In the Kane County debut for Juan Carlos Paniagua, it was another familiar result for the Cougars as the Great Lakes Loons jumped in front early and never looked back in a 6-2 series-opening victory Wednesday night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
Paniagua (0-1), who had trouble getting back into the U.S. this season because of visa issues, worked around a couple of baserunners in the first before the Loons (43-53, 16-10) grabbed the lead in the second with 2 runs.
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Brandon Dixon singled to start the inning and scored on a bases-loaded walk to James Baldwin. Jeremy Rathjen was hit by a pitch and came across on a double-play grounder.
Great Lakes took advantage of an error in the third to take a 4-0 lead. Corey Seager drew a walk to lead off before stealing second and advancing to third on an Oliver Zapata error. Brandon Dixon's groundout to short scored Seager, and Aaron Miller came home on a Rathjen single.
Paniagua lasted 21⁄3 innings while walking four and coughing up 3 runs (2 earned). Justin Amlung also surrendered 3 runs in his 32⁄3 innings of relief as the Loons were up by 6.
Chris Anderson (1-0) limited the Cougars (35-55, 5-19) to just 2 singles in 5 shutout innings.
Willson Contreras finally put the Cougars on the board in the seventh with a solo home run off Arismendy Ozoria. Kevin Encarnacion followed with another solo homer to pull the Cougars within 4.
Encarnacion popped out to end an eighth-inning threat with the bases loaded against Craig Stem (11th save). Stem recorded the game's final four outs.
The Cougars and Loons play the second of their three-game set Thursday night with a 6:30 first pitch from Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Right-hander Jose Rosario (0-5) starts for the Cougars against lefty Tom Windle (0-0).