MIDLAND, Mich. - Should the Great Lakes Loons make the playoffs, Sunday's 4-3 win over Lansing may be remembered as a pivotal moment in their run to the postseason.
The Loons tied Sunday's game in the bottom of the ninth in the most improbable fashion, and then won it when a player fresh off the disabled list delivered the climatic base hit.
And with the win, the Loons took over second place in the race for two Midwest League Eastern Division playoff spots. Now 20-22, the Loons moved a half-game ahead of Lake County and trail Dayton by only one game. The Loons begin a three-game series Monday at Dayton.
"It's a great win for us and maybe it's the kind of win that changes things for us and gives us some momentum," said Jesmuel Valentin, one of Sunday's heroes. "To tie the game like that and then win…it is huge."
Valentin, who'd been on the 7-day disabled list with a bruised thumb, singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth off of Lugnuts reliever Phil Kish. But Valentin only got to bat because of a wild sequence of events that started when Josmar Cordero struck out for what should have been the game's final out.
But Lansing catcher Daniel Klein let the final strike get past him to the backstop, which allowed Cordero to try and make first base safely. Klein threw to first base in an attempt to retire Cordero, but his throw sailed into rightfield, allowing Jacob Scavuzzo to score from second and Brandon Trinkwon to take third. Scavuzzo had singled with two out and Trinkwon followed with a walk.
Valentin then hit an 0-1 pitch from Kish through the middle as Trinkwon trotted home.
"Sometimes you get lucky," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "We had plenty of opportunities earlier in the game that we didn't take advantage of, but we hung in there. We still need to do a better job of situational hitting, though."
The Loons left a runner on third in the second inning, then loaded the bases in the seventh but didn't score. But they scored twice in the sixth on an RBI single by Joey Curletta and a double steal that saw Paul Hoenecke come home.
Lansing had built a 3-0 lead by scoring two runs in the fourth inning on D.J. Davis' double off of Loons starter Greg Harris. They added another in the fifth when Klein doubled home Jason Leblebijian.
Harris departed after the fifth inning and Jordan Hershiser came on and provided another brilliant effort from the Loons bullpen. The right-hander pitched three hitless, scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.88. Mark Pope then pitched a scoreless ninth and ended up being credited with his third win.
"Hershiser has been outstanding and he was outstanding again today," said Haselman. "Again, I can't say enough about our bullpen. That's why we need to get runners home when we have the chance, because with our bullpen we're usually going to have a chance to win."
The Loons play three games in Dayton and then finish the week with a four-game series against South Bend, where they've yet to win this season. They return home on Tuesday, Aug. 12 when they begin a six-game homestand with Bowling Green and West Michigan.
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.