The Great Lakes Loons got 11-hits from seven different batters, and some great defense to beat the Fort Wayne Tincaps (San Diego Padres) 9-2 in front of 3,149 fans at Dow Diamond tonight.
The Loons chased Fort Wayne starter Jean Cosme after a 5 hit, 4-run third inning led to a 4-0 lead. The Loons then exploded for another five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning where Ibandel Isabel (7) smacked a lead off home run, his fourth in as many games to spark a rally.
“He's a guy who has tremendous tools, tremendous power,” Loons skipper Gil Velazquez said of Isabel. “When he tries to do too much, that's when he gets himself in trouble, he has a whole lot of body movement, but I think right now he's just slowing the game down. He feels really comfortable, very confident, not trying to do too much and this is the result he gets.”
With tonight's win the Loons (28-29) are a half game ahead of the Lansing Lugnuts (28-30) for the final eastern division playoff spot in the Midwest League.
Velazquez noted that his current Great Lakes lineup is looking completely different from the first half squad, which had the dubious distinction the lowest team batting average in minor league baseball.
“From the all star break and on, it's felt like these guys are really competing offensively,” Velazquez said. “There were games where we lost, but we still gave ourselves a chance to win those ball games. Late in the games, these guys just find ways to get on base, put good at-bats together, whatever it takes to get the tying run or the winning run up to the plate. It seems we're giving ourselves a chance to win everyday. And now, it seems these guys are turning it on at the beginning of the game and throughout the game.”
The Loons made a key defensive stop with one out in the top of the second inning, saving at least one run and changing momentum in favor of the Loons.
Fort Wayne catcher Hunter Redmond -batting with Jonathan Pena on second and Tyler Selesky on third- flied out to Loons left fielder Luke Raley.
Raley threw a rope to third base for the rare 7-5 double play, catching Pena -who had tagged up from second going to third base- to end the inning before Selesky could cross home plate.
The Tincaps did manage to get on the board when Juan Carlos Urena homered (3) off Loons starter Leonardo Crawford cutting the Loons lead to 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning. Fort Wayne would add another run in the seventh inning.
Crawford (2-1, 3.20 ERA) a 2014 Dodger international free agent from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua was solid earning his second win of 2016 giving up just 1 run on 3-hits, 2-walks while striking out 5 batters through five innings tonight.
Reliever Andrew Istler (0.71 ERA) a 2015 23rd round draft pick of the Dodgers from Duke University gave up 1 run on 2-hits while striking out 2 batters through 2-innings of middle relief work. Tony Gonsolin (4.00 ERA) gave up just 1 hit while striking out 1 batter through the final two innings for the Loons.
Saige Jenco, a 2016 Dodgers draft pick who played college ball at Virginia Tech, was 2 for 4 with a walk, 3 rbi, and 2-runs scored tonight.
Jenco ripped a one out double, then scored the first run of the game in the second inning, and added the Loons final three runs with his first career professional home run, a three run bomb to center field in the eighth. He's hoping the hot bats and continued good pitching will translate into a playoff run for his team.
“I think we're all just swinging the bats really well right now,” Jenco said. “We're getting guys on base and the pitching staff is doing a great job. You know, we're all swinging it pretty hot right now so if we get in the playoffs we can be pretty dangerous.”
Jenco knows that hitting is contagious and tonight it all started with Isabel. He's banking on continued success and building momentum for a playoff run, all led by Isabel and some continued hot bats.
“With a guy like (Isabel) swinging so well, and after he hit that home run everyone was fired up. You know, when he got called up (to the Loons a couple weeks ago) it was a big move for us and everyone is just following his lead right now.”
“That's how it is, I mean, one hit and we just rally,” continued Jenco. “That's kind of how it's been for us, I mean look how many comebacks we've had this season. All we needed was one inning (tonight), but we were already up and we just kept swinging it, which is how we are, I mean our pitching staff is doing great, but I really think we're built around our hitting right now.”
Brendon Davis finished 3 for 4 with a stolen base and 2-runs scored to lead the Loons offense.
“I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now,” Davis said. “You know this last series (against Bowling Green) I had some hard hit balls that were caught and didn't go my way but I kept grinding it out and kept having good at bats and now good things are starting to happen for me.”
Davis also sees a difference in this Loons lineup since Isabel was called up from the Ogden Raptors of the Dodgers' Arizona rookie league. He also talked about what it's like hitting behind Isabel.
“All I know is I can't hit behind him anymore,” a laughing Davis joked. “I don't want to hit behind him anymore because when I come up he puts me to shame. We call him the monster, he's not even human because I see stuff that he does, that I've never seen before. I'm talking even at big league games, I've been to a lot of big league games and I've never seen the stuff he does with the bat. We talk about the sound, the sound that his bat makes off that ball is just ridiculous. I mean, even on foul balls, everybody will jump up in the dugout. Or fans will yell, 'whoa.' It's insane, the dude is not a human.”
The Loons will host the Tincaps for game three of this four game series at 7:05 pm tomorrow night at Dow Diamond.