MIDLAND, Mich. - If West Michigan eventually clinches a first-half Midwest League playoff spot, it won't be because of any help from the Great Lakes Loons.
For the second night in a row, the Loons put the Whitecaps playoff celebration on hold, this time with a 6-2 win in front of 5,038 fans at Dow Diamond. West Michigan's magic number for clinching an Eastern Division postseason berth has been stuck on one for two days thanks to their back-to-back losses to the Loons and three straight wins by the Dayton Dragons.
"That's good," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "Let them clinch it somewhere else."
West Michigan now heads out of town to face South Bend, while the Loons (32-35) close out the first half with a three-game home series against Lansing which starts tomorrow.
Like Wednesday's 7-0 win over the Whitecaps, the Loons got contributions from a variety of players. Unlike that win, the Loons had to play from behind, although only briefly.
West Michigan scored the game's first two runs off of Loons starter Jonathan Martinez in the third inning, but the Loons answered in the bottom of the inning against Whitecaps' starter Buck Farmer. Malcolm Holland had a leadoff single, came home on a double by Dillon Moyer, while Moyer eventually scored on Jacob Scavuzzo's single.
The Loons took the lead for good in the fourth when Josmar Cordero belted a home run to deep left-center off of Farmer, who came into the game leading the MWL strikeouts while sporting a 2.60 ERA. They made 4-2 in the fifth on consecutive singles by Scavuzzo, Kyle Farmer and Paul Hoenecke.
Martinez (5-5) pitched five innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs, then turned it over to relievers Jordan Hershiser, Michael Johnson and Jacob Rhame, who allowed just one hit over the next four innings. The hard-throwing Rhame struck out three in two innings.
"Martinez battled hard for five innings and he was up to 81 pitches," said Haselman. "I think he was a little bit out of gas. Hershiser gave us that one inning before we could turn it over to the back end of the bullpen."
The Loons tacked on two more runs in the seventh when Brandon Trinkwon doubled and scored on two wild pitches, while Hoenecke belted his team-leading eighth home run, an opposite field shot over the wall in left.
"He gives us quality at bats," said Haselman. "He'll go through his struggles but he always gets back on track. That's showing maturity."
Scavuzzo, Hoenecke and Holland each finished with two hits for the Loons, who still have a shot at finishing the first-half with a .500 record.
"We're playing better and we're doing the things that give us a chance to win," said Haselman. "If we keep playing like this there's no reason we shouldn't make the playoffs in the second half."
The Loons begin their series with Lansing tomorrow (7:05 p.m.) on Duck Dynasty Night at Dow Diamond, featuring an appearance by the popular show's Justin Martin. Zachary Bird (3-8) will start for the Loons while Shane Dawson (2-2, 3.62) gets the start for the Lugnuts.
The Great Lakes Loons are an eighth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and information about the team, call 989-837-BALL, or visit loons.com.