BOWLING GREEN, KY - After starting a key seven-game road trip by taking three out of four games in Dayton, the West Michigan Whitecaps suffered a 9-1 setback against the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the opener of a three-game set on Wednesday night at Bowling Green Ballpark.
West Michigan (27-29, 60-66) slipped five back in the Eastern Division wild card race with three teams to hurdle and 13 regular season games remaining. First-place Bowling Green (36-23, 74-53) won for the seventh time in their last eight games, using four-run rallies in the third and fifth innings to build an 8-0 lead on their way to a comfortable victory.
The middle of the Hot Rods' lineup did the bulk of the damage. Tyler Goeddel led the way with a 4-for-4, three-RBI night, while Tommy Coyle went 3-for-3 with two doubles and three runs scored and Patrick Leonard was 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs.
Joey Rickard started the scoring with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third, lining a ball to left that bounced off the top of the padded fence and over the wall.
But the Hot Rods did not stop there, taking advantage of a rattled Endrys Briceno who struggled to close out the inning. Leonard lined a two-out double to left and took third on a wild pitch. After a walk to Coyle, Briceno bounced an errant pickoff attempt past first as Leonard scored and Coyle raced all the way to third. Moments later, Goeddel stroked a run-scoring over the third baseman as Bowling Green seized a 4-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Jeff Ames (9-4), who shrugged off a recent rough stretch to deal six strong innings for the win. The 22-year-old right-hander carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning before the Whitecaps could break through, ultimately settling for one run and three hits allowed over his six impressive frames. Ames struck out two and walked two.
The home team doubled the advantage with four consecutive one-out hits against reliever Yorfrank Lopez in the fifth. Back-to-back doubles by Leonard and Coyle led to the first run, Goeddel rolled a run-scoring single up the middle, Marty Gantt split the gap in right-center for an RBI-triple, and Ryan Dunn capped the rally with a sacrifice fly that staked the Hot Rods to a commanding 8-0 lead.
West Michigan scored their only run in the sixth, when Raph Rhymes opened the inning with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Dean Green. The Whitecaps' offense was led by Austin Green, who was 2-for-4 with a double.
In the seventh, Goeddel capped his big night with another run-scoring single to reach the 9-1 final.
Bowling Green's Matt Spann (1) worked the final three innings out of the bullpen to earn the save.
Briceno (7-9) suffered the loss after being charged with four runs on seven hits in four innings of work. After his departure, Lopez surrendered five runs on seven hits in three frames of relief.
The Whitecaps continue a seven-game road trip on Thursday night with an 8:05 p.m. ET first pitch against the Bowling Green Hot Rods at Bowling Green Ballpark. RHP Jeff Thompson (1-2, 3.99) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan against LHP Jordan Harrison (4-2, 2.44) 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.
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