The Lansing Lugnuts got big contributions from birthday boy Shane Dawson as well as the bottom of the order in securing a 6-5 victory over the Great Lakes Loons to open their playoff run.
Dawson, who turned 22 yesterday, took to the mound for six strong innings, despite struggling with some fastball command, striking out eight batters, utilizing his diverse set of offspeed offerings to keep the Loons off balance. Dawson could have come away with fewer runs allowed if right fielder Chris Carlson had had a better game in the field. On one occasion, he could have had a play at the plate on a runner scoring from second base on a single if he had come up with the ball cleanly. Later in the game, he completely misjudged a single which got by him to the wall and ended up getting to third on an error charged Carlson.
Dawson was at his best in the second inning, in which he struck out the first batter, gave up two singles but gathered himself and struck out the next two batters, elevating his four-seam fastball, which seems like it’s coming harder than its 88-90 mph velocity. He used his changeup to great effect, particularly to right-handed batters while also using his big, slow curveball for strikes.
Early in the game, the bottom of the lineup struck for the Lansing Lugnuts, but it was the number nine hitter, Gunnar Heidt, who went three for four with two doubles, an RBI and a run. Jason Leblebijian also had three hits with an RBI and a run. The offense was quite spread out through the order with only MVP Ryan McBroom going hitless; six different Lugnuts drove in runs and six different players scored.
The score went back and forth until the seventh inning. The Lugnuts got on the board in the bottom of the second when Heidt drove in Justin Atkinson on a hustle double to center field. While the Lugnuts fell behind in the bottom of the third, they scored two more runs in the top of the fifth to take a 3-2 lead. Heidt led off with a double and Chris Carlson doubled him home. Jason Leblebijian drove in Carlson with a base hit before the Loons got out of the inning (but not before starter Grant Holmes left the game).
In the bottom of the fifth, the Loons tied up the game with a sacrifice fly which, in hindsight, could have been prevented. With one out, and a runner on second, shortstop Richard Urena fielded a ground ball and threw to third trying to cut down Gage Green instead of taking the out at first. The next batter, Matt Beaty, flew out to Chris Carlson, bringing in the tying run.
With Dawson at a pitch limit after the bottom of the sixth inning (in which he had struck out two more Loons), the Lugnuts went to work to get him the victory in the top of the seventh. Urena led off with a single, followed by another single by Leblebijian. A wild pitch brought the runners up a base each and Ryan McBroom contributed with a sac fly to left field, bringing Urena in. D.J. Davis broke his bat but the ball fell into shallow right field, allowing Leblebijian to score while Davis scored when David Harris doubled on a hard line drive to left field.
The bullpen went to work in the bottom of the seventh and must have made manager Ken Huckaby a bit nervous. Dusty Isaacs gave up a home run in the bottom of the seventh to cut the Lugntus’ lead to 6-4 while Jose Fernandez allowed another solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to narrow the lead to just one run.
Coming out for the ninth inning, lefty Fernandez made short work of the Loons, getting two ground balls and a strikeout to finish the game and earn the save.
Player of the Game: Shane Dawson
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