swing-and-miss.
The Lugnuts opened the scoring Sunday afternoon in the top of the first inning. With one out, catcher Carlos Perez belted a solo home run to the bleachers in left field off of Captains starter Cody Anderson. It was the second big fly of the season for the number-14 rated prospect in the Blue Jays organization.
“He put that home run behind him and went right back to work,” said Wallace of Anderson.
Anderson held the tally at 1-0 until the sixth inning. After retiring Perez on a ground out to second base, shortstop Andy Burns drove another solo blast that just cleared the fence in right-center to push Lansing ahead 2-0. For Burns, the home run was his team-leading seventh on the year.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Sanchez walked ninth-place hitter Zach MacPhee, the Captains left fielder, and hit second baseman Todd Hankins. This brought Francisco Lindor to the dish with runners on first and second. Lindor beat a ground ball up the middle that was fielded by Burns to the right of the second base bag. Burns threw on to first to retire Lindor, but umpire Matthew Czajak also called MacPhee out at second. The call brought Wallace running from his post as the Captains’ third base coach, but his argument fell to deaf ears, ending the only potential rally Lake County had on the day.
Aside from two mistakes, Cody Anderson (4-2, 2.05) spun a gem for Lake County. His velocity was up from his last couple starts, touching 94 mph on many of his fastballs. Although the Quincy, CA. native was the tough luck loser, he continues to impress manager Dave Wallace.
“His cutter has turned out to be a really nice pitch for him,” Wallace said. “His fastball location and angle is great.”
Anderson lasted six innings, scattering six hits, and giving up two runs on two solo home runs. The right-hander fanned eight Lugnut hitters, six on swing-and-misses, and did not walk a single batter.
The Captains’ bullpen continued to impress in three more innings Sunday afternoon. Francisco Valera and Manuel Cabrera combined to only surrender one hit, walking one. Valera also hit two Lugnut hitters.
On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, 3,180 fans came out to Classic Park to watch the Captains battle the first-place Lugnuts. The game, paced by great pitching from both teams, ended in a brisk two hours and one minute.
The three-game series finishes up with a 7:05 start time on Monday night. Lake County will send Shawn Morimando (1-0, 4.50) to the hill in the finale. Lansing will counter with right-hander Jesse Hernandez (3-2, 2.42).
You can follow Mike on twitter @MZavagno11 or email him at email@example.com.