Dodgers High-A affiliate Great Lakes was eliminated from the Midwest League playoffs on Friday night, dropping a second consecutive home game to the Lake County Captains (Guardians), losing 6-5 at home in Game 3 at Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan.
Lake County captured the Eastern Division title over Great Lakes, two games to one, with the road team winning all three games of the series. The best-of-three championship round begins Sunday at the home of the Western Division champion South Bend Cubs.
Great Lakes fell behind early on Friday, and never recovered.
Lake County jumped on Loons starter Kendall Williams with a three-run home run in the first inning by rightfielder Alexfri Planez, and chased Williams in the fourth. Planez had four hits on Friday, including a double and two singles.
Williams left with two runners on and one out, and both were cashed in with a double off Ben Harris, the strikeout artist who was named to the Arizona Fall League roster on Friday. Harris did strike out four of his 11 batters faced, but allowed three doubles in 2⅓ innings, the last chasing him with two outs in the sixth inning with a two-run deficit.
Loons designated hitter Imanol Vargas hit .268/.404/.467 with 18 home runs and a 146 wRC+ this season, leading Great Lakes in extra-base hits (39), on-base percentage, OPS, total bases (178), and walks (80) this season. He also led in strikeouts, whiffing in 30.9-percent of his plate appearances. He had 24 strikeouts in a hellacious 0-for-41 skid that extended into the fourth inning on Friday, when he finally turned things around.
Vargas blasted a three-run home run to pull Great Lakes to within a run, his 20th of the year, counting the regular season.
The Captains had hits in seven of the first eight innings, but superb pitching by Ryan Sublette (2⅓ innings, three strikeouts) and Jeff Belge (struck out the side in the ninth) kept Great Lakes close.
But Great Lakes could muster no late offense, the last nine batters retired in order to end the game.
The Loons won Game 1 of the series on the road behind a home run from Damon Keith and a stellar pitching quartet led by River Ryan that combined for 15 strikeouts and no walks. In Game 2, Lake County brought the pitching, allowing just three hits in a 2-0 win at Great Lakes.
This was the Loons’ sixth playoff appearance in the last nine seasons, and Great Lakes’ eighth time in the postseason since becoming a Dodgers affiliate in 2007.