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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, April 22, 2018 12:40 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (5-11) vs. Dayton (9-4)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Before this series began, I wrote that the TinCaps had a chance to make a statement against one of the best teams in the Midwest League. They'll do just that if they win today and take 2 of 3 from the Dayton Dragons. Fort Wayne took a big step forward in ending the Dragons' nine-game winning streak yesterday and completing a 4-2 homestand would be another important accomplishment.

The offense has been the story in this series, as Fort Wayne has pounded 23 hits in the first two contests, including 11 in the victory last night. Leadoff hitter Jeisson Rosario gets the day off today, but both Tirso Ornelas and Esteury Ruiz – who were featured on ESPN last night after three hits and a home run each yesterday – will once again be in the lineup, Ruiz hitting first and Ornelas hitting third. 

Other than the absence of Rosario, the lineup is probably Fort Wayne's best offensive group at this point in the season, with Carlos Belen, Jack Suwinski and Luis Campusano all joining Ornelas and Ruiz as dangerous hitters. That lineup will contend with Dragons starter Wendoyln Bautista, one of the league's veterans. Bautista is in his sixth season of minor-league baseball and is back in the Midwest League after spending 2017 in High-A and Triple-A. 

Bautista's ERA this season is 2.89, but that's not really representative of how he's pitched. He's walked as many as he's struck out (seven) in 9 2/3 innings and has escaped damage by leaving close to 90 percent of his baserunners stranded. That's an extremely high number and likely won't continue, so the TinCaps should have plenty of chances to score today.

Bautista will take on Fort Wayne's Adrian Martinez, who is making his first start of the season after three relief appearances. Martinez is something of Bautista's opposite in that he's pitched far better than his ERA indicates. The right-hander's ERA is 9.53, but he's posted impressive walk and strikeout numbers, whiffing eight hitters in 5 2/3 innings. He's been undone mostly be an astronomic .556 opponents BABIP, indicating that there have been more than few bloops and dunks falling in for hits. 

Martinez probably won't pitch too deeply into the game in his first start, so he doesn't have to hold much in reserve for the second or third time through the order. With the 21-year-old likely exiting early, there will also be plenty of innings for the bullpen this afternoon. The relievers held the lead yesterday, but collapsed on Friday. Ben Sheckler and Jordan Guerrero, Fort Wayne's two best relievers so far this season, both pitched last night, so the TinCaps will need other pitchers to step up.

dsinn@jg.net