(South Bend, IN) - The Lake County Captains (24-38, 51-80) were all set to celebrate ending the South Bend Cubs' (34-28, 73-58) winning streak on Saturday night, but the red-hot Cubs had other plans. After Tyler Payne blasted a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, it was the Cubs who were celebrating, having extended their season-long winning streak to nine games with a 7-6 win over Lake County.
The Captains carried a 6-3 lead into the ninth with closer Dalbert Siri on the mound. Siri had only blown one save all year, way back in May at Lansing, but Chris Pieters led off with a double and Siri hit Austin Upshaw on an 0-2 pitch two batters later. Siri then walked Jhonny Pereda on four pitches to load the bases and bring Payne to the plate as the tying run.
South Bend pinch ran for Pereda with Kevonte Mitchell, seeing as how the runner on first represented the tying run. In the end, however, the baserunner was inconsequential. On the very first pitch, Payne launched a walk-off grand slam over the left field wall, stunning the Captains, who had led by as many as five runs in the ballgame.
Long before Payne's blast, Captains starter Brady Aiken spun six strong innings and the Captains' offense slammed home five runs in support of the southpaw. Aiken did not allow a hit until the fifth inning and allowed just one run on two hits all night. He struck out six and walked three, exiting with a 6-1 lead.
The Captains built their lead early against Cubs starter Erling Moreno. The right-hander walked the first two batters of the game and the Captains capitalized. Li-Jen Chu hit a sacrifice fly and Jose Vicente drove home two runs with a double to give Lake County a 3-0 lead in the first.
Todd Isaacs extended the Captains' advantage in the fourth. After Jorma Rodriguez worked a two-out walk, Isaacs doubled home Rodriguez to give the Captains a 4-0 lead.
Rodriguez doubled home a run of his own in the sixth, handing the Captains' their largest lead of the game. Emmanuel Tapia led off the inning with a walk and Rodriguez doubled to left field, bringing Tapia all the way home from first. The double pushed Lake County's lead to 5-0.
The Cubs scored their first run in the sixth against Aiken. Payne doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. After Luis Ayala worked a one-out walk, Andruw Monasterio hit a soft grounder to third base. Rodriguez fired to second base to retire Ayala, but Payne scored on the fielder's choice and the Captains' lead became 5-1.
Lake County grabbed that run right back in the top of the seventh, thanks to back-to-back doubles. Mitch Longo doubled to the gap in left-centerfield with two outs against lefty Yapson Gomez. Chu then skied a ball that landed in the right field corner. Longo hustled home and narrowly beat the relay throw from Yeiler Peguero, which skipped up the first base line, forcing Longo to hurdle the catcher to give Lake County a 6-1 lead.
The Cubs chipped away at the Captains' lead with two runs against lefty reliever Alsis Herrera . In the bottom of the seventh, Pieters reached on an infield single and moved to third when a wild pitch got away from Chu and the catcher lost sight of the ball. Upshaw then singled home Pieters. In the bottom of the eighth, Peguero doubled, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Monasterio to cut Lake County's lead to 6-3. Payne's heroics in the ninth against Siri lifted the Cubs to their ninth straight win.
Siri (1-2) suffered the loss and his second blown save of the season. The right-hander only recorded one out in the ninth and allowed four runs on two hits. He hit one batter, walked one batter and did not notch a strikeout.
Gomez (1-0) took home the win in relief. The southpaw allowed one run over 3.2 innings. Gomez surrendered one hit, struck out three and did not walk a batter.
The Captains have lost back-to-back games to open their four-game series at South Bend. First pitch for game three is scheduled for 2:05 PM at Four Winds Field.
Individual game tickets for all Captains games are on sale at the Classic Park box office, online at captainsbaseball.com and by phone at 440-954-WINS (9467). Mini ticket plans for the 2017 season are still available for great prices complete with several exclusive benefits. Information can be found at the Captains website www.captainsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.