MIDLAND, Mich. - After winning nine of their last 12 games in the first half of the season, the Great Lakes Loons (27-44, 0-1) struggled out of the gate in the second half, losing to the West Michigan Whitecaps (34-37, 1-0) by a score of 6-3 on Thursday night at Dow Diamond.
Three-hitter Tyler Ogle put the Loons up 1-0 in the first inning, with a 440-foot bomb to left field that left the stadium and landed on Buttles Street. Ogle was 1-for-2 in the game and reached base three times, with two walks.
"I knew (Gillies) was a sinker-ball pitcher going in and I saw sinker on the home run," Ogle said. "I took a cut at the first pitch which was a sinker and got way on top of it. I just tried to make and adjustment and I ended up hitting it pretty well."
"He had a good first half, with the evidence being that he played in the All-Star Game," Loons manager Razor Shines added. "But there's a reason he's batting third in the order; he's a really good hitter. It's good to get that kind of production out of him. He's been great all season, he's taken a professional approach this season and the results have shown."
Jason King tied the game in the top of the second, doubling to right field to score center fielder Connor Harrell, who was 2-for-4 in the game, with a walk and a double. King scored on a Jake Stewart single to give West Michigan a 2-1 lead.
The Whitecaps scored two runs in the third. Leadoff hitter Danry Vasquez scored on a single from cleanup hitter Jeff Holm, who was 3-for-5 with two doubles. Lance Durham, who was 2-for-5 on the night, followed Holm's single with one of his one, driving in Devon Travis.
Stewart reached on a throwing error by new Loons third baseman in the fourth and eventually scored on a Vasquez sacrifice fly to extend the Whitecaps lead. In the top of the fifth, Holm led off with a double to right field before trading places with Harrell, who doubled to drive in Holm.
Angel Sanchez (2-7) started for Great Lakes and pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits to pick up the loss. Sanchez struck out three and walked two.
The Loons cut the deficit to 6-3 in the home half of the fifth inning. Dixon scored the first run on a wild pitch. Jose Capellan doubled to advance Dixon from first to third. Capellan moved from second to third on the wild pitch and eventually came home on an Ogle bases-loaded walk. The Loons had the bases loaded with one out, but cleanup hitter Joe Winker and five-hitter Corey Seager each struck out to finish the inning.
Whitecaps starting pitcher Charlie Gillies went 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs, all earned, on four hits. He struck out one and walked two. Gillies was lifted in the fifth inning for Chad Smith (2-3). Smith gave up the walk to Ogle before striking out Winker and Seager to end the Loons threat. Smith threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win, giving up one hit, while striking out two and walking one.
Angel Nesbitt threw two scoreless innings for West Michigan and Jose Valdez pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 16th save of the season, second in the Midwest League.
The Loons bullpen was solid as well. Luis Meza and Alan Garcia combined to give up just two hits over the last 3 2/3 innings. Meza struck out three and walked one. Garcia struck out two and did not issue a walk.
"They swung the bats well," Shines said. "We didn't get the normal performance out of our starting pitching and Sanchez has been better; he knows that. Our bullpen came in and did a good enough job to keep us in the ballgame, which was good to see."
Seager had a solid outing in his first game since June 9, 2-for-4, including a fourth inning double.
"I was seeing a bunch of change-ups," Seager said. "I'm kind of a zone hitter if that's what you want to call it. So anything middle-away, that's what I like to look for."
The Loons are back in action on Friday night in the second game of a three-game series with West Michigan. Miguel Sulbaran (3-2, 4.07 ERA) is expected to start for Great Lakes. Edgar De La Rosa (3-2, 7.11), the No. 29 prospect in the Detroit Tigers farm system, is slated to start for the Whitecaps. Friday will also feature Fellowship Day and Fire Safety Appreciation Night, along with a postgame Fireworks Loontacular.
The Great Lakes Loons are a seventh-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and more information about the Loons, visit Loons.com or call 989-837-BALL.