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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:50 pm

Pregame: TinCaps vs. West Michigan Whitecaps

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps return to Parkview Field tonight for the start of the second half. They'll play four games this weekend against the West Michigan Whitecaps and then three more at home against first-half division champion Bowling Green, starting the half with a seven-game homestand.

Considering that Fort Wayne went 21-14 at home in the first half – equivalent to 84 wins across a full 140-game schedule – this early homestand is a huge opportunity for the TinCaps to get off to a fast start in the second half. They had the second-worst road record in the league in the first half at 11-23 and while that will likely improve as the young players get more comfortable playing away from home, it'll be imperative to take advantage of chances to rack up wins in Fort Wayne.

The home team tonight will send 20-year-old left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez to the mound to open the second half. Hernandez has been as consistently excellent as it's really possible to be. He hasn't given up more than two earned runs in a start since April 15 and is second in the league in ERA with a 2.25 mark in 11 starts.

He hasn't pitched at Parkview Field in nearly two weeks, but the last time he did, he pitched six innings and gave up two runs while striking out six. After a full week since his last start, he'll be rested and ready to pitch deep into the game tonight.

Before today's game, the San Diego Padres made a change to the TinCaps roster. They sent reliever Korey Anderson from Fort Wayne to the Arizona League and added reliever Austin Smith to the TinCaps' bullpen from Lake Elsinore. Smith was with the TinCaps for all of 2016 and part of 2017, pitching mostly as a starter in those stints and posting an ERA over 5 on both occasions.

He moved full-time to the bullpen this season, but has continued to struggle with walks. The 2015 second-round pick has given out nearly 6.5 free passes per nine innings with Lake Elsinore and that has contributed to his inflated 7.56 ERA. Being back in Fort Wayne probably isn't how he envisioned starting the second half, but he'll have to show better control with the TinCaps if he wants to move back up the ladder.

As I write this, it's raining and has been for a couple of hours. It would be disappointing to start the second-half with a rainout, but since it's the first of a four-game series, there would be plenty of time for a doubleheader this weekend.