The Lake County Captains have two days off to rest on Monday and Tuesday and it could not have come at a better time for the scuffling farm club.
The Captains were stuck in the loss column for nearly two weeks until they won game one of a doubleheader against Quad Cities from Classic Park on Saturday afternoon. It ended a drought dating back to July 4, when Lake County defeated the Hot Rods in Bowling Green. Nine straight losses followed (and a pair of rainouts in Bowling Green) as the team was swept in four straight in Lansing and at home in three straight against Cedar Rapids to start a six-game homestand. They won a 2-1 contest in game one of the doubleheader on Saturday over the River Bandits before dropping a tough 2-0 loss in the nightcap. They rode six shutout innings from Matt Esparza and six RBI from Willi Castro (including his first pro grand slam) in Sunday’s 9-4 win to win the series.
Lake County (9-15) had crashed to the bottom of the Midwest League’s Eastern Division with its play of late. The club is 2-9 away from Classic Park in the second half and just 7-6 at home. They are tied for fifth place in the league and trail the South Bend Cubs by seven games after Sunday’s finals. The Captains will resume their schedule from Beloit on Wednesday, when they start a six-game road trip there and against Wisconsin next weekend. They have just three home games scheduled (July 27-29) the rest of the month.
In other notes from the Captains log:
PANNONE PROMOTED TO HIGH-A
Left-handed starting pitcher and Midwest League All-Star Thomas Pannone was promoted to High-A Lynchburg on Thursday and looked sharp in his first game for the Hillcats, allowing just one earned run in five and one-third innings in his “start” in the completion of Wednesday’s weather suspended game on Thursday. He earned his first professional win at the High-A level with his performance, allowing five hits and a pair of walks while striking out three.
Prior to his promotion, Pannone was 5-5 in 17 starts for the Captains with a 3.02 ERA.
MARABELL’S STREAK ENDS AT 13
Outfielder Connor Marabell’s hitting streak ended at 13 straight games after his 0-for-3 in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Quad Cities.
During the streak, Marabell hit .400 (18-for-45) with five doubles, a triple, a homer, and seven RBI. The 22-year-old was a 25th round pick by the Indians out of Jacksonville University in 2015.
LUKES LIFTS A PAIR FOR THE WIN
The Captains needed a little late inning magic to get their first win since the Fourth of July on Saturday and outfielder Nathan Lukes did all the heavy lifting.
Lukes went 3-for-4 in the opener of the day’s doubleheader. He hit a solo homer in the third inning with two outs to give the Captains the lead. He singled in the fifth, but was erased on an inning ending double play by Marabell. The game went into extra innings in the eighth (due to the doubleheader) and after Kieran Lovegrove worked out of jams in the seventh and eighth innings, Lukes led off the eighth with the walk-off winner over the wall in right against reliever Adam Whitt.
Lukes added a third shot in two days with a solo homer in Sunday’s win.
A seventh round pick of the 2015 draft by the Indians, he now has five homers on the season and is hitting .305.
The right-handed Esparza (8-6, 3.09 ERA in 19 games, 18 starts) reached the century mark in strikeouts on Monday with three strikeouts in the Captains’ 5-0 loss in Lansing to the Lugnuts, becoming the first member of the Lake County club to reach that threshold this season.
He threw six shutout innings in Sunday’s 9-4 win, allowing just four hits. He issued no walks and struck out seven in the contest to pick up his eighth win of the year.
CAPTAINS HOST REHAB ASSIGNMENTS
On Wednesday, the Cleveland Indians sent a pair of players to the Captains to work through their respective rehab assignments.
Left fielder Michael Brantley made the start in left field and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a single and a double on the night. Catcher Roberto Perez caught six innings and was 0-for-2 at the plate with a walk.
Brantley left the club for Double-A Akron after the contest, while Perez joined the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in Toledo to continue his rehab assignment.
The Captains placed catcher Jack Goihl and reliever Yoiber Marquina on the seven-day disabled list on Saturday.
Reliever Dominic DeMasi returned to Lake County when Pannone was transferred to Lynchburg on Wednesday. Right-hander Devon Stewart and left-hander Kenny Mathews joined the club on Saturday from Mahoning Valley, as did catchers Li-Jen Chu from Goodyear and Martin Cervenka from Lynchburg. Chu had hits in both games of the doubleheader Saturday in his first two professional games above the short-season level and went 3-for-4 as the DH in Sunday’s win.
The Captains transferred Yonathan Mendoza to Mahoning Valley on Thursday and Sicnarf Loopstok to Lynchburg on Saturday.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer