COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The West Michigan Whitecaps might as well have been in a must-win situation on Sunday afternoon.
Nobody needed to tell that to Steven Moya.
The slugging All-Star led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a walk-off home run that propelled the West Michigan Whitecaps to a 3-2 win over the Great Lakes Loons at Fifth Third Ballpark.
The victory kept the Whitecaps' playoff hopes alive, brining West Michigan (31-32) to within 2.5 games of Bowling Green with seven games remaining in the race for the Eastern Division's first-half wild card berth. The Hot Rods, who were trailing their game at press time, will host West Michigan for a three-game series at Bowling Green Ballpark starting Tuesday.
Moya's game-winning blast came on the first pitch of the inning, a towering shot off reliever Raydel Sanchez (1-2) that landed on the Miller Lite House Deck in right-center field. It capped a 2-for-5, two-RBI game for the rising prospect, who has homered six times and driven in 33 runs through 47 games.
The homer saved the day for a Whitecaps team that pitched exceptionally well but nearly let the game slip away in the late-going.
Starter Marcelo Carreno turned in a strong outing and was one strike away from completing eight full innings and sending the 'Caps to the ninth with a 2-1 lead. That all changed with a 1-2 pitch to Pedro Guerrero, the Loons' ninth hitter in the order, who drilled a solo homer to left that evened the score at 2-2.
The game-tying homer chased Carreno from the game after 7.2 innings. He struck out eight and walked just one, allowing two runs on five hits.
The bullpen duo of Jade Todd and Dan Bennett picked him up.
Todd got the final out of the eighth inning before working around a leadoff double in the ninth and recording the first out of the 10th inning for 1.2 scoreless frames of relief. The lefty has turned in 11 consecutive scoreless appearances and has not allowed a run since April 30.
Bennett (3-1) came in for the last two outs of the 10th and was rewarded with the victory following Moya's game-winning bomb.
The trio of Whitecaps' pitchers combined to allow just two runs over 10 innings while striking out 12 and walking two.
Eugenio Suarez went 0-for-4 in the ballgame, ending his hitting streak one shy of the team's season-high at 12 games. The 20-year-old All-Star from Venezuela hit a scorching .556 during the streak and entered play Sunday leading the Midwest League in hits, doubles and runs scored while ranking among the top three in batting average and on-base percentage.
The Whitecaps play their final home game of the first half on Monday night at 7:00 p.m. with the finale of a three-game series against the Great Lakes Loons. LHP Kyle Ryan (2-2, 3.79) is scheduled to take the hill for the Whitecaps against RHP Gustavo Gomez (4-5, 4.89) of the Loons on a JQ99 FM All Faith's Night. Group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.