The Great Lakes Loons (21-27) just keep on winning and are now just a half game out of a wild card spot in the 2018 Midwest League's eastern division post season following a 9-3 victory over the Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) in front of 5,234 faithful Loons fans at Dow Diamond tonight.
Prior to tonight's opener of this 4-game home series, the Loons and Dragons had been tied (with matching 20-27 record's) in the MWL second half standings, while both teams trailed the Fort Wayne Tincaps (who had a 21-25 second half record) by 1-1/2 games for the eastern division's only remaining second half wild card spot in the MWL post season, but with the Loons' win tonight, along with a loss by the Tincaps (who dropped to 21-26 after a 3-1 loss) to the West Michigan Whitecaps tonight, the Loons now find themselves just a half game out of the MWL second half wild card spot.
The Loons took the early lead when shortstop Deacon Liput was driven in after Great Lakes second baseman Devin Mann had reached on a fielders choice, while third baseman Luke Heyer drove in DH Jacob Amaya with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, before breaking the game wide open with a big fourth inning where Amaya, LF Drew Avans, and Heyer each drove in runs on respective RBI-single's for a 5-0 Loons lead, which led to a grand slam home run from Loons RF Romer Cuadrado (4) who smashed his fourth HR of the year with the bases loaded to give the Loons a 9-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Dragons responded with a pair of runs in the fifth when shortstop Jose Garcia drove in Dayton catcher Mark Kolozsvary and DH J.D. Williams with a 2-RBI triple, cutting into the Loons' lead (9-2) in the top of the fifth inning.
Loons starting pitcher, lefty John Rooney (a third round draft pick of the Dodgers in the 2018 MLB draft out of Hofstra University) is still on a pitch-count limit, however, he still managed to put together another quality start, allowing just 2-hits, while striking out 4-batters through 3-scoreless innings, while Justin Hagenman (another Dodgers draft pick in the 2018 MLB draft out of Penn State University) replaced Rooney in the piggy-back start, giving up 2-runs on 4-hits, with 1-strikeout throughout the following 2-innings.
Dayton added another run in the eighth when Williams drove in Alejo Lopez with an RBI-single to cut the Great Lakes lead to 9-3 in the top of the eighth inning.
Loons reliever Bryan Warzek (a sixth round pick of the Dodgers in the 2018 MLB draft out of the University of New Orleans) replaced Hagenman to start the sixth, and would go on to pick up his first win in a Great Lakes uniform after allowing 3-hits and 1-walk, with 4-strikeouts through 2-scoreless innings of relief, while closer Stephen Kolek (0.92 ERA) replaced Warzek to start the eighth, giving up 1-run on 3-hits and 1-walk, while striking out 3-batters to close out the final 2-innings for the Loons.
Dayton starter Jared Solomon (0-1, 6.75 ERA) was tagged with his first loss of the season for the Dragons after giving up 2-runs on 3-hits and 4-walks, with 3-strikeouts through 2 1/3 innings, as Dayton reliever Wendolyn Bautista absorbed the majority of the sting in the Loons' big fourth inning rally, giving up 6-runs on 5-hits and 1-walk, with 1-strikeout in just a third of an inning, while former Loons closer Aneurys Zabala shut down his former team, striking out 2-batters in a clean final inning to close out the game for the Dragons.
Heyer was 3 for 5 with 2-RBI's and 1-run scored to pace the Great Lakes offense, followed by Cuadrado, who finished 2 for 5 with 4-RBI's, including his grand slam HR in the fourth inning, while Roller was 3 for 4 with 1-run scored.
The Loons will look to keep working toward a MWL playoff spot when they welcome the Dragons for game-2 of this 4-game series at 2:05 pm right back here at Dow Diamond tomorrow afternoon.