DAYTON, OH - For the second straight night, starting pitching led the West Michigan Whitecaps to a much-needed win.
The Whitecaps got six strong innings from Jake Thompson on Tuesday in a 6-3 victory, taking three out of four games from the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field.
The winning series helped keep West Michigan (27-28, 60-65) alive in the hunt for the Eastern Division's second-half wild card. The three teams ahead of the Whitecaps in the race for the final playoff spot all lost on Tuesday, bringing the 'Caps within four games back with 14 games remaining.
Thompson (3-3) led the way, allowing just one run on two hits and equaling a career-high with six innings. He struck out six and walked two. The only hits against the 19-year-old were a pair of doubles by Sammy Diaz, including a two-out run-scoring double in the fifth that came during an inning prolonged by a catcher's interference call. Thompson responded to the run-scoring hit by striking out the next three batters he faced and retiring the final four in order to complete his outing.
The offense held up its end of the bargain, pounding out 11 hits and putting together a pair of three-run rallies in the third and fifth innings. Harold Castro, Raph Rhymes, Jared Reaves and Jason King all went 2-for-4 in the well-rounded offensive performance.
Castro proved to be the sparkplug, providing both rally-starting singles out of the ninth spot in the lineup.
His two-out knock in the third sparked a string of four consecutive two-out hits to open the scoring. A single by Rhymes put runners at the corners before Reaves looped a base hit into left for the game's first run. Dean Green then smacked a two-run double down the left field line to put West Michigan ahead by a 3-0 score.
The fifth inning followed a familiar script. This time it was a leadoff single by Castro, which was once again followed by a hit from Rhymes and an RBI-single by Reaves. Later in the inning, the bases were loaded when Jason King snuck a groundball through the left side for a two-run single and a 6-0 lead.
The Whitecaps were ahead 6-1 when Calvin Drummond (1) relieved Thompson in the seventh and worked the final three innings for his first professional save. The right-hander racked up a career-high seven strikeouts and cruised until there were two outs in the ninth.
With their backs against the wall, the Dragons rallied for two unearned runs on a pair of singles and an error to pull within 6-3. Drummond then struck out Beau Amaral to end the game.
Thompson and Drummond combined for 13 strikeouts during the four-hitter, establishing a new Whitecaps' season-high for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
Nick Travieso (7-4) was charged with six runs on nine hits over four innings for the loss.
The Whitecaps continue a seven-game road trip on Wednesday night with an 8:05 p.m. ET first pitch against the Bowling Green Hot Rods at Bowling Green Ballpark. RHP Endrys Briceno (7-8, 4.57) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan against RHP Jeff Ames (8-4, 3.13) for Bowling Green. The next home game at Fifth Third Ballpark will be on Saturday, August 24, at 7:00 p.m. featuring a slew of promotions including Team Ghostriders, a mini-bat giveaway and Family Fare 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.