FORT WAYNE – After six runs in the first three innings and a six-inning shutout by starter Justin Hancock, the TinCaps looked to be cruising to a win against Bowling Green on Thursday.
But the relievers crumbled, and so did Fort Wayne in a 7-6 loss to the Hot Rods.
A win Thursday would have tied the TinCaps (23-15) with the Hot Rods (25-13) for second in the Midwest League Eastern Division standings.
Instead, Fort Wayne finds itself two games back of the league-leading Hot Rods and the South Bend Silver Hawks.
The defeat also gave the TinCaps their first series loss of the season at Parkview Field and put them at 2-4 against Bowling Green this season.
It’s hard to see that happen, especially at home when we’re playing good, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. I guess we kind of took it easy, and we can’t afford to do that with a team like Bowling Green.
Fort Wayne faced the pitcher with the best ERA in the Midwest League, but his performance wasn’t the problem.
The TinCaps jumped on Hot Rods starter Dylan Floro and chased him after four innings.
He had won three of his last four outings and gone at least five innings in his last six starts, with a 1.16 ERA on the year.
Fort Wayne starter Justin Hancock did his part, as well.
The right-hander went six innings and gave up three hits with three strikeouts. Only one of those hits went for extra bases.
He went up there and gave us six good innings, but we got some rules, Valentin said. It was one of those days where we got a good start, but not a good finish.
It was less of a finish and more of a meltdown. Reliever Matthew Chabot relieved Hancock, and four runs crossed the plate in the seventh.
It was Chabot’s first appearance for the TinCaps. He gave up three hits, three runs and a walk in only two-thirds of an inning before Leonel Campos came on to try to stop the bleeding.
That didn’t work out well, either.
Campos got the final out of the seventh but gave up two more runs and two walks in the eighth, forcing closer Roman Madrid to the mound early. He went one inning and gave up his first earned run of the season.
The run scored on Madrid (4-1) completed a seven-run swing that turned a sure-fire win into a momentum-sapping loss for Fort Wayne.
It was one of those days that the guys that have been good all year didn’t do their job, Valentin said. We didn’t make the plays when we had to.
The loss was the TinCaps’ fifth at home this season. Fort Wayne heads to Lake County today for a 6:30 p.m. matchup against the Captains, who are second-to-last in the Eastern Division standings.
The TinCaps will hope to regain some confidence and improve upon a 9-10 road record.