MIDLAND, Mich. – Webster Rivas turned a potential disaster into a memorable victoryfor the Great Lakes Loons on Tuesday night.
Rivas hit a walk-off home run leading off the bottom of the ninthinning to give the Loons a 5-4 win over slumping Fort Wayne. The Loons led 4-1entering the ninth inning, but the visiting TinCaps scored three runs off ofnormally untouchable reliever Mark Pope.
Rivas, however, didn't let the Loons' frustration linger, as hecrushed a 2-0 pitch from Fort Wayne reliever Nick Mutz over the fence inleftfield. It was just his second home run of the season.
"He (Mutz) got it to two balls and I told myself to look for afastball and just hit it hard," said Rivas, who was given a Gatorade andshaving cream bath by his teammates during the post-home run celebration.
"He did a good job – he took a couple of pretty good pitches thengot a pitch he could hit hard," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "He's a goodguy to have up there in that situation."
The win was the second in a row for the Loons, who are 9-9 in theMidwest League's second half. Fort Wayne (5-14) has now lost 10 games in a row,which ties a franchise record.
Pope, the Loons All-Star closer, had allowed only two earned runsall season as he entered the ninth with a three-run lead. But the TinCaps puttogether four singles against him, including a game-tying two-run hit by No. 9hitter Josh VanMeter. Pope was relieved by Victor Araujo, who struck out RonnieRichardson on three pitches to close out the inning.
That erased a Loons lead which had been built on sacrifice fliesby Rivas and Paul Hoenecke, a safety squeeze bunt by Malcolm Holland, and aHolland single after Jesmuel Valentin tripled with one out in the fifth.
"It's tough because in your mind you feel like you have the gamein hand," said Haselman. "But (Pope) is going to be fine. I mean, he's beenincredible all season."
Loons starter Brandon Martinez was denied the win but pitched oneof his best games of the season. Martinez pitched six innings, allowed one hitand one earned run, while striking out four. Jacob Rhame followed with twoscoreless innings of relief before giving way to Pope in the ninth.
Fort Wayne's only run off of Martinez came in the sixth inningwhen VanMeter had a leadoff double and later came home on a sacrifice fly byFernando Perez.
The second game of the three-game series will be tomorrow night (7:05p.m.) with Loons right-hander Scott Barlow (2-3, 4.08 ERA) getting the start.The TinCaps will counter with lefty Jeffery Enloe (0-2, 1.13).
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