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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, June 23, 2018 5:20 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (0-1) vs. West Michigan (1-0)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The series between the TinCaps and the Whitecaps has been dogged by rain, but the teams were finally able to open the second half Friday night, in a game that began at 8:31 p.m. After all that build-up, Fort Wayne fell behind by five runs before eventually rallying only to fall 5-3.

That's not exactly an auspicious start to a seven-game homestand that could set the tone for the second half. MacKenzie Gore again pitched only three innings and gave up four runs on six hits, which isn't ideal. The good news is that he remains healthy, showing no ill effects from the blister that caused him to miss most of the first half.

The better news is that for essentially the first time in three days, the sun is out as I type this and it appears tonight's game will begin on time. The TinCaps will send 18-year-old right-hander Luis Patino to the mound when that game begins. Patino has been one of Fort Wayne's best pitchers since he arrived in A-ball in mid-May, posting a 3.08 ERA and striking out more than 9.5 hitters per nine innings. 

One of the most impressive aspects of Patino's performance so far has been his ability to hold his velocity deep into games. Of course "deep" is a relative term, as he hasn't pitched into the sixth inning yet, despite giving up just one earned run in his last four starts combined. The Padres have been cautious with the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League, but he's passed every test they've set for him. The Fort Wayne bullpen will likely play a large role in this game, but fans will at least get to see Patino's 97 mph fastball and electric slider for four or five innings.

The Whitecaps will counter with 20-year-old Jesus Rodriguez, a 6-foot-3 right-hander. This is Rodriguez's first year in full-season ball and he hasn't been overly impressive, striking out fewer than six hitters per nine and posting a 4.35 ERA. He's also walked nearly four hitters per nine, so the TinCaps can afford to be patient and take some pitches tonight. 

Fort Wayne's offense was mostly quiet Friday, though Robbie Podorsky and Esteury Ruiz both homered after their team had fallen behind 5-0. Patino should keep his team in the game, but the TinCaps offense needs to score some runs before the sixth inning  this time, especially against a struggling pitcher such as Rodriguez. 

Tonight is also Turn the Park Pink Night at Parkview Field. The players will be wearing Vera Bradley-designed pink jerseys that will be auctioned off at to raise money for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.