Summer might be heating up, but your South Bend Cubs have cooled off of late. They’ve lost six of their last ten, including three of four this past weekend against the Great Lakes Loons.
Third baseman Vimael Machin should consider changing his name to The Machin, because his bat continues to produce every game. Though Great Lakes gained the upper hand in the series, Machin was the individual star, with five hits, three walks, three runs, a double and a two-run homer.
GAME 1: Loons 4, Cubs 0
Machin’s two hits in the opener turned out to be just a blip on the radar, as the Cubs were completely stymied by Great Lakes’ pitching staff. Starting pitcher Duncan Robinson (5-3) put South Bend in position to win, with six innings of one-run baseball in a quality start, but three runs in the bottom of the eighth off of reliever Michael Knighton put the lead out of reach.
Loons starting pitcher Jordan Sheffield (1-3) flirted with danger, giving up four hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings, but buckled down and stranded those runners to earn the win. All four of Great Lakes’ runs came from homers by outfielders Carlos Rincon and Mitchell Hansen.
GAME 2: Cubs 5, Loons 3
Great Lakes managed to get all their offense via the long ball for the second straight game, but this time the Cubs had a little something extra going for them.
Machin’s homer was supplemented by two-hit games from catcher Alberto Mineo and shortstop Isaac Paredes, and starting pitcher Erling Moreno (1-0) worked quickly and efficiently, with two hits and two walks in five scoreless innings.
Shortstop Gavin Lux and outfielder Saige Jenco hit the homers that got Great Lakes on the board, but Loons starting pitcher Dustin May (3-3) couldn’t make it count, yielding five hits, three runs and three walks in his five innings.
GAME 3: Loons 4, Cubs 3
The third game of the series came down to the sixth inning. The Cubs pulled the game into a 3-3 tie, but a solo shot by designated hitter Brendon Davis pushed Great Lakes ahead for good. The Loons also got multi-hit games from Lux and catcher Oneil Cruz, and reliever Patrick Duester (2-0) got a gift from his lineup, picking up a win despite yielding all three of South Bend’s runs.
The Cubs got RBI singles from Mineo, outfielder Chris Pieters and designated hitter Michael Cruz, but reliever Tyler Peyton (2-1) was unable to take advantage, getting touched up for three runs and six hits.
There was a silver lining for the Cubs, as ace pitcher Dylan Cease returned from the disabled list. In a limited start, Cease was only allowed to pitch two innings, but he made them count. Cease notched four strikeouts, only giving up one run and one hit.
GAME 4: Loons 7, Cubs 1
Great Lakes grabbed control of the series finale right from the start, and never once let up. Rincon and Hansen homered again, and eight of the Loons’ nine batters got a hit. That gave starting pitcher Leo Crawford (3-4) plenty of room to work, and he translated that room into only five South Bend baserunners in six scoreless innnings.
The Cubs got multi-hit outings from Paredes, shortstop Zach Short, and catcher Tyler Payne, but couldn’t produce any runs from them. Starting pitcher Bryan Hudson (0-2) had a bad day, getting roughed up for eight hits, four runs and two walks in 3 1/3 innings.
Despite a trio of losses, the Cubs (37-26) are still looking good in the standings. They’re only four games back of the West Michigan Whitecaps in the race for first place in the Midwest League East division.
Perhaps a little home cooking can be the pick-me-up South Bend needs. They have a six-game homestand leading into next Tuesday’s MWL All Star Game (which the Loons will be hosting), with the first three against the Lansing Lugnuts.