COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The West Michigan Whitecaps opened a three-game home series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps with a loss on Wednesday night, allowing a tight game to slip away late for a 9-2 final at Fifth Third Ballpark.
A crowd of 7,811 watched rehabbing Detroit Tigers' second baseman Omar Infante go 1-for-3 with a single and a hit-by-pitch, but West Michigan (15-16, 48-53) let a 3-2 deficit spiral out of control during a six-run top of the ninth inning as Fort Wayne (12-19, 55-45) blew the game open.
Infante, who hit second as the designated hitter on Wednesday, is expected to continue his rehab from a sprained left ankle as the starting second baseman on Thursday night. He is scheduled to be joined by fellow Major Leaguer Darin Downs, who is slated to throw one inning as he works his way back from rotator cuff tendonitis in his left shoulder.
The 31-year-old Infante, a 12-year Major League veteran, gave the crowd something to cheer about when he singled on the second pitch he saw in the bottom of the first. It was his first at-bat at Fifth Third Ballpark since suiting up for the Whitecaps as an 18-year-old shortstop prospect during the 2000 season.
Over the next eight innings, the ballgame was well-pitched and tightly contested.
Corey Adamson tripled and scored for Fort Wayne in the third inning and Luis Domoromo added an RBI-double in the fourth that gave the TinCaps a 2-0 lead. West Michigan evened the game at 2-2 in the fifth when both Connor Harrell and Harold Castro doubled and came around to score. In the top of the sixth, Fort Wayne pushed back ahead on a sacrifice fly by Maxx Tissenbaum.
The 3-2 score remained until the ninth inning. The 'Caps were due to lead off the bottom of the frame with Infante followed by the heart of the order, but the one-run deficit quickly turned into a commanding seven-run margin.
Reliever Calvin Drummond issued three walks before being removed from the game and was ultimately charged with four runs while recording just one out. Angel Nesbitt took over with the bases loaded and one away. After the first batter he faced lifted a sacrifice fly to center, the TinCaps rallied for three consecutive run-scoring two-out hits. When the dust had settled, a rally that included four singles, three walks and two errors left West Michigan with a 9-2 deficit.
Zach Eflin (5-5) earned the win for Fort Wayne with seven strong innings. He was charged with two runs - one earned - on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Edgar De La Rosa (5-4) allowed three runs - one earned - on six hits over six solid frames in the loss.
The Whitecaps continue a brief three-game homestand at Fifth Third Ballpark with a 7:00 p.m. first pitch on Thursday night against the Fort Wayne TinCaps. RHP Jake Thompson (0-3, 3.21) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan against LHP Max Fried (4-4, 3.79) of the TinCaps. In addition to hosting a pair of Major League rehabbers in Infante and Downs, the ballgame will also feature the Christmas in July promotion and an Altogas Thrifty Thursday. 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.