The 2014 Midwest League playoffs got off to an exciting start Wednesday as the Kane County Cougars, the Burlington Bees, the Lake County Captains and the Fort Wayne TinCaps won the first games of their respective series.
I was at the Cougars-Timber Rattlers game at Wisconsin’s Fox Cities Stadium, so I’ll start my game recaps there.
The Cougars beat the Timber Rattlers 7-3 behind a quality start by Kane County SP Jen-Ho Tseng, with a big assist from rehabbing Chicago Cubs 3B Mike Olt.
In six innings, Tseng gave up two runs on only two hits, a walk, a wild pitch, and a hit batter. The Timber Rattlers converted into runs both of their hits off Tseng — a bunt single by CF Johnny Davis in the 3rd and a solo homer by 1B David Denson in the 6th — but the 19-year-old righty mostly kept Wisconsin in check. He struck out four batters.
Olt was assigned to this series for rehab after straining his left hamstring while playing with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs last month. In his three at-bats, he singled, flew out to center field, and hit a three-run homer. Olt was taken out of the game after he hit his 5th-inning home run; he was replaced with 3B Jeimer Candelario.
CF Trey Martin drove in a pair of insurance runs for the Cougars in the top of the 8th inning.
In Cedar Rapids, the Bees beat the Kernels 2-0 behind a great start by RHP Victor Alcantara and a home run by DH Eric Aguilera.
Alcantara gave up four hits and two walks while striking out four batters in six scoreless innings. His counterpart, Kernels RHP Chih-Wei Hu, was equally impressive, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out seven batters in five scoreless innings.
At Lake County’s Classic Park, the Captains beat the South Bend Silver Hawks 6-2. Captains CF Clint Frazier went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and two doubles.
Captains RF Bradley Zimmer and Silver Hawks 2B Jamie Westbrook each drove in two runs. WP Mitch Brown gave up one run on three hits and two walks while striking out six batters in 5.2 IP.
At Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field, the TinCaps beat the West Michigan Whitecaps 7-5 after 2B Josh VanMeter broke a 5-5 tie with a two-run single off rehabbing Detroit Tigers RP Luke Putkonen in the bottom of the 8th inning. VanMeter’s big hit was controversial, however, as noted in the Whitecaps’ game story:
With the bases loaded and nobody out, the Whitecaps’ infield was playing halfway when Josh VanMeter shot a 1-2 pitch to the left side of the infield. As shortstop Domingo Leyba lunged to his left, he collided with baserunner Ryan Miller and the ball skipped into left-center field. Two runs scored on the play, giving Fort Wayne a 7-5 advantage and putting them just three outs away from a victory.
Rule 7.09(j) in the 2014 edition of the Official Baseball Rules states: “It is interference by a batter or runner when he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball.”
Manager Andrew Graham immediately questioned the call, but to no avail – base umpire Dave Attridge would not budge. Instead of having the bases loaded with one out in a still-tied ballgame, West Michigan was suddenly down by two runs with their backs to the wall.
TinCaps DH Dustin Peterson went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Whitecaps RF Wynton Bernard went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer.
The second game of all four best-of-three series will be played Thursday night: Fort Wayne at West Michigan, Wisconsin at Kane County, Lake County at South Bend, and Cedar Rapids at Burlington. I will be at the game in Kane County; you can follow my live updates here on Twitter.
*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler