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:
HIDDEN BALL TRICK FOR THE WIN
In most improbable fashion, Lake County second baseman Angel Miguel tagged the final out of the game to secure the Captains’ fourth straight win by using the hidden ball trick on the Fourth of July.
There was little to celebrate in Bowling Green that night as the Captains were up 3-2, but the Hot Rods had the tying run at second base. With one down, Angel Moreno hit a one-out double before Captains closer Billy Strode got a big strikeout for the second out of the inning. The power hitter Michael Russell, who would be robbed the next night of a homer by Bobby Ison, was due up, but Miguel had the ball in his glove and waited patiently at his position while Strode wandered about the mound. Moreno stepped away from second base and Miguel ran to him, placing the tag on him to end the game.
MARABELL HITS ALL WEEK LONG
Outfielder Connor Marabell, a 25th round draft pick by the Indians in 2015, continued his impressive season for the Captains by getting hits in all six games played over the course of the week to extend his hitting streak to eight straight.
He drove in all three Captains runs in Monday’s 3-2 win over Bowling Green, going 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly in the contest. He singled in Tuesday’s game, tripled on Thursday, and had a single and a walk in both Friday’s and Saturday’s games. He concluded his week with a two-double game and a run scored against Lansing to boost his season batting average to .307.
CHIANG STRONG AGAIN IN DEFEAT
Twenty-year-old righty Shao-Ching Chiang had another solid start for the Captains on Saturday, surviving a first inning run to shut down the Lugnuts over the next five innings. He left the game after seven innings logged on the mound for the third consecutive start and was in line for the win before the bullpen lost the lead and, later, the game. Chiang allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and three strikeouts in the no-decision.
In his last four starts, he has worked 26 innings with a 1-2 record, but has posted a 2.08 ERA, .202 batting average against, and 0.88 WHIP in that span. He is now 5-6 for the season with a 4.16 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 17 games.
QUALITY WORK FROM PANNONE NOT ENOUGH
Tom Pannone did all that he could on Thursday night to give the Captains a win from Bowling Green, but the Hot Rods made the damage done against Pannone and the Lake County bullpen stand up in a 4-1 win.
The game, scheduled to be the first of a doubleheader to make up for Wednesday’s rainout, turned into a singleheader as a two hour and 19 minute rain delay changed the day’s plans. Pannone, the 22-year-old left-hander, gave a quality start, allowing two runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts over six innings, but the Captains could get just one run off of the Hot Rods pitching staff in the defeat.
SHUTOUT SPOILS WIN STREAK AND GOOD OUTING FROM ESPARZA
Lake County saw its four-game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday night as the Hot Rods blanked the Captains, 3-0, despite a good effort from right-hander Matt Esparza on the mound. He allowed two runs (one earned) over five innings, giving up three hits and a walk while striking out four.
In the loss, left fielder Ison saved the Captains a run while celebrating his 23rd birthday. He chased down a deep fly from Russell, scaling the wall to rob the Hot Rods of a big home run in a close contest.
HARTSON HAS FOURTH STRAIGHT SOLID START
Right-hander Brock Hartson put together a fourth straight solid start for the Captains and his third quality start in that span since returning to the Lake County rotation. On Friday, he took a no-decision, working six scoreless innings while allowing just three hits and a walk for the second consecutive start. He struck out a professional career-high seven batters on the day.
In his last four starts, he has a 1.57 ERA, a .181 batting average against, and has allowed just 15 hits and four walks (0.83 WHIP) while striking out 23 in 23 innings of work.
The 22-year-old right-hander out of Houston, Texas, is in his second season in the Indians organization after being drafted in the 21st round last season. He pitched in 14 games (three starts) for Mahoning Valley last season. He is 5-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 16 games (six starts) this season with a 1.06 WHIP and .225 batting average against.
MEJIA NAMED PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Lynchburg’s Francisco Mejia, who spent the first 21 games of June with the Captains, was named the Midwest League’s Player of the Month for his June numbers.
Mejia was the starting catcher in the Midwest League All-Star game and worked in 21 games for the Captains, hitting .429 with a .461 on-base percentage through June. He hit six doubles and added six homers while driving in 20 runs, prior to his promotion on June 27 to High-A Lynchburg.
The former Captains backstop participated in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in San Diego, where he was a catcher on the World roster.
BRANTLEY TO REHAB IN EASTLAKE ON WEDNESDAY
Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley will work towards his return to the Indians’ active MLB roster by making a rehab assignment stop with the Captains on Wednesday night at Classic Park in Eastlake. Lake County will be hosting the Cedar Rapids Kernels; he is expected to play just a few innings as he slowly returns to full duty.
Strode and fellow reliever Dominic DeMasi were promoted to High-A Lynchburg on Wednesday to help out with the revolving door bullpen for the Hillcats. Leandro Linares joined the Captains that day from Mahoning Valley.
Strode, a 23-year-old left-hander, has worked as the Captains closer this season and had been impressive in 21 games of work for Lake County. He was 1-0 with five saves in five opportunities. He had a 0.68 ERA, a 0.41 WHIP, and a .105 batting average against, striking out 27 batters while walking just two on the year.
He was a tenth round pick by the Indians last season out of Florida State.
DeMasi has pitched in parts of each of the last two seasons for the Captains after being selected in the 31st round of the 2014 draft out of Valdosta State. The 23-year-old right-hander is 6-2 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 23 games for the Captains this season and 1-0 in two appearances for Lynchburg with a 16.20 ERA and 2.70 WHIP.
Catcher Jack Goihl was activated from the seven-day disabled list on Saturday as the club transferred catcher Martin Cervenka to Lynchburg.
The Captains activated second baseman Sam Haggerty from the disabled list on Wednesday.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer