Nielsen Has Been on a Tear Lately
Don't count the Lugnuts out of the playoffs just yet. The Lugnuts are currently in the middle of a pivotal two game series agaist the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays that could determine the wild card spot representative for the second half in the playoffs.
The Lugnuts entered the series trailing Southwest Michigan by 7 games, but after taking a 3-1 decision in Friday's game, Lansing has now taken the first two games of the series, and suddenly Lansing finds themselves five games out of the coveted spot with 10 games left to play.
Russell Savickas started the game tonight and threw what very well may have been his best performance of the season. Working a variety of off speed stuff and mixing in the occasional fast ball, Savickas went 7.0 innings giving up only one run on three hits and striking out nine. Aaron Tressler would then enter the game for the final two innings and shut the door as Lansing did not allow a single base runner after the fourth inning.
"The last time I faced these guys I was a little to fastball happy and I got hit” said Savickas. “I worked in and used most of my off speed stuff to get out of it."
Lansing would waste no time in attacking D-Rays pitcher Eduardo De La Cruz as they would score two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Chris Snavely got things going by collecting his team leading 62nd walk on the season and would advance to second on an Eric Nielsen single. Charlie Anderson then stepped to the plate and drove a 2-2 fastball over the right fielders head for a double scoring Snavely and advancing Nielsen to third. Eric Nielsen would then score on a sacrifice fly to center field by first baseman David Hicks, giving the Lugnuts a 2-0 lead.
Things would stay that way until the top of the third inning when Southwest Michigan would score bringing themselves within a run of Lansing, however the Luggies would quickly answer in the bottom of the frame. Eric Nielsen would get it started this time by collecting his second hit of the night and would later score on a bases loaded single by Aaron Mathews. Nielsen finished the night going 3-4 and scoring two runs, two nights after he had an outstanding 5-5 performance. With Nielsen's run, that would cap the scoring on the night and would give the Lugnuts a 3-1 victory.
With the win, Savickas improves to 7-6 on the season. Aaron Tressler picks up the save giving him two on the year. The Lugnuts have now also won five of their last six games after a stretch that saw them drop six of eight at home.
Playoff Watch: The Southwest Michigan Devil Rays at this time appear to be the team with all the pressure, as this series could have killed any hopes of a Lansing playoff birth. The Lugnuts will more than likely have to sweep Southwest Michigan, and get some help in order to make their playoff dreams a reality however. Lansing has a home and home series left with fifth place Fort Wayne, and a pivotal four game showdown with the second place, and defending Midwest League Champion West Michigan Whitecaps to finish off the season. The Devil Rays have two series against two western division powers in Kane County and Quad City. Quad City finds themselves a top the Western Division in the second half, while Kane County finds themselves in third place, two games back of the Swing.
Playoff Quote: "The pressure is not on us, the pressure is on the guys ahead of us" said Lugnuts manager Ken Joyce. "We just have to take care of business. We can't worry about what everybody else is doing."