SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Nelson Velazquez homered to right field with one out in the bottom of the ninth, and the South Bend Cubs (33-25, 70-56) walked off the Lansing Lugnuts (30-28, 62-65), 3-2, on Wednesday night at Four Winds Field.
It was the first time that the Lugnuts suffered a walk-off defeat in 2019, and it came to drop the Nuts three games behind South Bend for the second and final Midwest League Eastern Division playoff berth with 12 games remaining in the regular season.
The game began with a stellar start from Lansing right-hander Troy Miller , who struck out seven Cubs in six innings while allowing only one unearned run - brought in by a throwing error by shortstop Otto Lopez in the bottom of the third.
The full extent of the Lugnuts' offense came in the top of the third, thanks to a Lopez double, a Yorman Rodriguez RBI double and a Gabriel Moreno RBI groundout in the third inning.
The Nuts' 2-1 lead carried from the third inning into the late going, with Miller handing the ball to left-hander Marcus Reyes (Blown Save, 1; Loss, 7-2) for a scoreless seventh inning.
But in the bottom of the eighth, South Bend catcher Rafelin Lorenzo led off against Reyes with a triple to right-center. After Darius Hill reached first base on a fielding error by third baseman Rafael Lantigua , a Clayton Daniel double-play grounder brought in Lorenzo to tie the game at 2-2.
South Bend right-hander Brian Glowicki (Win, 1-2) set down the Lugnuts in order in the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, Reyes retired Nelson Maldonado on a groundout to first base. Velazquez followed with his third home run of the season, and just the second of the year allowed by Reyes - a line drive just over the right-center field wall.
In the loss for the Lugnuts, leadoff hitter Lopez went 3-for-4 with two singles and a double to raise his batting average to .315, second in the Midwest League.
The second game of the three-game series is at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday, pitting Lugnuts right-hander Cobi Johnson (4.52 ERA) against South Bend right-hander Riley Thompson (3.03) in a matchup of Eastern Division All-Stars.
The Lugnuts return home on Saturday - Harry Potter Night with LAFCU Fireworks! - to open a seven-game homestand. To live the Lug Life and purchase tickets, visit lansinglugnuts.com, call (517) 485-4500 or come to the Cooley Law School Stadium box office at 505 E. Michigan Ave. in downtown Lansing.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.