Clinton, IA - The Clinton LumberKings (13-19, 43-57) mustered only five hits as the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps (20-12, 61-41) shut down the hometown club at Ashford University Field. Whitecaps' starter Jonathon Crawford (6-2) allowed only four men to reach over six innings in his sixth quality start of 2014.
The night began with two elite starting pitchers on the hill, but the game quickly went in different directions for each. Edwin Diaz (3-6) struggled in both the first and second inning, as he retired just five men, his shortest start as a professional. The righty loaded the bases with no one out in the first, before Whitecaps designated hitter Jeff Holm drove in a pair with a two-RBI single.
Ahead 3-0 after one inning, West Michigan added one more on Raph Rhymes' RBI single in the second. The four run lead was more than enough for Crawford, as the former Florida Gator allowed only two hits, both to Marcus Littlewood. Aaron Barbosa led off the first with a single and picked up his 22nd steal of the season, but was left at second base.
Littlewood led off the second frame with a single, but Brett Thomas followed with a double play. In his LumberKings debut, Andy Peterson walked in the third, but Barbosa then grounded into the second Clinton double play of the night. Littlewood then had the LumberKings second, and final hit off of Crawford in the fifth, but was again left at second base.
LumberKings reliever Seon Gi Kim went five innings out of the pen, as the righty struck out six and allowed only one run, an RBI single by Rhymes in the seventh. Kim kept the game within reach, but even a LumberKings ninth inning rally off of Whitecaps' closer Julio Felix was not enough. Singles by Luis Caballero, Barbosa, and Jack Reinheimer broke the shutout and snapped Felix's 11 game scoreless streak. After Littlewood reached for the third time in the ballgame, a walk that loaded the bases, Brett Thomas struck out on a 3-2 fastball from Felix, as the LumberKings left the tying run at the plate.
Six of the nine West Michigan starters had at least one hit. Wynton Bernard and Javier Betancourt each had a pair of hits and increased their season total to 120, while league leading hitter Dominic Ficociello went 0-5 and remains with 122. Clinton reliever Tyler Herb made his LumberKings debut, as the righty went 1.1 shutout innings of relief. Crawford lowered his 2014 ERA to 2.99, and now four of West Michigan's starters have an ERA under three.
The series is set to conclude Friday night. Two righties are scheduled to start the rubber match, as Buck Farmer (9-5, 2.74) and Jose Flores (3-1, 4.08) duel in Clinton. Farmer looks to be the second pitcher in the Midwest League (Scott Silverstein) to get to 10 wins. First pitch is set for 6:30 CT at Ashford University Field. The LumberKings broadcast can be found on WCCI 100.3 FM, WCCIRadio.com, and LumberKings.com.