Rarely does a game change on a play in the first three innings. But in Fort Wayne's 12-6 loss to West Michigan on Sunday at Parkview Field, that might have been the case, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said.
In the top of the third inning, starting pitcher Bryan Rodriguez was dealing. He had retired seven of his first eight batters and watched his team get out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Then, a routine ball to center field was dropped by Brian Adams, and the complexion of the game seemed to change. Rodriguez got the next batter to earn two outs, but then gave up a double that scored one run, hit a batter and committed a balk.
A single brought in two more runs and made it a 3-3 game. Rodriguez faced eight batters in the inning, he was pulled after 4 1/3 innings.
We'll let Valentin take it from here.
"(Rodriguez) was OK today, and then after that error by Adams in center field, it went bad for him. He still made the pitches, but he didn't get any help behind him.
"He did a decent job. It could have been a different inning if we make that play. After that, he got two quick outs and could have been out of the inning 3-0. Not only that, but with less pitches made and less hitters faced. … Instead of going four innings, he could go six with a lead. And not only that, but we still keep the lead, maybe our offense gets better confidence and adds some runs on it.
"He gave up three runs after that, and then after that it was a different game. It could be that that was the game-changer right there completely. Just one error, but that was a big one. … You see that a lot of times happen. After one error, you know, that's when they make you pay."
TinCaps look for big play
After a 1-3 start to the second half, second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum went back to what got Fort Wayne rolling in the first half.
The TinCaps, he said, need someone to make a big play.
"Sometimes, there's just like one big play or one big at-bat that gets you going," he said. "If you're down a couple runs and come up and get a big hit, it kind of gives the dugout a bit of energy, or when you make a big play to stop a rally type of thing.
"We just haven't had a big moment yet."
Those will need to come, Valentin said, especially when the team gets drained by a comeback like West Michigan put on Sunday.
"Every time we get behind from a big lead, we're a different team," the manager said. "Guys just kind of quit on it. Our approach at home plate is different, and that's something that you just can't quit that fast in a game. You just gotta keep trying and see what happens."