Chi-Hung Cheng got the start for the Lugnuts and struggled a bit at the start of the game. Neil Walton and J.T. Hall got things going early for the Devil Rays as both hitters collected back to back one out singles. Walton would score later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by D-Ray cleanup hitter Garrett Groce.
The Lugnuts would roar back in the bottom half of the inning as they sent eight hitters to the plate. Sean Shoffit would be the first Lansing base runner of the season as he led the inning off with a walk. Jacob Butler would advance Shoffit to second as he collected the first Lansing hit of the year and Joey Metropolous would drive Shoffit in with a double for the first Lansing RBI and run of the season. Following a Brian Pettway ground out that would score Butler, Cory Patton ripped a single that would score Joey Metropolous, giving the Lugnuts a 3-1 lead.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can swing it.” stated Patton after the game. “You look down at the bottom part of our line up and there is a lot of power down there. I don’t think that we had this much power last year.”
Cheng would settle down and would scatter three runs (only one earned) over five innings, giving up five hits while picking up five strikeouts and walking two. The two walks and the effective use of his pitches where music to manager Ken Joyce’s ears.
“He struggled last year with the number of pitches that he threw.” stated Joyce. “He had a stretch of about nine starts in a row last year where he didn’t get out of the fourth inning, so it was for him to not only come out in the fifth, but for us to pick up the two runs so he could pick up the win.”
Offensively, the Lugnuts were paced by the lead off hitting of Sean Shoffit as he went 3-4 with a walk and two runs scored while team mate Brian Pettway went 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
After the game, manager Ken Joyce couldn’t help buy smile while talking about the offensive output of his team.
“I’ll tell you what I like is that we did a nice job situationally with our hitting tonight.” stated Joyce who watched his team struggle at times with timely hitting last season. “I like this offense guys. It’s nice. We have a little more team speed too.”.
“I hate to say it guys, but some of these guys might not be here long. That’s what we’re hoping for and that is our job.” stated Joyce.
For the record, Chi-Hung Cheng picks up the win and improves to 1-0 while Mike Wlodarczyk takes the loss.
The two teams will once again meet at Oldsmobile Park again on Friday night. Kristian Bell will get the start for the Lugnuts. Game time is 7:05.
On a side note, this marked the first game in Lansing where replacement umpires were used. Joyce however did not seem to mind.
“I think they did a great job. It’s a tough situation for everybody.” stated Joyce. “My hat goes off to the two guys that were out here tonight. They were in position and did everything they had to do and that is all we can ask for.”.
Replacement umpires are currently being lined up throughout minor league baseball to handle the officiating duties until the labor dispute is settled.