At The Journal Gazette, we pride ourselves on giving you the best coverage of the TinCaps of any media outlet around. But that doesn't mean we ignore the other team. Tonight was one of those nights where we had to go to the other locker room, after the performance that Great Lakes pitcher Jose De Leon had in a 5-1 victory over Fort Wayne.
He was the story.
“I was hitting spots and it was one of those games where I felt really comfortable with the off speed,” De Leon said. “I was taking advantage of that and I loved the first-pitch strikes, too. They helped me out.”
But this will put it into perspective: He struck out 14 of 18 batters he faced. The previous Loons record was held by three men -- including Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher in the major leagues today.
At one point, De Leon struck out nine straight, one short of the Midwest League record.
For the game, Fort Wayne struck out 17 times, one short of their franchise worst.
In De Leon’s only previous league start after being called up from the Pioneer League, he was almost as good, striking out seven and giving up one run and three hits, again with no walks, in six innings of a victory over Bowling Green.
“(Since being called up), I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing the whole year and trying to stay focused on what we’ve got left this year,” De Leon said. “It’s the same 60 feet, 6 inches everywhere, so I’m just pitching trying to give my team a chance to win every night out.”
De Leon was pretty excited to get interviewed about this performance. Based on what I saw tonight, and from what people have told me: Get used to it, kid.
This isn't to say there were no bright spots for the TinCaps, who are now two games back of Dayton and Great Lakes for the final playoff spot in the division.
Fort Wayne starter Cody Hebner went six innings and gave up three earned runs off 11 hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
“I thought Hebner threw the ball far better than his final line. He ended up giving up a bunch of hits, but he made a lot of good pitches with the fastball and looked to have some good life,” Fort Wayne manager Michael Collins said.
“And then (Jorge) Guzman came out of the bullpen and gave us three innings, which was outstanding. … We need three innings and he got through them scoreless and gave us a chance. Positives on the pitching.”