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Cotto, Whitecaps wrench Lugnuts free
09/10/2006 8:10 PM ET
Pedro Cotto went 4-for-5 with two RBIs as West Michigan defeated Lansing, 8-2, on Sunday to earn a spot in the Midwest League Championship Series.

After Michael Hernandez's RBI single tied the game in the second inning, 1-1, Cotto chased him home with a double and gave the Whitecaps the lead. Cotto's run-scoring single highlighted a three-run fifth which gave the Whitecaps a 6-2 lead.

"I felt relaxed at the plate," Cotto said. "I just tried to pick a good pitch to hit and I got very lucky."

The 24-year-old first baseman batted .278 in 108 regular-season games for the Whitecaps. He's looking forward to the finals, where his team will face the winner of the Kane County-Beloit series.

"We have to come with the same intensity," Cotto said. "Whatever team we play, it'll be a good series."

West Michigan's Mark Haske and Justin Justice also had RBI singles in the fifth and Michael Hollimon belted a solo homer in the eighth, his second blast in two days and fourth of the playoffs. Four batters later, William Rhymes closed out the scoring with a run-scoring double.

Whitecaps starter Matt O'Brien (1-0) allowed two runs on five hits in six-plus innings, striking out seven and walking three. The 24-year-old right-hander went 8-1 for Class A Short-Season Oneonta and 3-1 for the Whitecaps.

Following O'Brien's exit, Jose Fragoso, Ricky Steik and Anthony Claggett each tossed a hitless inning for the Whitecaps, who defeated Lansing, 9-3, on Saturday.

"I wasn't expecting to win two straight games," Cotto said. "They have a really good team. Our pitching was outstanding in both games."

Jesus Gonzalez slapped an RBI single in the second and Yuber Rodriguez's run-scoring base hit forged a 2-2 tie in the fourth for Lansing.

Trailing in the seventh, 6-2, Lansing opened with three straight walks to come within one swing of tying the game, but the next three batters were retired by Fragoso.

Lugnuts starter Sean Stidfole (1-1) surrendered six runs on six hits while striking out six and walking six over 4 2/3 innings. Jordan Timm walked two in two hitless frames and Paul Phillips yielded two runs in the eighth.

The Midwest League Championship Series begins Sept. 12.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.