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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 20, 2018 12:20 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (19-22) vs. South Bend (17-23)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps have a chance to sweep their second series of the season with a victory today after winning in dramatic fashion Saturday night in extra innings. A win today would make it a 6-1 homestand for Fort Wayne and a season-high fifth win in a row before it heads back out on the road for a series against West Michigan beginning Monday.

The home team will have to play today without their originally scheduled starter in left-hander MacKenzie Gore, who was scratched after a slight recurrence of the blister that kept him on the disabled list for most of April. Instead, fellow lefty Tom Cosgrove will get the start for Fort Wayne. The 21-year-old pitched three innings out of the bullpen Wednesday in his second relief appearance of the season to go along with five starts and he gave up one run while striking out two and walking two.

Cosgrove has posted a 5.20 ERA and walks have been partially to blame for that inflated number. He's given out nearly five free passes per nine, including at least two in six of his seven outings. This is his first start since May 2, so it's unlikely he'll pitch too deeply into the game. In that case, the TinCaps bullpen will again have to eat some innings, which it has done a superb job of this week. The Fort Wayne relievers have given up one run in 10 2/3 innings over their last three games.

The Cubs will send one of their best pitchers to the mound to try to avoid a sweep in right-hander Erich Uelmen. Uelmen is a tall right-hander who was picked in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and struggled at the beginning of the season before turning his campaign around in recent starts. He had two mediocre starts and two disastrous ones among his first four, but in his last two outings he's struck out 11 and walked two in 11 innings. His most recent outing was superb as the 6-foot-3 hurler pitched six shutout innings and struck out six while walking only one.

Uelmen's best attribute as a pitcher is his ability to suppress hard contact. He gave up just three home runs in over 200 college innings and hasn't surrendered any this season. His fastball touches the mid 90s, topping out at 95, and his slider is above average. What makes him really effective, however, is his unusual delivery.

Here's what Fangraphs prospect expert Eric Longenhagen had to say about Uelmen last season: 

"His delivery is odd but effective. Uelmen is basically a side-armer, but has a shorter, quicker arm stroke than most of his low-slotted peers. It creates deception/extension which, along with his fastball’s significant arm-side movement, makes the fastball effective despite middling velocity."

That could make life difficult for the TinCaps' right-handed hitters, several of whom looked bad against South Bend starter Cory Abbott on Saturday as well. The key, as it was Saturday, will be for the hitters to keep putting together good at-bats and trust that a rally will eventually come. The TinCaps have made a habit of putting together big innings in the last few games, scoring at least four runs in an inning in three straight. Don't count on Uelmen giving up anything like that, so Fort Wayne might have to make noise against the Cubs' bullpen again.

dsinn@jg.net