Vasquez, Whitecaps Walk It Off For Comeback WinMay 2, 2013 - Midwest League (MWL) West Michigan Whitecaps
West Michigan (12-13) won consecutive games for the first time since April 10 and is in position for their first three-game sweep of the season heading into the series finale at 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning. Cedar Rapids (18-7), still in first place in the Midwest League's Western Division, entered the series on a nine-game winning streak and boasting the league's highest-scoring offense.
The Whitecaps overcame two separate deficits on Thursday night to force extra innings.
With the game tied at 3-3, the 10th-inning rally started when Devon Travis drew a leadoff walk against hard-throwing Kernels' closer Tyler Jones. After a strikeout, Lance Durham worked the count to 3-1 and also coaxed a free pass to push the potential walk-off run into scoring position.
Moments later, with a 1-2 count, the 19-year-old Vasquez waited back on a changeup and hit a sharp groundball up the middle to score Travis for the walk-off winner. The hit came on the heels of a 2-for-24 slump for Vasquez, rated by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Detroit Tigers' farm system.
Prior to the late drama, the Whitecaps erased a pair of deficits to give themselves a chance.
After Byron Buxton's two-run homer put Cedar Rapids ahead in the third, West Michigan countered with a pair of runs in the sixth. Adolfo Reina led off the frame with a double and Austin Schotts legged out a bunt-single. An infield singles loaded the bases, setting the stage for an RBI-single from Travis and a sacrifice fly by Jeff Holm to even the score at 2-2.
That was not all for Holm, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI to raise his batting average to .393. After the Kernels' Dalton Hicks struck a run-scoring single in the sixth to put Cedar Rapids back in front, Holm countered in the seventh with a two-out single that plated Gonzalez to make it a 3-3 ballgame.
The bullpen was key from that point forward.
Chad Smith shrugged off a pair of inherited runners in the sixth and went on to throw two scoreless innings. Josh Turley got two big outs to get out of an eighth-inning jam while neutralizing the dangerous speed threat of Buxton at first base. Closer Jose Valdez (1-0) took over from there, pitching the ninth and 10th innings without allowing a hit to earn his first win of the year.
Not to be overlooked, starter Jordan John established a new career-high with six strikeouts while holding Cedar Rapids to three runs on five hits over 5.1 innings of work.
Jones (2-1) suffered the loss, recording just one out in the final frame while walking a pair and giving up the walk-off hit to Vasquez.
The Whitecaps continue a six-game homestand on Friday morning with an 11:00 a.m. first pitch against the Cedar Rapids Kernels at Fifth Third Ballpark. RHP Endrys Briceno (0-1, 5.48) will take the hill for West Michigan against LHP Mason Melotakis (1-1, 4.08) of the Kernels on a School Day at the ballpark. Group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
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