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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 12:20 am

TinCaps let late lead get away again, fall to Bowling Green

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps have played five games in a row against first-place teams including Tuesday's matchup with Bowling Green. They've held their own in those contests, holding leads in the seventh inning or later in all five, but have been unable to close the deal three times.

Tuesday's 7-5 loss to Bowling Green was the second time in four games the Fort Wayne bullpen has let a ninth-inning lead slip away, although this time it was only a one-run advantage, not a five-run cushion as it was Saturday.

"It's just being able to execute," manager Anthony Contreras said. "When we get in those eighth, ninth innings, our bullpen has to be able to put guys away; we have to be able to play sound defense and just hold our lead. If can do that more often than not we'll be in a good spot."

The TinCaps' bullpen was unable to hold the lead it had been given Tuesday. Justin Lopez doubled his team in front in the eighth, but Jared Carkuff put the first two batters of the ninth on base. Contreras brought in Travis Radke to try to get out of the jam, which seemed like the right move. Radke had a 1.67 ERA and more than 14 strikeouts per nine innings coming into the game. Instead, he gave up a tying double to Taylor Walls, who was a thorn in the TinCaps' side all night.

Walls came in hitting .323, fifth in the league, and went 4 for 5 with two RBI, three runs scored and three extra-base hits. He hit the ball hard all five times at the plate.

"I'm just seeing the ball really well right now, right-handed and left-handed," Walls said. "Just trying to stick with my approach, do whatever the team needs me to do when it's my turn or my at-bat, just sticking with it. That's been the main thing, staying with an approach and committing."

The TinCaps got plenty of good at-bats from their offense as well. Lopez had a double and a huge home run, his second of the season, while Esteury Ruiz and Tirso Ornelas both reached base three times. Ornelas had a two-run double and two walks, and also got called out on strikes on a pitch that looked well off the plate, one of several questionable strike-three calls down the stretch.

Ruiz, meanwhile, went 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored from the leadoff spot as Jeisson Rosario got the day off. Perhaps most significantly, he stole three bases in three attempts. The TinCaps attempted to steal six times Tuesday and were successful four times. Contreras said Ruiz and some other players have a more-or-less permanent green light to steal.

"If I feel it was the wrong time (to steal) we can go ahead and coach them on that stuff, but for the most part, (Robbie) Podorsky, Ruiz, Rosario, they have the green light to go when they want," he said. "If the situation doesn't call for it, I can go ahead and coach them through that."

The Hot Rods remain in first place with their win, so they'll have a sixth straight game against a first-place team Wednesday. These games against top teams are good experience for a young group, but at some point the TinCaps have to start winning these games when they have opportunities. They're playing well enough to do so right now.