COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The West Michigan Whitecaps broke up a scoreless tie with a five-run sixth inning on Saturday afternoon, cruising to a 5-0 shutout victory over the Fort Wayne TinCaps in Game 1 of a day/night doubleheader at Fifth Third Ballpark.
The two clubs will have a few hours off before reconvening for the nightcap and a scheduled 7:00 p.m. first pitch.
West Michigan (33-35) won their third straight game to keep alive aspirations of a .500 first-half finish with just two games remaining before the All-Star break. Fort Wayne (41-26) has already clinched a playoff spot as the Eastern Division's first-half Wild Card qualifier, while South Bend was guaranteed the division crown by virtue of the TinCaps' loss.
Pitchers Jordan John and Yorfrank Lopez dominated the action on Saturday afternoon, tossing a combined four-hit shutout to lead the Whitecaps to victory. The TinCaps, who managed just four singles in the contest and have scored only one run through the first two games of the series, have been held scoreless by West Michigan over the last 16 innings of baseball.
John allowed two hits over five innings with a pair of strikeouts and one walk. His most serious threat came in the second inning when Fort Wayne put men at the corners with nobody out, but the 22-year-old left-hander induced a shallow fly out to center before starting a 1-6-3 double play to get out of trouble. He threw 38 of his 56 pitches for strikes.
Lopez (7-3) took over in the top of the sixth with the game still scoreless. He also allowed just two singles while walking a pair and fanning three over the final four frames. The 22-year-old Venezuelan earned his team-leading seventh win and is tied for second in the Midwest League in that category.
All of the offense came during a mistake-riddled bottom of the sixth inning with Fort Wayne's Joe Church on the mound.
As part of a 3-for-4 day, Devon Travis started the rally with an infield single. After consecutive wild pitches moved him to third with one out, Jeff Holm sent a broken-bat roller towards the right side of a drawn-in infield. The throw home from second baseman Felix Cabrera was wide of the catcher as Travis scored the game's first run on a fielder's choice.
With Holm at second, Church issued an intentional walk to Lance Durham. The move backfired when he unintentionally walked the next two batters on eight straight pitches to load the bases and force in a run. A passed ball allowed a third run to score before Danry Vasquez capped the rally with a two-run double to left-center.
When the dust had settled, the Whitecaps had crossed the plate five times thanks to two hits, three walks, two wild pitches, a passed ball and an error.
Church (1-1) was charged with all five runs in just two-thirds of an inning for the loss.
The Whitecaps will play the second leg of their day/night doubleheader later tonight with a 7:00 p.m. first pitch at Fifth Third Ballpark. RHP Julio Felix (0-3, 4.33) will toe the slab for West Michigan opposite RHP Adys Portillo (N/A) of Fort Wayne. The 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.