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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 18, 2018 6:10 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (17-22) vs. South Bend Cubs (17-21)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps started this homestand with a solid performance over four games against the West Michigan Whitecaps, taking 3 of 4 from the third-place team in the Eastern division. Now Fort Wayne has a shot at the team directly in front of it in the standings: the South Bend Cubs come into this three-game weekend series just a half-game ahead of the TinCaps for sixth place. 

Fort Wayne could leapfrog the Cubs with a victory tonight at Parkview Field and the home team will send its best to the mound in pursuit of that goal. Left-hander Nick Margevicius has been nearly unhittable this season, compiling a 2.81 ERA in and striking out 44 in 32 innings. He's been so dominant that he ranks fifth in the league in strikeouts despite missing his last start when it was rained out. All four pitchers ahead of him have made at least seven starts and he's only made six.

Remarkably, the 21-year-old's 2.81 ERA might actually undersell how well he's pitched this season. Opposing hitters have batted a whopping .424 on balls in play against him, well above the usual rate. BABIP is a stat that is predicated more on luck than anything else, suggesting Margevicius has been significantly unlucky this season. His Fielding Independent Pitching – a stat that measures what a pitcher's ERA "should" be based on his strikeout, walk and home run numbers – is an even smaller 2.19, one of the best figures in the Midwest League. As I type this, it's raining outside and it's possible that a second straight Margevicius start gets washed out or curtailed, which would be some more bad luck for the TinCaps.

If the game is played, Margevicius will take on Cubs pitcher Rollie Lacy, who will be making his third start of the season in addition to working six games out of the bullpen. He's also been very good overall, posting a 2.63 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. Both of his starts have come in the last two weeks and the right-hander has been mostly average, giving up four runs in 8 2/3 innings combined. After two starts that ended without him completing the fifth inning, he's probably ready to pitch deeper into the game. This is his first full season of pro baseball after the Cubs selected him in the 11th round of the 2017 draft out of Creighton.

One player Lacy won't have to face in the TinCaps lineup is outfielder Tre Carter. The Padres sent the outfielder to extended spring training today and added outfielder Robbie Podorsky to the Fort Wayne roster from Lake Elsinore. Carter was hitting .192 this season with a 31 percent strikeout rate, although he did have a passable .310 on-base percentage. 

This will be Podorsky's second stint in Fort Wayne after he played five playoff games with the TinCaps last year. He spent most of the 2017 season at Tri-City, hitting .302 with 16 stolen bases. Speed has been part of the 23-year-old's game since he entered the Padres' organization; Baseball America called him the fastest player in the San Diego system last year.