Friday, May 18, 2018 12:20 am
TinCaps explode for 13 hits, win series against Whitecaps
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
Through the first three games of this series against West Michigan, scoring runs was like pulling teeth for the TinCaps. Even though they won two of the first three games, it seemed like every run was a struggle, and the Whitecaps pitching staff made them work for every run.
With that backdrop, Thursday's offensive explosion was jarring. The TinCaps started in the first inning with a bloop double from Esteury Ruiz and a swinging bunt single for Tirso Ornelas. The two moderately lucky hits seemed to spark the offense, and Fort Wayne didn't stop hitting all night in a 7-3 victory.
As manager Anthony Contreras has said repeatedly, aggressiveness is the key for this team.
"We've been preaching to them, just getting your pitch early and doing damage with it," Contreras said. "These guys just keep competing; we've been emphasizing that in early work. ... Just like any other baseball season, you never know when it's gonna start to click for us and these last couple games have been good."
Ornelas is one player who certainly seems to have figured something out. He had at least one hit in every game of the series against the Whitecaps and six in all, including two doubles. He also walked twice after entering the series 2 for 24 in his previous six games. Of course, one of the hits Thursday was lucky (the swinging bunt in the first), but the 18-year-old has been putting good swings on the ball for a week and seems on the verge of a breakout.
Fort Wayne's big night on offense ensured that another good start from Aaron Leasher wasn't wasted. Leasher got a no-decision in his last appearance despite pitching seven innings without giving up an earned run, but he got the win tonight. The left-hander threw five innings and gave up only one earned run, striking out a career-high eight hitters. He's struck out at least six in a start three times this year after not doing so at all at rookie ball or in Tri-City last season.
Leasher has been something of an unsung hero on this staff, putting together solid outing after solid outing despite garnering less hype than some of his rotation-mates. His ERA is down to 3.11, and he's second on the team with three wins.
The bullpen was also excellent Thursday, with Caleb Boushley, Evan Miller and Jordan Guerrero all turning in scoreless outings. It was especially good to see Guerrero pitch a 1-2-3 ninth. He was on a roll before giving up four runs in 1 1/3 innings over his last two outings and seeing his ERA jump from 0.80 to 3.65. He hit 98 mph with his fastball Thursday and seems ready to resume his role as Fort Wayne's best reliever, which he has been for most of the season.
With the win, the TinCaps get their first series victory in their last four and have a chance to make it three wins in a row Friday when they start a series against the South Bend Cubs at 7:05 p.m.