Comstock Park, MI - Lance Durham's two-run, two-out home run in the bottom of the eighth inning was all the offense necessary for the West Michigan Whitecaps to steal a 2-1 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps Friday night at Fifth Third Ballpark. With the win, West Michigan has now taken four of the seven games between the two teams this season.
The early and middle innings of the contest were dominated by pitching, as the TinCaps' Joe Ross and the Whitecaps' Charlie Gillies traded stellar frames. Ross, who had thrown seven shutout innings in his last start on Saturday, went 6 2/3 innings Friday without allowing a run, and scattered four hits and two walks while striking out four. Ross, whose ERA dropped from 3.02 to 2.71, left in line for his fourth win of the season.
Meanwhile Gillies, who took the loss against Fort Wayne (41-25) on June 3rd, turned in six innings and allowed the only TinCaps run on a Rodney Daal RBI double in the second inning. West Michigan (32-35) failed to score during Gillies' time on the hill, stranding five runners through the first six innings.
After Ross left the game, Michael Kelly (2-1) came on and finished the seventh inning, and nearly claimed the eighth, too. But that frame belonged to Durham, who, following a leadoff single by Jared Reaves and then two subsequent ground ball outs, drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right-center to give the Whitecaps the lead.
Whitecaps reliever Chad Smith (1-3) earned his first win of the season by twirling perfect seventh and eighth innings, and closer Jose Valdez, who had blown the save against the TinCaps on May 31st, earned his 15th save. The TinCaps only had four hits for the evening, and just one of those came after the third inning.
Games two and three of the four-game series are scheduled for Saturday at Fifth Third Ballpark. Game one of the doubleheader is scheduled for noon and game two is set for 7:00 PM. The games can be heard on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.