MIDLAND, Mich. - The Great Lakes Loons would like nothing more than to get back to where they were less than a month ago.
From April 13 to April 22, the Loons won nine of 10 games and pushed their record to seven games above .500. But it's been a struggle since then, and they return home today to face the team that played a part in reversing their fortunes.
The Loons, now 15-15 and on a four-game losing streak, begin a three-game homestand tonight (7:05 p.m.) against the Dayton Dragons. Dayton swept a three-game series at Dow Diamond in late April and helped kick-star the opening segment of a 2-9 Loons tailspin.
The Dragons overtook the Loons at the top of the Midwest League Eastern Division standings during the sweep, and have remained in first ever since. Dayton is now 17-12 on the year and has a half-game lead on South Bend and West Michigan. The Loons are 2 ½ games back.
Right-hander Greg Harris (2-2, 5.25 ERA) was initially scheduled to start for the Loons but righty Scott Barlow (0-0, 4.50 ERA) will start instead.Barlow, who pitched last season with Ogden, just joined the Loons last week. He'll face Dayton's Nick Travieso, the former No. 1 draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds who threw five shutout innings against Great Lakes on April 25.
Travieso is 3-1 with a 1.55 ERA, and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his five starts.Harris is scheduled to pitch in relief for the Loons.
Travieso's stingy performance typified the Loons struggles the entire series against the Dragons. They scored just four runs in the three games despite having the league's most productive offense.
"They beat us up," said Loons manager Bill Haselman after the third consecutive loss to the Dragons on April 27. "We couldn't do anything against them. They did to us what we want to do to other teams."
Despite their recent struggles, the Loons continue to rank at or near the top in several offensive categories. They lead in runs (163), RBI (137) and stolen bases (66), and are second in hits (270), doubles (65) and walks (127).
Outfielder Joey Curletta, who is third in the MWL with his .358 batting average, leads the league in hits with 43. Teammate Malcolm Holland is the league-leader in stolen bases (21) and walks (27), and is second in runs (21).
Interestingly, the Loons have scored a league-best 5.4 runs per game despite ranking near the bottom of the league with 10 home runs. First baseman Justin Chigbogu leads the team with his three home runs.
Another trend the Loons would like to reverse today is their struggles at Dow Diamond. They're 10-7 away from home, but only 5-8 on their home turf.
Tonight is Social Media Monday at Dow Diamond, in which fans can interact through social media for a chance to win great prizes - including the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Great Lakes Loons are an eighth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and more information, call 989-837-BALL or visit loons.com.