The Lansing Lugnuts came home hoping to break their six game losing streak after visiting the outer reaches of the Midwest League last week.
The Lugs were in tough against West Michigan starter Garrett Hill, who had not allowed a run over his first 30 MWL innings, covering 5 starts. The West Michigan offence entered the game trailing only Lansing’s in team batting average.
But after some early wildness, Lansing starter Josh Winckowski matched Hill pitch-for-pitch, and the Lugs broke through against a tiring Hill in the 7th to snap their skid with a 4-2 win.
Winckowski came off the 7 day IL last week and was uncharacteristically wild in his first start back, walking four and uncorking a pair of wild pitches. He struggled with his command over the first two innings last night, allowing a walk and hit batter, and gave up a run in the 3rd after his teammates broke Hill’s scoreless streak with an unearned run in the home half of the 2nd.
Winckowski settled down after that, retiring 11 of the next 13 hitters he faced, 8 of them by groundout. He lived down in the zone for much of that time, flashing a plus slider and change up. Winckowski recorded 13 of his outs by the groundball before exiting the game after the top of the 7th.
In the bottom half of that inning, the Lugnuts chased Hill. Nick Podkul led off the frame with a single, extending his on-base streak to 22 games. A one out single by slick-fielding 2nd Baseman Rafael Lantigua moved Podkul up to 2nd, and a McGregory Contreras single to right plated Podkul, and brought about an end to Hill’s night. With Lantigua taking 3rd on the play, Contreras smartly took 2nd, and Lantigua came around to score on a Tanner Kirwer single.
Cre Finfrock came on to work the 8th for Lansing. Finfrock’s MWL debut last week was spectacular, striking out 5 of the 6 hitters he faced. Finfrock’s short arm stroke and violent delivery can be deceptive for hitters, but he was facing a higher quality offence with West Michigan, and after giving up a leadoff walk and a single, Finfrock quickly found himself in a small jam. The next hitter knocked a run-scoring double – a pair could have scored on the ball hit into the LF bullpen, but after waving the lead runner home, Whitecaps Manager Lance Parrish held the second runner at 3rd. Finfrock settled down after that, hitting mid 90s on the stadium gun as he got a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning.
Lockdown closer Jackson Rees came on to finish the game for Lansing. Rees entered the game having given up only an unearned run over his first 27 innings over 15 appearances. During that stretch, Rees had allowed only a solitary walk, but issued a free pass on four pitches to the first hitter he faced. After striking out the next batter, a single and a wild pitch put the tying run on 2nd. Rees fanned the next hitter, then induced a soft grounder in front of home that Catcher Ryan Gold jumped on and threw to Jake Brodt at 1st to get the final out of the night, earning Rees his first Save in the process.
Jordan Groshans was scheduled to bat 3rd and DH for Lansing, but was a last-minute scratch, and was replaced by Hagen Danner. With Buffalo off, Dunedin’s game postponed, and New Hampshire’s double header washed out, Lansing was the only team in action in the Blue Jays system last night.