It has been a long time since the Cleveland Indians have thrown a no-hitter, but the same cannot be said for their High-A Lynchburg Hillcats affiliate. Over the weekend. right-hander Shao-Ching Chiang fired a complete game nine-inning no-hitter in a 3-0 victory by the Hillcats over the Winston-Salem Dash.
The no-hit effort also earned him the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Week honor on Monday.
The 2017 season will be the first time since 1998 that the Carolina League hosts its own cavalcade of stars. The last time the Carolina League held an All-Star game featuring the Northern Division stars versus the Southern Division stars, High-A Lynchburg pitcher Triston McKenzie was not even a year old and was still living in Brooklyn, New York. The relocation of two franchises from the California League to the Carolina League during the previous off-season followed the end of the cross-country California-Carolina League All-Star contest.
The Lynchburg Hillcats are once again well represented in the Carolina League’s All-Star Game, set to pit the North and South Divisions against one another on Tuesday, June 20.
With the first half winding down, the Hillcats are still in the race for the first half crown and some of the players to put them in that position were recognized with selections to the North squad for the exhibition event next week. Three pitchers and two position players were picked to fill out the roster initially, with one more late addition giving Lynchburg six total representatives.
The strength of the 2017 High-A Lynchburg Hillcats is pitching. Right-hander Triston McKenzie, Cleveland’s third ranked prospect according to Baseball America, heads up a staff that leads the competition of the ten-team Carolina League. This overall pitching performance puts the Hillcats only two games behind Central Virginia rival Salem, with four games remaining before the All-Star break, heading into play on Thursday.
“Our starting pitching has been our strength,” said manager Tony Mansolino. “We have some guys here that have had some success in the past and continue to get better.”
After a couple of tough patches earlier in the month, the Lynchburg Hillcats have found that winning recipe in Carolina League play.
Winners of six of their last seven contests, the Indians’ High-A affiliate have charged back into the race in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. At 24-19, they trail the rival Salem Red Sox by three and a half games in the standings.
The Hillcats will play eleven of their next 15 games on the road, which could help them gain even more ground in the division. The ‘Cats have had a tough time at City Stadium this season, going just 11-13 on their home field, but are 13-6 on the road, a mark trailing only Salem’s 14-6 road record for best in High-A.
Rains again washed away another game for the Lynchburg Hillcats as Thursday’s game against the Carolina Mudcats was postponed. The two teams do not meet again in the first half of the Carolina League schedule, so the game will not be rescheduled.
The cancellation marked the fifth time this season that the Hillcats could not play baseball because of the weather and the second time in the last week after last Thursday’s game in Potomac with the Nationals was under water. It stopped Lynchburg from putting an end to a tough battle with Carolina after dropping two of three in a low scoring three-game series. The abbreviated set featured a total of eleven runs between the Hillcats (five) and the Mudcats (six).
It has been a good week for the Lynchburg Hillcats as they carried a five-game winning streak through much of the week before losing game one of their series with the Potomac Nationals on Thursday.
Last Friday, Lynchburg dropped a 4-0 decision to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the series opener before winning three straight to start off their seven-game road trip. After being shut out, they put up five runs over each of the next three games of the series before moving on to Carolina to take on the Mudcats from Zebulon. Mother Nature interfered with the festivities on Monday, but Tuesday’s doubleheader went on as planned. The ‘Cats swept that double dip, winning by 1-0 and 7-1 finals before an off day on Wednesday. The pitching staff allowed eight runs on Thursday in an 8-2 defeat in the opener from Lynchburg with the P’Nats before a 4-2 win on Friday night.
With the season winding down to its final two weeks, the Lake County Captains are staring down elimination from the postseason picture while working their way back to the .500 mark on the year.
The Captains (26-29) took both of their series over the last week, sweeping four straight from the West Michigan Whitecaps before taking two of three in Fort Wayne from the TinCaps. In winning six of their last seven and seven of their last ten, they have pulled their record within three games of reaching the even mark while tying the Great Lakes Loons for fourth place in the Midwest League Eastern Division. They will host five games in the next four days against Bowling Green before welcoming in Lansing for four home games over the weekend.
In other news and notes from the Captains’ log:
After ending July on a four-game losing streak, things have gotten a little bit better for the Lake County Captains over the course of the first week of the final full month of the Class-A regular season.
They wrapped up their series with West Michigan to start the month of August, splitting a pair after dropping the first two games of the four-game set. On the second leg of their road trip, they won the opener against Great Lakes, 8-2, but fell 12-3 and 5-2 in the final two games on Thursday and Friday. They came home to Eastlake on Saturday to start a four-game series with Dayton, losing the opener 7-2 before returning the favor by the same score on Sunday night. They clinched at least a series split with a 5-1 win on Monday.
The Captains (18-25), in seventh place in the eight-team Midwest League Eastern Division, will finish their series with Dayton on Tuesday night before returning to Great Lakes for four more beginning Thursday night. They will come back to Classic Park on Monday to host West Michigan before returning to the road once again.
In other notes from the Captains log:
The Lake County Captains had a short week since the last Captains’ log as the club went out on the road for a three-game series in Beloit before a three-gamer at Wisconsin.
Coming in with two days of rest after off days on Monday and Tuesday, Brock Hartson led the club to a 4-2 win on Wednesday. Thursday’s game was rained out, leading to a doubleheader split on Friday, with the Captains winning the first game 9-1 before dropping the nightcap, 7-0. In Appleton, a four-run ninth gave the Captains an 8-7 lead, but a two-run home run by Isan Diaz sent Wisconsin to a walk-off win. Lake County recovered from the defeat with wins on Sunday and Monday by 6-2 finals.
After Monday’s game, the Captains remain in the middle of the Midwest League’s Eastern Division with a 13-17 record, a half dozen games behind the front running South Bend Cubs while sitting in fifth place. Following an off day on Tuesday, the club returns home briefly for a three-game set against the Cubs before hitting the road for a seven-game trip with stops at West Michigan and Great Lakes.
In other news from the Captains’ log:
The Lake County Captains have slipped into a summer slide, and not a fun one involving water parks or plastic sheeting sprawled across the lumpy yard.
The Captains coughed up a three-run first inning lead on Sunday to Lansing to lose a 6-3 final to drop their fifth game in a row and their third straight in their four-game series against the Lugnuts. The five-game losing streak matches the club’s longest so far in 2016.
It wasn’t the first time this week or even in the series with Lansing that Lake County had lost an early advantage, as they dropped a 4-3 decision in eleven innings on Saturday after holding a two-run lead in the seventh. The bullpen allowed two runs in the seventh on Friday to give the Lugnuts a 2-1 win.
The Captains are now 7-10 in the second half, five and a half games in back of Lansing and South Bend and in sixth place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. After concluding their series with Lansing Monday afternoon, they will take Tuesday off before returning home to start a three-game set against Cedar Rapids and a three-games-in-two-days series with Quad Cities on Saturday and Sunday.
In other news and notes in the Captains log:
The Captains began life without Francisco Mejia and Tyler Krieger last week but after dropping three straight games during the week, they used a pair of walk-off wins and a five-hit shutout on Sunday to sweep the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Classic Park.
The three-game sweep for the Captains was their first sweep and series win as a whole since taking three from Lansing from June 7 to 9. The wins pulled the Captains over the .500 mark with a 6-5 record in the second half. They trail the South Bend Cubs, who took three of four from the Captains earlier last week, by three games in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division.
In other notes from the Captains log: