MIDLAND, Mich. - It appears that the Great Lakes Loons are getting comfortable in their own backyard. And it's showing in the Midwest League standings.
Heading into today's 7:05 p.m. game with Bowling Green , the Loons have won four of five games this week at Dow Diamond after struggling at home over the season's first six weeks. They're now 10-11 in front of their home fans and riding a three-game winning streak.
Perhaps more importantly, they've managed to work their back into the MWL first-half playoff race. The Loons (20-21 overall) are five games behind first-place Dayton in the Eastern Division standings, but they're only four games behind second place West Michigan. The top two finishers in each half qualify for postseason play.
"We've played pretty well," said Loons manager Bill Haselman after last night's 5-4 win over Bowling Green. "But with us it's just one game at a time. That's how you have to approach it in this game."
Each half-season consists of 70 games, meaning the Loons have 29 games left to catch the first-half Eastern Division leaders. Despite returning home on Monday following a three-game sweep at the hands of South Bend - and falling five games under .500 - they've bounced back thanks to a combination of strong starting pitching, timely hitting and excellent relief work.
For proponents of the theory that a team is only as good as its pitching, recent numbers carry a lot of weight. Loons starting pitchers have a 2.88 ERA during the current homestand, while the bullpen has been lights-out in giving up just two earned runs in their last 18 innings.
Meanwhile, the Loons league-leading offense has continued to produce, both in volume (17 runs against West Michigan earlier in the week) and at the right moments with key hits in close games.
The Loons trailed Bowling Green 3-0 last night before Jacob Scavuzzo kick-started the offense with a sharp double down the left-field line that scored two runs. Kyle Farmer, the next batter, singled home Scavuzzo and the Loons were back in business.
Loons newbie Josmar Cordero then delivered the game's deciding hit, an opposite field single in the eighth which broke a 4-4 tie. In seven games with the Loons, Cordero is hitting an other-worldly .500.
Tonight, the Loons turn to right-handed starter Jonathan Martinez (4-4, 3.68 ERA) for game three of the four-game set with the Hot Rods. The 19-year-old Venezuelan has allowed just two earned in his last 12 innings pitched.
Martinez will face Bowling Green lefty Blake Snell (2-2, 2.54 ERA), who was the first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay in 2011. Snell pitched six shutout innings against the Loons on May 4.
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 www.loons.com.