In best-of-three series such as those that make up the first round of the Midwest League playoffs, winning the first game is seen as a significant advantage.
By winning their respective opening games Wednesday, the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Lake County Captains, the Beloit Snappers and the Burlington Bees are now in the position of being able to knock their opponents out of the playoffs as early as Thursday. But that doesn’t mean the Lansing Lugnuts, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Clinton LumberKings and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers should be counted out, either.
The first installment of this year’s Midwest League playoffs roundup begins in Fort Wayne, where I was on hand for the TinCaps’ 5-2 win over the Lugnuts.
TinCaps 2B Tyler Stubblefield led the way for Fort Wayne, going 3-for-4 with a solo homer and a stolen base. TinCaps SP James Needy got the win, striking out seven batters while giving up two runs on five hits and two walks in 5 IP.
Lugnuts SP Noah Syndergaard took the loss, giving up three runs on six hits and one walk in 4 IP. He struck out five.
The series now moves up Interstate 69 to Lansing, and I’ll be at that second game, too. The Lugnuts will get a major-league reinforcement, as rehabbing Toronto Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie is being transferred to Lansing after the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays were eliminated from the Florida State League playoffs.
Lawrie is no stranger to the Midwest League. As a Milwaukee Brewers farmhand in 2009, he batted .274 with 13 HR, 65 RBI and 19 SB in 105 games with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
In the other Eastern Division playoff game, the Lake County Captains beat the Bowling Green Hot Rods 5-4 in a battle between the two teams that moved from the South Atlantic League to the Midwest League in 2010. Lake County’s Bryson Myles and Bowling Green’s Cameron Seitzer each drove in three runs.
In the Western Division, the Beloit Snappers beat the Clinton LumberKings 8-6 behind a 3-for-5, 3 RBI performance by CF-2B Eddie Rosario. Snappers DH Drew Leachman also had three hits. LumberKings leadoff hitter Dillon Hazlett hit two solo homers and Clinton 3B Ramon Morla also hit a solo shot.
Also in Western Division playoff action, the Burlington Bees shut down the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4-0 behind a dominant performance by SP Tanner Peters, who struck out six batters while giving up only two hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings. Bees LF Bobby Crocker hit a 2-run homer.