MIDLAND, Mich. - In a season of peaks and valleys, Great Lakes Loons reliever Victor Araujo has rarely descended from the heights.
Araujo, the 21-year-old right-handed reliever from the Dominican Republic, has been as close to being a sure-thing as it gets. He pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings in the Loons 6-4 loss Friday night to Lansing - lowering his ERA to 0.84 while upping his scoreless streak to 12 innings.
Perhaps even more mind-boggling is Araujo's success against righthanded batters. Righties are batting just .073 against him, and have accounted for just one earned run on his impressive stat sheet.
"I have a lot of faith in him," Loon manager Bill Haselman said earlier in the season. "In every situation."
Araujo has appeared in relief in all 24 of his outings this season in what has become his first full stint as a reliever in his professional career. He started 15 games for Rookie-level Ogden last season, compiling numbers not nearly appealing as now - he was 5-3 with a 6.48 ERA and an unappealing 1.441 WHIP.
But in 2014, the sight of Araujo warming up in the Loons bullpen is not a good one for opposing hitters. With a fastball that's consistently in the low 90s, and a devastating slider, Araujo has made it a habit to slam the door on enemy offenses, and not quietly.
Tonight doesn't promise to be a quiet evening at Dow Diamond, not with an entertainment-packed lineup that includes Harry Potter Night revelry and a postgame Fireworks Loontacular. On the baseball side of things, the Loons (4-4 in the second half) will try to snap a two-game losing streak when they take on the Lugnuts in the second game of a four-game series. Game time is 7:05 p.m.
Early signs Friday pointed to a Loons uprising on 90s Night (featuring Alfonso Ribeiro from the hit 90s show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), but Lansing survived an early flesh wound - inflicted by a three-run Loons first inning - to win in extra innings.
Besides Araujo, the Loons also got strong individual efforts from Jesmuel Valentin, who had four hits, Alex Santana, who had three hits including a home run, and starting pitcher Brandon Martinez, who struck out a career-high 10 hitters.
Right-hander Scott Barlow gets the start tonight against Lansing and is coming off of one of his best performances. Barlow pitched six innings against Dayton on June 22, allowing just one earned run while striking out a season-high eight batters.
Barlow (2-2, 3.99 ERA) will be opposed by Lugnuts righty Jeremy Gabryszwski, who's 5-2 with a 3.35 ERA. Gabryszwski has been tough to solve for the Loons, as he's given up just one earned run in 11 innings against them.
The Loons and Lugnuts will also play games Sunday (3:05 p.m.) and Monday (7:05 p.m.) at Dow Diamond before South Bend comes to town for a three-game series beginning July 1.
The Great Lakes Loons are an eighth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and more information, 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.