LANSING, Mich. - D.J. Neal lined a game-tying RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning and scored the go-ahead run on a Gabriel Moreno sacrifice fly, and the Lansing Lugnuts (31-36) dealt a major blow to the playoff hopes of the Bowling Green Hot Rods (38-30) with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory on Friday night at Cooley Law School Stadium.
With a Lake County loss at Fort Wayne and a Hot Rods victory, Bowling Green would have pulled within a half-game of the Captains for the Eastern Division first-half wild card. Lake County did lose, 3-2 - but the Hot Rods' loss left them 1.5 games back with only two games remaining in the half.
The Hot Rods' only runs all night came three batters into the ballgame: a one-out walk from Josh Winckowski to Wander Franco, followed by a home run to right field by Chris Betts.
The 20-year-old right-hander was brilliant from that point on, tossing seven innings with seven strikeouts while limiting Bowling Green to three hits and three walks.
Rafael Lantigua 's fourth-inning sacrifice fly off Bowling Green starter Cristopher Sanchez put the Lugnuts on the board.
Still, the Nuts trailed by a run entering the eighth inning against Hot Rods All-Star reliever Trey Cumbie (Blown Save, 1; Loss, 2-1), in his second inning of work. Luis De Los Santos catalyzed the rally with a double off the right-field wall, and Neal followed with a double to right-center to tie the score at 2-2. Cumbie's first pitch to Moreno sailed high over the head of catcher Betts, moving Neal to third. Moreno followed with a deep enough drive to center to score Neal with the decisive run.
19-year-old left-hander Naswell Paulino (Win, 1-0) pitched around two Hot Rods singles in a scoreless eighth inning in his Midwest League debut.
Cre Finfrock nailed down the ninth for his fifth save, issuing a leadoff walk to Grant Witherspoon before striking out Ford Proctor and coaxing a double-play grounder from Roberto Alvarez to end the game and cue the post-game LAFCU Fireworks.
The second game of the three-game series will also feature post-game LAFCU Fireworks: Star Wars Night at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night, with Lugnuts right-hander Josh Hiatt (3.51 ERA) taking on Hot Rods left-hander Matthew Liberatore (2.33). Gates open at 6 p.m.
The final game of the first half is a special Delta Dental Kids Day Father's Day game on Sunday beginning at 1:05 p.m. Come early and play catch with your father on the field! To live the Lug Life and purchase tickets to Sunday or throughout the 2019 season, visit lansinglugnuts.com or call (517) 485-4500.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.