The (5-5) Great Lakes Loons dropped a close Midwest League eastern division battle to the (9-3) Bowling Green (Ky.) Hot Rods 2-0 in a good ole fashioned Pitcher’s duel before 1,079 fans at Dow Diamond Tuesday evening. Bowling Green starter, Jeff Ames (1-0, 1.20 ERA) is a first round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, 42 overall in the 2011 MLB draft, and was near perfect through his five innings of work Tuesday night.
Ames –ranked the #13 prospect in the entire Tampa Bay organization according to Baseball America- gave up just 1-hit, 0-runs, 0-walks, while striking out eight Loons batters through five innings. Bowling Green reliever, Jose Molina (2-0, 4.45 ERA) was just as stunning, giving up 0-hits, 0-runs, 1-BB, while striking out two Loons batters in his three innings of work. Molina earned the win for the Hot Rods. Ryan Garton (0-1, 4.45 ERA) earned the save, shutting down all three Loons hitters in the ninth inning.
The Loons fall to (5-5) .500 for the season; and remain in fourth place in the MWL’s eastern division standings, just three games behind division leaders, the South Bend (IN.) Silver Hawks (7-2), and 2.5 games back of second place Bowling Green (9-3), and just a half a game back of the third place (6-5) Fort Wayne TinCaps . Loons head coach, Razor Shines admitted that the Loons just ran into one of the best pitchers his team will face in the MWL this season, and they were simply dominated by the 6’-4” 225 lb twenty-two year-old right hander from Vancouver, Washington Tuesday evening.
“Their starter was about as good of a starter that we’ve seen so far this year, I think he’s gone fifteen innings now without giving up a run, and may have only walked one hitter, he’s pretty good,” said Loons Skipper Razor Shines. “So, sometimes –even though we might not always want to do it- sometimes, we just have to tip our hats to the other guy and tonight, he was pretty good.” Shines commended his team on their hard work, he knows his guys are a talented group of players who have been working very hard, and it’s just a matter of time before that hard work starts to pay off. “My team is playing hard, and I like that,” said an emphatic Shines. “Win, lose, or draw, I like that; and that’s the way we’re going to play baseball this whole year; so (five-and-five) that’s where we are right now; but, when it’s all said and done we should be better than that.”
Bowling Green scored their only two runs in the top of the eighth inning when a couple bad bounces proved fatal for the Loons. Hot Rods nine hitter –third baseman, Ryan Dunn- ripped a one-out opposite field single to right field to start the rally. Bowling Green right fielder, Joey Rickard then hit a hard grounder to third base; which took an awkward bounce, causing Loons third baseman, Paul Hoenecke to mishandle the ball. Hoenecke rushed the throw over to first and was ultimately charged with a double-error (one fielding, and one throwing). So, instead of two outs and only one baserunner, the Hot Rods now had runners at first and third with just one out. Bowling Green DH, Justin O’Connor laid down an RBI safety-squeeze-bunt, scoring Dunn from third and advancing Rickard to second base. Facing Bowling Green’s best hitter (Andrew Toles) Loons reliever, Jonathan Martinez threw a wild pitch; which advanced Rickard to third base. The left-hand hitting Toles then pulled a low liner which wrapped just inside the first base bag, and ricocheted off the left field side-wall behind the Loons bullpen bench, making a tough play for Loons right fielder, Jeremy Rathjen. Toles wound up with an RBI triple, scoring Rickard from third. The next batter hit a grounder to third base, and Hoenecke gathered himself to make a nice play throwing Bowling Green catcher, Luke Maile out at first base to end the inning.
The Loons looked poised to answer with an eighth inning rally when DH, Eric Smith reached base on a lead-off walk in the bottom half of the eighth inning. Great Lakes second baseman, Alexis Aguilar hit a hard grounder to short; which forced Smith out at second, but Aguilar’s hustle to first beat out the double play, leaving Aguilar on first base with a fielder’s choice. The Loons still had a baserunner and only one out, but all hopes for a Great Lakes rally fell short when Hot Rods catcher, Luke Maile apparently caught Aguilar leading too far off first base. Maile fired down to first and Aguilar seemed to have beaten the throw back as he dove to first. He looked safe to everyone inside Dow Diamond –everyone except for the one person who counted- the first base umpire. Initially, umpire Evan Barger seemed as if he were going to make the “safe” sign, but –in the blink of an eye- Barger emphatically called Aguilar out. This set off a chain-reaction of the typical baseball arguing; which culminated with the ejection of Loons head coach, Razor Shines.
“Obviously, I thought he (Aguilar) was safe,” said Shines after the game. “But, it’s not what I think, and it’s not what most people think; ultimately, the umpire is going to have the final say; he thought he was out and he said he had a good look at it but I just disagreed, and when you disagree, sometimes you don’t finish ball games.”
The Loons got some great pitching, along with some nice defense tonight. Lefty, Miguel Sulbaran (1-0, 1.17 ERA) and righty, Jonathan Martinez (0-1, 4.00 ERA) split the “piggy-back start” for the Loons. The duo pitched a more than sufficient game to put their team in position for success. Sulbaran, from Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela, just turned nineteen a month ago. He gave up 3-hits, 0-runs, 4-BB, while striking out three Bowling Green batters through five innings of work. Martinez , who is also from Venezuela, (Maracay) is only eighteen years old. Martinez gave up 3-hits, 2-runs (neither run was earned), 0-BB, while striking out two Hot Rod batters through four innings of work. Loons infielders combined to turn four double-plays Tuesday. The score could have easily gotten out of control if it weren’t for those double-plays.
Loons DH, Eric Smith had the only hit for the Loons; as well as the only base-on-balls Tuesday evening. Smith hit a two-out double in the bottom of the second and reached third base on a wild pitch, but was ultimately stranded by Aguilar. Smith finished the night 1-for-2 with a walk. Andrew Toles paced Bowling Green, going 3-for-4 (2 singles, and an RBI triple). Hot Rods third baseman, Ryan Dunn went 1-for-1 with 2 base-on-balls, scoring 1 run; while hitting in the ninth spot.
The Loons have a very busy week at Dow Diamond (due to the rainouts last week). They will complete their series with Bowling Green Wednesday and Thursday; both games have 6:05 p.m. starts. The boys will then embark on a 5-games in-3 days journey, hosting the Lake County Captains on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The two teams will play back-to-back seven inning double-headers on Friday (6:05 p.m. start) and Saturday (5:05 p.m. start) respectively. The Loons and Captains will complete the series on Sunday with a 3:05 p.m. afternoon game.