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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, April 19, 2018 6:20 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (4-9) vs. Great Lakes Loons (2-8)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps hadn't won back-to-back games all season until yesterday, but tonight they have a chance to complete a sweep of the Great Lakes Loons at Parkview Field. Fort Wayne has won the first two games of the series without an extra-base hit, singling and walking the Loons to death. 

The Great Lakes pitching staff has been helpful in propelling the TinCaps' big rallies in the first inning Tuesday and the seventh inning yesterday. The Loons' pitching staff has walked 65 in 79 1/3 innings this season. That's the highest per-inning total in the Midwest League by a wide margin and the staff has been particularly egregious with free passes this series. The Loons have walked 13 in the first two games and the walks have been bunched together, helping Fort Wayne scrape together big innings without any doubles or home runs.

Right-hander Jesus Vargas will be on the mound for Great Lakes tonight. He walked fewer than two hitters per nine innings in rookie ball in 2016 and 2017, finishing with a 3.38 ERA, sixth in the Arizona League, last season in 58 2/3 innings. Vargas has only made one start this season, giving up a run in three innings, but striking out six. Despite only pitching three innings, that strikeout total is the highest for a Loons starter this season.

Vargas will oppose Fort Wayne starter Mason Thompson, who is coming off a really good start against the Bowling Green Hot Rods last Friday. Thompson pitched 5 2/3 innings, getting plenty of run support in a 13-2 victory. He gave up one run, striking out four while walking one. Thompson, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, is the No. 25 prospect in the Padres' organization and seems to be all the way back from a shoulder injury he suffered last season. Seeing him pitch 5 2/3 is a promising sign that he can stay healthy this season and be one of the TinCaps' better starters.

Fort Wayne will go for the sweep with 18-year-old Jeisson Rosario back in the lineup. Rosario got a day off Wednesday after walking three times and scoring twice in the opening games of the series. Rosario ranks fourth in the Midwest League with 11 walks, while nine of those have come in his last four games. That's exactly what the TinCaps need from their leadoff hitter, and he has been a spark plug during their current strong stretch of games.

In addition, the weather is significantly better tonight than it's been in the first two games, with the temperature above 50 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The TinCaps have been playing well in the cold, but no one will complain about spring weather returning for the series finale.