Lugnuts take out Dragons with 7-2 win
"Hopefully we can get things put together and try to get more wins than the team we're chasing," Lugnuts' manager Ken Joyce said.
The Lugnuts (33-29) started the day one game behind the Fort Wayne Wizards for the final playoff spot in the East Division. Coming into the game, Lansing had lost 2 of 3 at home to the last place Dragons (27-35).
In the top of the fourth inning, with one on base and no one out, Dragons' third baseman Bradley Key hit a line drive off the right leg of Lansing starting pitcher A.J. Wideman.
Wideman was taken out of the game by Joyce and was replaced by relief pitcher Jordy Templet.
Templet loaded the bases by walking Dragons second baseman Evan Conley, then struck out three batters straight to get the Lugnuts out of a no out, bases loaded jam.
"I came in and just tried to minimize the damage and keep us in the game," Templet said. "Curtis (Thigpen) did a great job of mixing up the pitches and we were able to strike those three guys out."
Down 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Lansing got an offensive boost from catcher Curtis Thigpen, when he hit a two-run home run over the left field wall, giving Lansing its first lead of the game.
"I'm confident in my ability and I've been struggling the last week, so I've been just trying to see the pitches and put them in play," Thigpen said of his fifth homer of the season.
In the sixth inning, Lansing added four more runs courtesy of Thigpen and second baseman Jason Armstrong. Lansing leftfielder Aaron Mathews led off the inning with a walk, then shortstop Ryan Klosterman singled and Christian Snavely walked to load the bases for Armstrong.
He smacked a two-run double down the left field line and was followed by Thigpen, who knocked in two more runs on a base hit to center field.
"Today, guys were relaxed and let the game come to them," Joyce said. "Nice job by the bullpen to come in and pick us up. You hate to lose a starting pitcher that early, but Templet pitched outstanding and then (Po-Hsuan) Keng did what he had to do and Joey McLaughlin got his work in."
Lansing had a great opportunity early in the second inning, but were only able to push across one run.
First baseman David Hicks singled to center field, then designated hitter Luke Hetherington walked and Mathews bloop-single over the shortstops head loaded the bases.
After one out, rightfielder Yuber Rodriguez hit an infield single off the pitchers glove that scored Hicks, but the Lugnuts stranded all three runners.
The home run by Thigpen and the strikeouts by Templet could be just what the Lugnuts need to get going said Templet.
"You always look for that one play - you never know what pitch or at bat - that changes everything," Templet said. "Hopefully we can take this (game) as a momentum builder. I know we have Fort Wayne coming up, so hopefully we can finish the first half off strong and get a spot (in the playoffs)."
The Lugnuts now hit the road for five games, three at West Michigan and two at Fort Wayne, before ending the first half with two games against the Wizards.
The next Lansing Lugnuts game at home will be held at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at Oldsmobile Park, 505 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing. The team plays Fort Wayne.