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The Journal Gazette

Friday, September 01, 2017 2:40 am

TinCaps celebrate clinching playoff berth

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Despite a 4-2, 10-inning loss to Great Lakes on Thursday night, TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras was able to deliver the uplifting news to his players that they are officially in the Midwest League playoffs.

Fort Wayne entered Thursday believing it needed one more win or one more South Bend loss to clinch a postseason spot, and South Bend won Thursday, but the TinCaps' postgame celebration occurred anyway because team officials realized shortly before the game that the math already worked in their favor.

For the TinCaps (66-70, 40-26 second half) to have missed the playoffs, both Bowling Green (68-65, 37-29) and South Bend (75-60, 36-30) had to pass them in the second-half standings, and, with only four games remaining, that is impossible because the Cubs and Hot Rods play their final three games against one another, guaranteeing some combination of three losses between them.

Contreras didn't realize any of that until being informed before the game. He told his team, once in last place in the Eastern Division, to not hold back on enjoying the finalizing of their achievement. He didn't want them to feel down because of the loss to Great Lakes.

"I just told them we took care of business when we had to," Contreras said. "We played great this second half. I told myself, nobody else, that if we could get 40 wins we would have a good chance of getting to the playoffs. We hit that number yesterday."

After a 19-39 start, the worst in franchise history, the TinCaps went 22-9 over a 31-game stretch in July and August to cement their stunning turnaround. 

"These guys worked their butts off making the change from the first half," Contreras said. "They've been rewarded with a trip to the playoffs. It doesn't happen all the time. You can't recreate that feeling."