MIDLAND, Mich. - Kane County's Cougars were glad to get out of town today, and glad to have seen the last of Joey Curletta.
Curletta, the Great Lakes Loons outfielder, drove in all three runs Monday - giving him five RBI for the series - as the Loons completed a three-game sweep of the Cougars with a 3-1 win before 4,019 fans at Dow Diamond.
Kane County came into the series with the Midwest League's best overall record, but was swept for only the second time all season by a Loons team that has now won four games in a row and climbed into the thick of the second-half Eastern Division playoff race. Now 15-15, the Loons are chasing one of two second half playoff spots.
Because South Bend and West Michigan already clinched playoff berths in the first half, the Loons are fighting amongst the division's other six teams for the two available postseason berths. They came into Wednesday's matinee one game behind Lake County, and tied with Dayton and Lansing in the race for those spots.
But, no matter the postseason implications, the Loons played like a playoff team in the three-game sweep of the Cougars, who were 31 games over .500 when they arrived at Dow Diamond on Saturday. They left with a three-game streak that was pointing in the wrong direction.
"We beat the best team and we played really well," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "If we keep doing things the way we just did them, we're going to be fine. When we play our game, we're a tough team to beat."
Curletta had two hits in each of the three games, including a tie-breaking double in the series opener. On Monday, he doubled in the Loons first run in the third inning, then broke a 1-1 tie with a 400-foot homer to left that also scored Alex Santana.
"I've been sitting on fastballs and that's what they've been giving me," said Curletta, who now has four home runs and 51 RBI. "I just saw the ball well all day."
Curletta finished the series six for 12 to raise his batting average to .294.
"He's working through the peaks and valleys and that's what you have to do in a long season," said Haselman. "The guys they (major league organizations) look at are those guys who can battle through the tough times, because those times are going to happen."
Kane County's lone run came on a two-out home run by Jeimer Candelario in the fifth inning off of Loons starter Zachary Bird. Haselman then replaced Bird with Michael Johnson, who ended up earning his third win.
"Zach had thrown a lot of pitches (91) and I just didn't want to push it with him," Haselman said.
Johnson pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, while Jacob Rhame came on two throw two shutout frames. Matt Campbell then came on in the ninth to earn his fourth save. Starter Daury Torrez (9-5), who came into the game tied for the MWL lead in wins, took the loss for Kane County.
The Loons have a day off tomorrow before beginning a six-game road series at Burlington and Peoria. They'll begin a three game series on Wednesday in Burlington. They return home next Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) to begin a six-game homestand with Fort Wayne and Lansing.
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.