Two of the Cleveland’s minor league affiliates enjoyed come-from-behind wins on Thursday night and shutouts on Friday in continuing strong starts down on the farm for potential future Indians players.
The Lynchburg Hillcats trailed 5-1 in the top of the eighth inning when the club erupted for seven late runs in the final two frames to steal an 8-6 victory over the Frederick Keys on their home turf at Nymeo Field in Maryland on Thursday.
Ivan Castillo, Greg Allen, and Claudio Bautista all drew walks to load the bases in the eighth, leading to a new pitcher for the Keys. Anthony Santander greeted him with a double to right to knock in a pair. Bobby Bradley, a top Indians first base prospect, doubled home two more to tie the game at five. A single and a sacrifice fly brought home Bradley to give the Hillcats a 6-5 lead.
The Keys tied it up in the bottom of the inning, but Lynchburg got back to work in the ninth with two down. Bautista was hit by a pitch and Santander delivered again with another double, scoring Bautista from first base. Bradley was issued an intentional walk and Yu-Cheng Chang, who had homered in the second, doubled for his fourth hit of the game to score Santander with the eighth run on the night. Cole Sulser pitched a perfect ninth for the win.
The Hillcats made it two straight wins with a 4-0 five-hitter over the Keys on Friday. Julian Merryweather earned his second win with four-hit ball over five innings. He was backed by an RBI-groundout in the first from Chang, a sacrifice fly from Castillo in the fourth, a solo home run in the fifth by Bradley off of Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz (on a rehab assignment), and an RBI-single from Dorssys Paulino in the ninth.
The Lake County Captains returned home on Thursday for their third game of the season at Classic Park and gave fans an exciting rally in the seventh for their own comeback victory.
Trailing 2-0 to the Great Lakes Loons, Nate Winfrey was hit by a pitch with one out and Sam Haggerty moved him up with a single to right. Bobby Ison cleared the wall in right field with a three-run blast, giving the Captains a 3-2 lead.
In the ninth inning, Christian Meister plunked the Loons’ Garrett Kennedy, who moved to second on a sacrifice and third on a groundout. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Winfrey made a diving stop at first base and flipped to the pitcher Meister covering for the final out of the game.
Ison’s home run was the first of the season for the Captain. Meister earned the save with two scoreless innings of relief. Starter Sam Hentges had a strong start for Lake County, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks with a Captains’ season-high eight strikeouts in four innings.
The Captains made it five straight wins with a 4-0 two-hit shutout of the Loons on Friday night. Lake County’s Matt Esparza pitched five scoreless frames, allowing just a two-out triple in the second inning. Matt Whitehouse allowed a bloop single in the sixth, his lone baserunner in three innings on the mound. Kieran Lovegrove completed the impressive victory with a perfect ninth, notching a strikeout.
Lake County got a run in the fourth without a hit. Nathan Lukes drew a walk to start the inning, stole second, and advanced to third on a groundout. Tyler Krieger’s sacrifice fly put the Captains ahead, 1-0.
In the sixth, errors mounted for the Loons and resulted in a big inning for the Class-A Captains. Willi Castro reached on an error at second. Krieger singled to center and the ball was bobbled, allowing Castro to take third. A pair of RBI-singles from Francisco Mejia and Anthony Miller made it a 3-0 game, and the fourth and final run of the night came across on a wild pitch.
Both the Hillcats (6-3) and the Captains (7-2) return to action Saturday, with Lynchburg playing a 2 PM start while Lake County plays at home at 6:30 PM.
Photo: Bill Green/The Frederick News-Post