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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 3:20 pm

TinCaps win pitcher's duel 3-2, Patino impresses

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Today's game had the potential to be one of the better pitching matchups this season, and both starters delivered solid – if not overpowering – outings. Luis Patino was slightly better than the Whitecaps' Matt Manning and got the win in his first Midwest League outing, a 3-2 decision against West Michigan that clinched at least a series split for Fort Wayne.

Patino was excellent in his first start at this level, going five innings and giving up just one earned run. He pitched into the sixth and had some bad luck that forced him out of the game, as a grounder to the left side and a slowly-hit chopper through the right side both turned into hits with nobody out. The 18-year-old then battled for nine pitches with Brady Policelli before walking him on a full count. That was the last batter Patino faced and the only walk he gave up.

"My command today is good," he said. "I can throw my pitches with command, inside, up, outside. My changeup, my curveball, my slider (were good)."

Overall, I was impressed by Patino's demeanor on the mound and his endurance. He was still throwing 94-95 mph in the sixth inning and he never seemed rattled, even with men on base. His delivery is smooth, except when he intentionally adds a hitch to it in order to throw off the hitter's tempo.

"I like doing that," he said, laughing, of the exaggerated hitch he occasionally employs. "It's for changing the timing of the hitters because sometimes they're (ready) for the fastball, so you change your delivery so (their) timing's off."

The right-hander also showed some emotion when the TinCaps turned an impressive 3-6-1 double play to end a threat in the fourth inning. He pumped his fist after covering first base, something Anthony Contreras mentioned as a positive, as well.

Manning was impressive too, especially in the fifth inning when he struck out all three hitters swinging. He fanned eight in five innings, but the TinCaps were able to scratch out three runs against him thanks to some opportunistic hitting (and a little luck). The big rally came in the third, when the home team plated two runs. Both Luis Almanzar and Gabriel Arias had run-scoring hits; Arias' was a line-drive double that landed directly on the right-field line and gave the TinCaps a 3-1 lead that they would hold in the late innings.

They were able to hold on to that lead thanks to some impressive work from the bullpen. Ben Sheckler pitched three shutout innings, including working his way out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the sixth with only one run coming across. Sheckler has been a terrific long reliever this season, going at least two innings in nine of his 10 appearances. Jared Carkuff was just as effective, pitching a mostly drama-free ninth for the save. The Fort Wayne bullpen was a liability to start the season, but it has turned into an asset in recent weeks.

The TinCaps have a chance to win their first series in two weeks when they play the series finale Thursday against the Whitecaps.