For the second time this month, Lake County Captains starting pitcher Matt Esparza has been selected by the Midwest League as its Pitcher of the Week for his stellar outing over the weekend against the Great Lakes Loons.
Esparza won the award previously for his efforts on the mound in two starts between May 30 to June 5.
The 21-year-old right-hander and 14th round selection by the Cleveland Indians in the 2015 draft out of UC Irvine, Esparza becomes the first Indians minor league prospect to take home multiple player/pitcher of the week awards this season.
He started at Classic Park on Saturday night against the Loons, a team that he has had great success against all season, and picked up right where he left off from those previous outings.
He struck out a pair of batters in each of the first two innings and allowed just one base runner on a hit by pitch. That man, Ariel Sandoval, had a chance to do some major damage in retaliation in the top of the third, when Esparza allowed three straight singles with one out. A picked off runner at second limited the Loons’ opportunities some before Esparza struck out the dangerous Sandoval swinging to end the biggest threat of the day for Great Lakes.
Esparza struck out five more batters over the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings while setting the Great Lakes lineup down in order. He allowed a single to start the seventh, but got two more strikeouts before a grounder to end the inning and conclude his impressive outing.
His seven innings pitched and 12 strikeouts were both new professional career highs. The strikeout mark breaks his previous best, set earlier in the month against the Loons on their home field.
Against Great Lakes this season, Esparza is now 3-0 and has struck out 27, walked two, and allowed just six hits over 18 innings of work. Each of those first two appearances resulted in one-hit outings on the mound.
With the win, Esparza improved to 7-3 on the season in 15 games (14 starts). He has a 3.36 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP this season and has struck out 86 batters and walked 15 over 75 innings.
In June, he is 2-1 in five games (four starts) with a 1.88 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
Photo: Tim Phillis/TCP Photography