Franklin Paces Hot Rods over Loons

Great Lakes Loons baseball

MIDLAND, Mich. – After winning back-to-back games to start the series, the Great Lakes Loons fell short in game three of four against the Bowling Green Hot Rods, 5-1, on Wednesday night at Dow Diamond.

Even though the Loons (12-24) trailed by just one in the hit category, the Hot Rods (23-15) did a much better job of converting its chances to score. Once Great Lakes got on the board in the bottom of the first, it was shut down the rest of the way.

Romer Cuadrado put the Loons up 1-0 with a double to right field, allowing Brayan Morales to score. Cuadrado has recorded a hit in five of his last six games.

Morales’ run was the only one allowed by the entire Hot Rods pitching staff. Setting the tone was starter Austin Franklin (W, 3-2). He threw 7.0 innings of one-run baseball, giving up six hits and striking out the same number of hitters. The 20-year-old, selected in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, did not issue a walk.

Loons starting pitcher Jesus Vargas, 19, was in search of his fifth win of the season but allowed a two-run shot to Carl Chester in the top of the second inning. The homer gave the Hot Rods a 2-1 lead and put Vargas in line for the loss, which he received.

Bowling Green tacked on its third run of the night on a sacrifice fly from Moises Gomez to score Zach Rutherford, making it 3-1.

Vargas (L, 4-2) went 6.0 innings before turning the ball over to left-hander Justin Hoyt for his Loons debut. Vargas allowed three earned runs on six hits. He did not give up a free pass and stuck out three hitters.

Hoyt, making his debut for Great Lakes after being sent from Double-A Tulsa, was without a blemish on the scoreboard until the ninth inning. Following back-to-back strikeouts, Hoyt allowed a walk, double and single. The plethora of hits made it 5-1 in favor of the Hot Rods and forced Loons manager John Shoemaker to go back to the bullpen.

In his lone inning for the Drillers on May 11, Hoyt was perfect. Making his first appearance since May 12, Leo Crawford entered the game for Hoyt, who finished with 2.2 innings pitched, and got Zacrey Law to fly out.

Phoenix Sanders (SV, 2) pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning to secure the win for Bowling Green.

Morales, who scored the Loons only run, was also the lone player to record two hits off Bowling Green. With his performance, he bumped his batting average to .259. Starling Heredia was 4 for his last 6 coming into the game but went 0-for-4 in game three of the series.

The Loons and Hot Rods return to Dow Diamond for the four-game series finale. Right-hander Alex Valverde (2-1, 4.45 ERA) is slated to throw for Bowling Green. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.

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