The TinCaps lost their third home game of the season Monday in a 6-2 decision against Clinton. Much of the credit goes to LumberKings starter Scott DeCecco, a lefty who had Fort Wayne fooled for most of the night.
DeCecco went eight innings and gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out five. His method for success, and the marathon outing by minor league standards, wasn't complex.
"We got to give credit to their pitchers," Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin said. "They kept guys off balance, made the pitches when they had to, got the outs when they had to."
Reliever Matthew Shepherd threw four scoreless innings for the TinCaps (13-10) and watched DeCecco, and lefty Rusty Shellhorn in the final inning, work down the Fort Wayne lineup with a cool efficiency.
A home run from Alberth Martinez in the bottom of the eighth was the only extra-base hit of the night for Fort Wayne, and runners advanced past second twice the entire game.
"Their guys throw a lot of strikes and get a lot of ground balls and that works for them," Shepherd said. "They don't throw very hard, but they both throw strikes and get a lot of ground balls. That's all you need to do to go nine innings."
Mejia struggles in first start
Ruben Mejia made his first start since September of last season. It didn't go well.
Mejia has thrown in relief through the early part of the season and had a career-high seven strikeouts April 20. This time out, he gave up a procedural error in the first inning with a balk on a fake-to-third, throw-to-first pickoff move. A change in the rule book disallows that move this season, a change the coaching staff has stressed to its pitchers.
"His mind, I don't think it was ready to pitch today," Valentin said. "You see that the first run with two outs. I mean, one play, we've told those guys it's not allowed this year, it's gonna be a balk.
"There's no reason. I don't know what he was thinking about."
Valentin didn't pull punches with Mejia, who picked up the loss and was pulled after three innings.
"Mejia, he wasn't as aggressive in the strike zone," Valentin said. "He was throwing instead of pitching. He wasn't focused on his job."
Whether he gets another start or not, Mejia will have to show more than he did on the mound in the future.
Martinez moves along lineup
Outfielder Alberth Martinez has plenty of potential, Valentin said. He also has plenty of versatility.
As the TinCaps work to figure out their best combination of batters and where they should fall in the order, that flexibility has helped Valentin.
"He can be at the top of the lineup, he can be second, third," the manager said of Martinez. "He's one of those guys that if he gets his mind going into home plate with a plan on it, he can be a great player."
Martinez got a home run and went 1 for 4 in the loss as the leadoff hitter for Fort Wayne. He batted second in an 11-inning win against Clinton on Sunday and ninth in a 10-inning victory over Kane County on Friday.
"He can run, he's got some power that he showed today," Valentin said. "For some reason, sometimes he can be aggressive, sometimes he can be too selective."