The Great Lakes Loons (49-31) suffered its second straight setback in as many nights, dropping the second game of a 4-game 'home-and-home' series following a 6-4 loss to the Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays) in front of 5,642 on hand for a fourth of July celebration at Dow Diamond in Midland, MI tonight.
Loons reliever Zach Willeman (1-1, 6.44 ERA) had been preserving a 3-3 tie throughout 3-strong innings of relief until the wheels came off in the top half of the eighth where he gave up a 1-out double to Lansing DH Ryan Gold, then walked third baseman Johnny Aiello, while Lugnuts right fielder D.J. Neal loaded the bases, reaching on a Loons fielding error, before Lansing second baseman L.J. Talley broke the game wide open with a bases clearing double into the right-center field gap to drive in three runs for a 6-3 Lansing lead in the top of the eighth inning.
The Loons added an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth when DH Gersel Pitre drove in Great Lakes shortstop Leonel Valera (who had reached on an error) to make it a 6-4 game, but that would be all the offense the Loons could muster.
Willeman (0-2, 6.27 ERA) was charged with the loss after giving up 2-earned runs on 4-hits and 1-walk, while striking out 7-batters through 4 2/3 innings, while Great Lakes starter Stephen Kolek (4.77 ERA) gave up 3-runs on 5-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 5-batters through 4 1/3 innings.
The Loons had drawn first blood, getting to Lansing starter Fitz Stadler early when Great Lakes first baseman Dillon Paulson reached on a 1-out walk and scored from first on an RBI-triple off the bat of third baseman Jacob Amaya, who was promptly driven in on the very next pitch when Loons catcher Hunter Feduccia laced an RBI-double down the right field line for a 2-0 Great Lakes lead with just 1-out in the bottom of the first inning.
Lansing responded in the following inning when Aiello led off with a single, moved to second on a ground out and eventually scored on an RBI-double off the bat of shortstop Rafael Lantigua to cut the Loons' lead to 2-1 midway through two innings, which was followed by Lansing center fielder Reggie Pruitt leading off the third inning with a single then quickly stealing second base, before scoring on a pair of wild pitches by Kolek to knot the game at 2-runs apiece in the top of the third inning.
Great Lakes would retake the lead when Paulson led off the bottom half of the third with a double and scored when Feduccia was ruled safe on a Lugnuts fielding error for a 3-2 Loons lead after three innings of play.
Kolek ran into some trouble in the top half of the fifth when he was chased in favor of Willeman after giving up a pair of walks and a single to Lugnuts catcher Gabriel Moreno to load the bases, however, Kolek was still on the hook for the three base runners, but Willeman managed to escape with minimal damage, relenting just one sac fly RBI to Gold which scored Lugnuts left fielder Hunter Steinmetz and tied the game at 3-runs apiece midway through five innings.
Stadler (5.76 ERA) allowed 2-earned runs on 4-hits and 3-walks with 3-strikeouts through 4-innings, while Lansing reliever Marcus Reyes (5-1, 2.44 ERA) was the difference, picking up the win after allowing just 3-hits and 1-walk, while striking out 2-batters through 3-scoreless innings of relief, as Lugnuts closer Justin Watts (SV,1) picked up his first save after allowing 1-hit with 3-strikeouts to close out the final 2-innings.
The Loons and Lugnuts will now head to Lansing for the final two games of this 4-game 'home-and-home' series at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing, MI tomorrow (6:35 pm) and Friday (7:05 pm) before returning home to host the Fort Wayne Tincaps (San Diego Padres) for a 3-game home series back here at Dow Diamond on Saturday through Monday.