(Eastlake, OH) - The Lake County Captains (38-26) kicked off a three game series against the division-leading Great Lakes Loons (40-22) with a big win on Tuesday night. The Captains defeated the Loons, 9-3, and got some help to climb back into the lead for the Wild Card.
Captains starter Juan Mota and Loons starter Jose Chacin started strong, could not get out of the third, forcing both teams to go to their bullpens early. Mota struck out three batters in the first two frames and worked around a one-out double in the second to blank Great Lakes. Chacin pitched around a one-out single in the first and got a double play ball to erase a walk in the second.
The bats picked up in the third. Dan Robinson drew a leadoff walk and reached third on a throwing error by Captains catcher Bo Naylor . Leonel Valera hit a slow dribbler 20 feet down the third base line and Naylor threw the ball over Mitch Reeves ' head at first, putting runners on second and third. The Loons got on the board one batter later when leadoff man Miguel Vargas hit an sacrifice fly that scored Robinson to give the Loons a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Jacob Amaya singled right back up the middle, scoring Valera to extend the lead to 2-0. Mota's day ended two batters later when he loaded the bases on back-to-back walks. Captains All-Star reliver Manuel Alvarez escaped the bases-loaded jam when he came in and struck out James Outman. Mota's day was done after 2.2 innings.
Chacin's day also ended after 2.2 innings when the Captains exploded for five runs in the bottom of the third inning. The inning started when Henry Pujols drew a walk. The next batter was Hosea Nelson , who singled to right, putting runners on first and second. Jose Fermin then put the Captains' first run on the board with a rocket double to left that scored both Nelson and Pujols to tie the game at 2-2. Freeman kept the sticks hot for the Captains with a bloop single to shallow center that moved Fermin to third. Will Benson gave the Captains the lead with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Fermin and put the Captains ahead, 3-2. With a 3-2 count on Ruben Cardenas , Freeman took off for second, as Chacin fired ball four. Loons catcher Jair Camargo still threw to second and his throw bounced into centerfield, allowing Freeman to take third. Naylor brought home Freeman on a sacrifice fly to centerfield to give the Captains a 4-2 lead and put an end Chacin's day. Loons reliver Jasiel Alvino came on to replace Chacin and Reeves doubled off the right-hander to drive in Cardenas to make it 5-2. The Captains sent 10 men to the plate in the third and scored five runs on four hits.
Lake County tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth to extend the lead to 6-2. Alvino walked Nelson and hit Fermin to put two runners on, prompting the Loons to call on Guillermo Zuniga to come out of the bullpen. Benson added another RBI to his total with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Nelson.
The Loons got a run back in the top of the fifth. Jacob Amaya singled to left with two outs and later scored on a wild pitch by Alvarez to cut the Captains' lead to 6-3.
The Captains added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh. Cardenas doubled with one out and later scored on a passed ball. Holmes later singled to center to score Naylor and make it 8-3. Nelson added the cherry on top with a solo homer to right in the eighth that made it 9-3.
Cam Hill kept the Loons scoreless in the ninth to end the game and secure the win for the Captains. Alvarez (4-1) picked up the victory. He pitched 2.1 innings and allowed one run on three hits. He struck out two and walked one.
Chacin (5-4) took the loss for Great Lakes. The right-hander pitched 2.2 innings and gave up five runs on four hits with three walks and no strikeouts.
The Captains got help from the Fort Wayne TinCaps, who defeated the Bowling Green Hot Rods Tuesday night, 4-0. Bowling Green's loss propelled the Captains into a ½ game lead for the Wild Card with five games remaining in the first half.
The Captains will play game two of the three game series against the Loons on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. at Classic Park.
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 2019 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.