COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. – The West Michigan Whitecaps were the best team in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division in the first half, and they looked every bit of that as they opened the second half against Fort Wayne Thursday night with a 15-4 win at Fifth Third Ballpark.
West Michigan (1-0, 42-29) locked up its first division title since 2007 Sunday afternoon, and continued its positive momentum against Fort Wayne (0-1, 30-40) starter Erik Cabrera (2-5) in the opener of this four-game series. Despite working with a 1-0 lead, Cabrera could not escape early trouble. Fernando Perez had singled home Ronnie Richardson in the first inning against Chad Green (2-2), but Cabrera allowed a game-tying solo home run to Francisco Contreras in the third, and did not escape the fourth.
The righthander, who had gone at least five innings in each of his last five starts, retired only one batter in the fourth and allowed five runs, eventually being replaced by Justin Livengood. In total Cabrera allowed six runs, but only five of them were earned. Fort Wayne, which committed a Midwest League-leading 125 errors in the first half, committed four of them in the loss.
The relief corps encountered similar difficulties, as Livengood allowed two earned runs, Tony Rizzotti gave up three and Genison Reyes four. Jorge Guzman, transferred from Eugene to Fort Wayne before the game, worked a scoreless eighth in his first game in a TinCaps uniform since August 21, 2013.
Green retired the final seven batters he faced, and Montreal Robertson was flawless in two innings behind the starter. The two combined to retire thirteen consecutive TinCaps hitters from the end of the third inning through the end of the seventh inning. During that stretch, all outs were recorded either on groundouts or strikeouts.
Scott Sitz followed Robertson and allowed a leadoff single to Jake Bauers. Ryan Miller followed with a two-run home run, his team-lead-tying sixth of the season. Richardson tripled to start the ninth and scored on Dustin Peterson’s Midwest League-leading 56th RBI of the year.
Friday is an off day for the two clubs as Fifth Third Ballpark will host the opening ceremonies for the State Games of Michigan. Saturday will be a split doubleheader, with two seven-inning games set for 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. The scheduled starters for the TinCaps are Ronald Herrera in game one and Kyle Lloyd in game two. The games can be heard on ESPN Radio 1380 and TheFanIndiana.com.