FORT WAYNE – TinCaps starter Zach Eflin started his professional career by giving up 12 runs in 11 1/3 innings.
But lately – including a 7-1 win Wednesday at Parkview Field against the Lansing Lugnuts – Eflin has been the picture of consistency.
“Overall it was a great game, and it started with Eflin,” TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. “It was the best outing for him so far in the year. I can tell the way he was pitching, he was comfortable. You can see he was pretty much in the zone.”
The seven-inning outing, with six strikeouts and no runs, proved that.
Eflin gave up six hits, but only one batter advanced past second base as he got his second win.
Catcher Dane Phillips, who was out of the lineup Wednesday, noticed Eflin’s confident approach from the bullpen.
“I thought he pitched like a much older, more mature pitcher,” Phillips said of the 19-year-old right-hander. “I’m really impressed with how he handles himself and how he is able to control the pace and the tempo of the game.”
It was Eflin’s sixth straight outing with three or fewer earned runs. He has struck out 30 batters in his last three starts combined. But Eflin steered credit toward his hitters, as well.
Left fielder Alberth Martinez crushed a home run over the left field wall on the TinCaps’ second at-bat of the game. The TinCaps (29-22) also scored in the third and helped give Eflin enough confidence to take an aggressive approach against Lansing (21-28).
“It’s such a plus,” Eflin said of his batting order, which had struggled earlier in the month. “They’ve been in here early every day working on it. It’s a great thing to see because you got to put in what you want to get.”
Fort Wayne got plenty Wednesday. After Eflin’s exit, Lansing got its first run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth.
Then, a crowd of 3,851 got the type of show Fort Wayne put on early in the season.
The TinCaps had five hits and scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 7-1 lead. It kept alive a streak of four games where the TinCaps have scored at least five runs.
“Everything was great,” Valentin said. “There’s no way you can get beat when you play the game like that.”
The TinCaps, who have won four straight, are a half-game behind second-place Bowling Green in the Midwest League Eastern Division standings.
A second-place finish in the first half of the season would guarantee a playoff spot for Fort Wayne.
“You can tell the guys, they’re starting to get back in the game,” Valentin said. “I feel like we’re getting back in the rhythm again.”
Note: TinCaps third baseman Gabriel Quintana was added to the disabled list, Fort Wayne announced Wednesday. The team has not picked up a replacement on the 25-man roster.