Jason Knapp pitched five scoreless innings to help the Lake County Captains advance in the Class A Midwest League playoffs. Lake County edged West Michigan, 3-2, to take the best-of-three series, 2-1. Chris Kersten drove in two runs, Jason Smit had a solo homer and Preston Guilmet worked a man-sized save, pitching 2 2-3 innings. The story was Knapp, a top prospect back from injury who was superb.
Knapp was considered a key piece of the Cliff Lee deal at the 2009 trading deadline, but got hurt shortly after reporting to Lake County a year ago.
The 20-year-old right-hander struck out six, including all three men he faced in the first inning. He walked the first batter in the second, then got a forceout and double play. In the third inning, he got three harmless groundouts.
Knapp allowed two ground-ball singles in the fourth, but added two more strikeouts then worked a 1-2-3 fifth. After being sidelined until mid-August with a shoulder ailment, Knapp is on a strict pitch count and was lifted by manager Ted Kubiak with a 2-0 lead.
The Captains took the lead in the fourth. Casey Frawley singled and one out later stole second base. Kersten followed with a sharp single to left, scoring Frawley.
Smit's leadoff homer to left in the fifth made it 2-0.
Jose Flores replaced Knapp and quickly pitched into trouble. He gave up two hits, one walk and a run in the sixth as West Michigan moved within 2-1.
The Captains restored their two-run lead in the bottom half. Tyler Holt walked, stole second, but was out trying to score on a single to left by Adam Abraham, who took second on the play. Kersten's line drive to left-center scored Abraham to make it 3-1.
Flores allowed a leadoff walk in the seventh that came around to score before Guilmet got two outs with a runner on first.
Guilmet yielded a leadoff bunt single in the eighth and a one-out single in the ninth, but that was it for the Whitecaps -- who were eliminated in the first round for the third year in a row.
Lake County is in its first season in the Midwest League after moving from the South Atlantic League.