TinCaps manager Jose Valentin knew his team’s late-inning magic would end eventually.
Monday was that day.
Fort Wayne fell behind early and advanced hitters past second only twice in a 6-2 loss to Clinton before 2,789 fans at Parkview Field. The TinCaps’ only extra-base hit was a home run in the bottom of the eighth by left fielder Alberth Martinez.
It’s just one of those days, Valentin said.
The LumberKings (11-11) got eight innings out of starter Scott DeCecco, who gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out five.
Fort Wayne (13-10) got only three innings out of Ruben Mejia in his first start of the season. He gave up five hits and two earned runs, and the TinCaps allowed three unearned runs in the decisive top of the third inning.
Mejia set the tone in first inning with a two-out balk with men on first and third, allowing a run to score.
His mind, I don’t think it was ready to pitch today, Valentin said. He was throwing instead of pitching. He wasn’t focused on his job.
At the plate, Fort Wayne wasn’t able to make contact early, and not much changed throughout the game. Clinton pitchers faced four or fewer TinCaps hitters in all but two innings.
Matthew Shepherd relieved Mejia and pitched four scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, and for a while, it seemed a matter of time until the TinCaps broke through as they had in four of their five previous games.
No such luck. The offense, other than Martinez’s homer, didn’t show up.
With this lineup, you always expect them to score I’d say four or five runs a game, Shepherd said. The last four or five nights, we’ve been able to come back and maybe get a walkoff. They’ll bounce back tomorrow, though, and get it done for sure.
It was a credit to DeCecco, a lefty, and Rusty Shellhorn, another lefty, who pitched the ninth. Fort Wayne hit the ball hard but right to the Clinton defense.
It’s something you cannot control, Valentin said. You got to go up there with one thing in mind: To hit the ball hard. It’s hard when you go up there by yourself and you have seven or eight guys in front of you trying to catch the ball when you hit it.
It’s tough, but in that situation, we did our part. No luck today. Mostly, you have to give credit to their pitchers.
The TinCaps and LumberKings have a quick turnaround from the 9:26 p.m. finish Monday. Today’s game is scheduled for 11:05 a.m.
Fort Wayne will be looking to avoid its first home series loss of the sason. Walker Weickel will take the mound for the TinCaps.
We’re playing really well right now, Shepherd said. The hitters aren’t going to get down on themselves. They’ve hit well all year. This is going to happen.
So, I think Walker’s going to go out tomorrow and throw well, and I think we’ll be all right.