West Michigan (8-9, 44-43) survived an impressive outing by a highly-touted prospect before letting the game slip away during the decisive sixth-inning rally. Noah Syndergaard, one of the brightest prospects on the top-rated pitching staff in the Midwest League, led Lansing (10-7, 57-29) to a third straight win while sending the 'Caps to a third straight loss.
The only run mustered by the Whitecaps against the hard-throwing 19-year-old came in the fifth inning. Jeff McVaney led off the frame with a triple to center and scored one pitch later on a groundout by Pat Leyland to even the game at 1-1.
Moments later, however, the Lugnuts seized control with a two-out rally in the top of the sixth.
Chris Hawkins and Andy Burns opened the inning with consecutive singles, but the Whitecaps countered by turning a brilliant 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Kevin Pillar. Whitecaps' starter Kyle Ryan was nearly out of the inning with the tie score intact, but he fell behind K.C. Hobson with three straight balls before allowing a run-scoring single on a 3-1 pitch that put Lansing back in front, 2-1.
The floodgates opened from there.
Ryan walked the next batter before being removed from the ballgame, but reliever Ramon Lebron issued free passes to the first two batters that he faced to load the bases and walk in a run. Kenny Wilson followed with a two-run single through the left side, capping a four-run rally that gave the Lugnuts a comfortable 5-1 advantage.
West Michigan tried to battle back.
McVaney led off the seventh with a double and later scored on a wild pitch, but the 'Caps stranded the bases loaded in the eighth. Leyland led off the ninth with a solo homer that trimmed the deficit to 5-3, but the next three batters were retired in order to end the ballgame.
Syndergaard (6-2) earned the win for Lansing, allowing three hits and one run while fanning four. The save went to Ajay Meyer (23), who shrugged off Leyland's homer in the ninth inning to clinch the save.
Ryan (5-4) suffered the loss, exiting in a 2-1 ballgame but leaving a pair of runners aboard that scored after his departure. He was charged with four runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings.
The Whitecaps wrap up a six-game homestand at Fifth Third Ballpark with a 12:00 p.m. first pitch on Monday afternoon against the Lansing Lugnuts. RHP Tommy Collier (6-6, 2.50) is scheduled to take the hill for West Michigan against RHP Anthony DeSclafani (6-2, 3.12) of Lansing on a Kids Day and a JQ99 FM All Faith's Day. Group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.