COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. - A blooper here, savvy base-running there and an opponent error to boot: it all went the Loons' way in a ninth-inning comeback win, 6-2, over the West Michigan Whitecaps before a stunned crowd at Fifth Third Field on Monday night.
It became a milestone win for the Loons, who trimmed the magic number to secure a playoff berth down to two. The triumph completed the first four-game sweep of West Michigan on the road in franchise history (it was the second time the Loons have won all four in a set against the Whitecaps).
The Loons have now won 20 games in the month of August, which marks the third time in the team's 12-year history they have won at least 20 games in a single month (August 2009 and July 2010). Since July 7, the Loons are 33-15, the best record in the Midwest League in that span.
Playing Monday's game with the West Michigan series already cinched, the Loons entered the ninth inning down 2-1. Luke Heyer started the inning auspiciously with his third hit of the night on a line-drive single to right field off Whitecaps' right-hander Will Vest.
After Miguel Vargas struck out, Gersel Pitre sparked the Loons' rally with an opposite-field double down the right-field line that moved Heyer to third. It was also Pitre's third knock of the night. At this point, field manager John Shoemaker went to his bench and substituted Eric Peterson as a pinch runner.
With the infield constricted, the next batter, Josh McLain, rolled a ball out to West Michigan shortstop Wenceel Perez, who threw home to catcher Joey Morgan. Heyer did not have a chance and was put out on the play for the second out, but Peterson advanced to third to keep the tying runner 90 feet away.
That brought Chris Roller to the plate. Roller swung at the first pitch from Vest and lobbed the ball out to shallow center field. On a windy night, center-fielder Reese Hampton was playing back on the play, and could not make up the ground to catch the ball and end the game. Peterson scored to level the board a two runs apiece. Crucially, McLain advanced from first to third on the play, and with the throw headed to third, Roller also advanced to second.
This opened up first base, and prompted West Michigan to intentionally walk Deacon Liput and load the bases with two outs and the go-ahead runner on third. The Whitecaps' infield remained lined near the grass when Jacob Amaya pounded the ball out to third baseman Anthony Pereira.
While Pereira managed to glove the grounder, he dove to his left. This allowed Liput, running with a great jump from first base, to reach second ahead of the force play. McLain scored from third to give the Loons the lead (Amaya was credited with an RBI single).
Drew Avans put the final nail in West Michigan's coffin with a line shot to left field. The ball rolled under the glove of left fielder Rey Rivera for an error and emptied the bases to put the Loons in front 6-2.
The Loons ride their second seven-game win streak of the month-and 17th win in 20 games-into their final off day of the regular season. Play resumes on Wednesday with game one of a three-game series against the Lansing Lugnuts inside Cooley Law School Stadium; first pitch is 7:05 p.m. EDT.
The Great Lakes Loons have been the Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers since the team's inception in 2007. Dow Diamond serves as the team's home and also houses the Michigan Baseball Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, and ESPN 100.9-FM. For tickets or information about the Loons, call 989-837-BALL or visit Loons.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.