Saturday, May 19, 2018 7:00 pm
Pregame: TinCaps (18-22) vs. South Bend (17-22)
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
The TinCaps have won four their of first five games on this homestand and have a good opportunity to get another win tonight with one of their hottest pitchers on the mound.
Right-hander Mason Thompson struggled to start the season, but has been very good over his last three starts, pitching 15 innings and giving up just two earned runs. He struck out a season-high six hitters in four shutout innings his last time out and hit 94 mph on the radar gun for the first time this season. This is the second time he'll pitch on this homestand, and it will be interesting to see whether he can build on that extra velocity he showed Monday. If he does, it could another long night for Cubs hitters, who were mostly helpless against Nick Margevicius on Friday.
South Bend will send right-hander Cory Abbott to the mound to face Thompson. Abbott was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft and has pitched well in every start this season except one. His 3.26 ERA was inflated by that one outing, but is still a solid number and he's struck out more than a hitter per inning. Like Thompson, he has been at his best of late, striking out 15 in 10 innings over his last two starts and giving up only two runs. Fangraphs rated Cory Abbott the No. 15 prospect in the Cubs' system and prospect expert Eric Longenhagen thinks he's on a fast track to the upper levels of minors.
"Abbott has terrific glove-side control of his average slider and fastball, and can loop a 12-6 (foot) curveball into the zone for strikes," Longenhagen wrote in November. "He’s not a great athlete but repeats his delivery well and could have plus command and control at peak."
Abbott has walked no more than one hitter in four of his six starts this season, so the TinCaps will have to be prepared to swing. The Fort Wayne offense has been excellent the last two games, scoring 20 runs despite not hitting in the ninth on either night. One hitter who hasn't really gotten in on that success is leadoff man Jeisson Rosario. Rosario was one of the team's hottest hitters in April, but has gone just 4 for 28 over his last seven games. He got a night off Friday and if he can start hitting again, the ceiling on this offense rises another level. Encouragingly, the 18-year-old has continued to walk during his slump, drawing five walks in those seven games, which suggests that he's still having good at-bats.