EASTLAKE, OH - Justin Maese combined with a pair of relievers on a two-hit shutout and Juan Kelly enjoyed a monster offensive game, helping the Lansing Lugnuts (33-35, 69-69) blank the Lake County Captains (30-38, 70-68), 6-0, on Saturday night at Classic Park.
Still, a Great Lakes Loons 3-1 win over the West Michigan Whitecaps brought the Lugnuts' elimination number to 1. In the season's final two games, one Lugnuts loss or one Loons win eliminates the Nuts from playoff contention.
Maese (Win, 2-4) had allowed nine hits and eight runs in his last start, knocked around by the Captains on August 28th. Round 2 found the 19-year-old in firm control, striking out seven batters in 5 2/3 innings while limiting the Captains to mere singles by Martin Cervenka and Erlin Cerda.
His bullpen was even better. Kirby Snead fired 2 1/3 perfect innings, striking out two, and Geno Encina cruised through a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
The Lugnuts' offense was stymied through the first five innings by Shao-Ching Chiang (Loss, 8-12) before breaking the deadlock on a Lane Thomas two-run double in the sixth. Three batters later, Cavan Biggio's RBI grounder brought in Thomas for a 3-0 lead.
The Nuts tacked on two runs in the seventh against Christian Meister before adding icing to the cake with a Kelly RBI double in the eighth against Erick Algarin.
It was the capper to a marvelous performance by the Lugnuts' All-Star first baseman, who extended his league-leading on-base streak to 34 games. Kelly reached base in all five plate appearances: hit by a pitch in the second inning, drew a walk in the fourth inning, singled and scored a run in the sixth, singled and scored again in the seventh, and recorded his team-leading 35th double of the year in the eighth.
Sunday's 7:00 p.m. affair will see right-hander T.J. Zeuch (0-0, 15.00), the 21st overall pick in the 2016 draft, receive his second Lugnuts start. Lake County counters with right-hander Casey Shane (8-12, 5.18).
The Lansing Lugnuts return to Cooley Law School Stadium for the 10th annual Crosstown Showdown presented by Auto-Owners Insurance on Tuesday, September 6th. Gates open at 5 p.m. with $2 beers and fountain drinks, a limited edition baseball cap giveaway to the first 2,000 fans, a pregame Home Run Derby at 5:30 p.m., and first pitch at 7:05 p.m. For more information or to purchase your tickets, call 517-485-4500 or visit lansinglugnuts.com.
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