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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 21, 2018 12:10 am

TinCaps drop second in a row: Final thoughts

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Tonight was one of those nights that neither team seemed to want to win the game. The Dragons tried to give this game away with walks and sloppy play in the field and the TinCaps gave it right back. Dayton didn't do much to win this game except keep putting together good at-bats even when they fell behind, which eventually turned out to be enough. 

Fort Wayne had plenty of chances to end the Dragons' nine-game win streak and seemed on the verge of doing so after scoring four times in the seventh inning. The bullpen just couldn't hold the advantage, a pattern that is becoming familiar after the TinCaps' seventh loss in a game that it held the lead. 

For all the talk about the TinCaps being so young and how that means they'll have to endure growing pains, blame for many of the losses early in the season can be placed at the feet of veteran players, pitchers to be exact. Almost all of Fort Wayne's youngest players are position players, populating the everyday lineup with teenagers. That lineup has been solid on the whole for two weeks now, with some power outages every now and then. It has been the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, that has struggled more often in recent games. Fred Schlichtolz, 22, was the losing pitcher tonight, surrendering four runs in the ninth thanks to two walks and a hit batter.

The offense has scored more than enough runs to win some of these games, but the TinCaps desperately need a shutdown reliever that can be counted on to get outs late in games. No one has really stepped into that role yet and until at least two or three relievers prove reliable in the eighth and ninth innings, no Fort Wayne lead will be safe.

In a more promising development from the pitching staff, starter Tom Cosgrove had by far his best start this year, tossing 4 1/3 innings and striking out a career-high eight hitters. The left-hander whiffed five in a row between the first and the third innings, locating his fastball and breaking ball much better than he did in his first two starts.

Manager Anthony Contreras said he thought Cosgrove mixed his pitches well, keeping the Dragons off balance until the fifth, when his command deserted him and Dayton plated three runs. To this point, the TinCaps have three pitchers – Nick Margevicius, MacKenzie Gore and Mason Thompson – who have really proven they can give Fort Wayne a chance to win when they start (Gore hasn't really yet, but he will when his blister clears up). If Cosgrove is commanding his pitches and can become the fourth member of that group, that will be a huge boost for this TinCaps staff and could take some pressure off of that shaky bullpen. 

Regardless of who is ultimately to blame for the loss, these are the games that good teams win. The TinCaps had a chance to take the series-opener against a red-hot team and came up short. There will be more opportunities like this in a long season, and Fort Wayne needs to make the most of them.