COMSTOCK PARK, MI - Lance Durham delivered the biggest swing of the night on Friday, blasting a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to propel the West Michigan Whitecaps to a 2-1 victory over the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Fifth Third Ballpark.
Prior to the decisive blow, West Michigan (32-35) was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The Whitecaps hung around in the ballgame thanks to an excellent effort from the pitching staff, limiting Fort Wayne (41-25) to just four hits.
Trailing 1-0, West Michigan stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. They left six men on base over the three-inning stretch, stranding the bases loaded in the fifth and leaving men at second and third in the seventh.
It was shaping up to be more of the same in the eighth. Jared Reaves led off the inning with his third hit of the night but was still standing on third base with two outs.
That is when Durham stepped to the plate and worked the count to 3-1. The 25-year-old slugger took the next pitch and slugged a towering fly ball to right-center for his sixth home run of the year, breaking up the shutout and giving the Whitecaps a 2-1 lead.
All-Star closer Jose Valdez came in for the top of the ninth, but things got interesting with Corey Adamson drilled a one-out triple into the right-center field gap. Valdez responded in dramatic fashion, striking out Diego Goris on a slider in the dirt before inducing the game-ending bounce-out to third.
That wrapped up his 15th save of the year in 16 opportunities. Valdez lowered his ERA to 2.84 and has 33 strikeouts over 25.1 innings.
Chad Smith (1-3) earned his first win of the season with two perfect innings of relief, retiring all six of the batters he faced in the seventh and eighth. Starting pitcher Charlie Gillies was also sensational, allowing just one run on three hits with seven strikeouts over six strong innings.
Michael Kelly (2-1) was charged with the loss and a blown save after allowing the homer to Durham during his 1.1 innings of relief. Kelly took over for TinCaps' starter Joe Ross, who fired off 6.2 scoreless innings but did not figure into the decision.
The Whitecaps continue their final home series of the first half with a split doubleheader on Saturday featuring two separate games at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. LHP Jordan John (5-3, 2.85) is scheduled to pitch the early game for West Michigan against LHP Max Fried (2-1, 3.99) of Fort Wayne, while the Whitecaps' RHP Julio Felix (0-3, 4.33) will toe the slab opposite RHP Justin Hancock (4-1, 1.72) in the nightcap. The second game will feature the Aces in the Outfield promotion as well as a TV giveaway and post-game fireworks. Group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
Click here to view the box score.