LANSING, Mich. - Kevin Smith swatted a two-run homer in a three-run first inning, and the Lansing Lugnuts (28-14) held off the Bowling Green Hot Rods (25-16), 3-2, on Saturday night at Cooley Law School Stadium.
The win restored the Lugnuts' 2 ½-game lead over the Hot Rods atop the Eastern Division and set up a rubber match of the three-game series on Sunday.
After Hot Rods catcher Ronaldo Hernandez drilled an RBI double in the top of the first inning, the Nuts answered with their only runs of the night: Chavez Young drew a walk against starter Riley O'Brien (Loss, 1-1) and Smith homered two batters later into the Chevrolet Terrace in right field, giving the Nuts a 2-1 lead. It was Smith's seventh home run of the season. Brock Lundquist followed with a single and Yeltsin Gudiño singled him in three batters later for a 3-1 Lugnuts advantage.
From there on out, the Lugnuts managed only two more base runners: Young singled to right field in the fifth inning, and Lundquist drew a leadoff walk in the sixth.
Lansing starter Maverik Buffo (Win, 6-1) tossed five innings, allowing a second Hernandez RBI double in the fifth inning.
Donnie Sellers fired the final four innings in relief, picking up his first save. It did not come easy.
In the eighth, the Hot Rods' Moises Gomez and Carl Chester singled with two outs. Eleardo Cabrera followed with a looping single to left, seemingly scoring Gomez with the game-tying run - but Chester rounded second base too far and was tagged out for the third out before Gomez could cross the plate.
In the ninth, the Hot Rods loaded the bases with one out for their 3-4 batters, but Zac Law lined softly to shortstop and Hernandez grounded out to third to end the game.
The Nuts wrap up their seven-game homestand at 1:05 p.m. Sunday on a Delta Dental Kids Day featuring a Color Rush Jersey Giveaway to the first 1,000 fans, with right-hander Maximo Castillo (4.81 ERA) taking on Bowling Green right-hander Drew Strotman (3.40). To purchase tickets and live the Lug Life, 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.