MIDLAND, Mich. - While it certainly doesn't have the impact of a late-season pennant race, this weekend's homestand between the Great Lakes Loons and Dayton Dragons is not without meaning.
The Loons (13-7) begin the three-game series tonight (6:05 p.m.) with a half-game lead over the Dragons in the Midwest League Eastern Division standings. Great Lakes has won nine of its last 11 games while Dayton already has a seven-game winning streak under its belt this season.
Of added interest is tonight's pitching matchup, which features the Loons Greg Harris (2-1, 4.32) and Dayton's Nick Travieso. The latter is a former first round pick of the Cincinnati Reds and considered the organization's No. 8 prospect overall by Baseball America.
Traviseo is 2-0 this season with a 1.59 ERA thanks, in part, to a changeup he's been developing since spring training with the aid of former Reds ace Mario Soto.
"We'll be ready," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "I mean, you have to learn to hit these guys if you want to move up to the higher levels."
Hitting, or offense in general, has hardly been an issue for the Loons, who are averaging 6.1 runs per game while leading the MWL in a variety of categories. They stole four more bases in Thursday night's 2-1 loss to Fort Wayne, giving them a whopping 57 on the season.
The Loons have three hitters who rank among the top 10 in batting average: Joey Curletta (.363), Jacob Scavuzzo (.329) and Kyle Farmer (.329). Farmer leads the league with 17 RBI, Malcolm Holland is the leader in stolen bases with 19, while Curletta is tied with West Michigan's Javier Betancourt in hits with 29.
Dayton, meanwhile, has been adept at slowing offenses down. The Dragons' 2.55 earned run average is the lowest in the league, while they've allowed the second fewest walks (56). Dayton's pitching coach is former major leaguer Tony Fossas.
On the flip side, Dayton is last in the league with a .225 team batting average. The Dragons have scored 82 runs, which are 40 fewer than the Loons.
Tonight is Game Show Night at Dow Diamond in which fans can compete in a variety of game show-themed contests to win an exciting Loons prize pack with an array of items included.
The Great Lakes Loons are an eighth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets or more information about the team, call 989-837-BALL, or visit loons.com.