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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 6:30 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (13-12) vs. Burlington Bees (5-19)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette


The TinCaps return to Parkview Field tonight, playing their first home game since July 10 following a six-game road trip that was bookended by a pair of off days. The off day Tuesday could help Fort Wayne to regroup a bit after going 2-4 on the road trip and dropping eight of its previous 10 games. The TinCaps return home for six straight games against Western Division opponents, beginning with three against the last-place Burlington Bees, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.

These three games against the Bees, who are deep in the cellar of the West and finished there in the first half as well, are important for the TinCaps to get their second half back on track. After starting 11-4, they've slipped to just one game above .500 and their playoff hopes – though, to be clear, it's still early – are on much shakier ground than they were two weeks ago.

In the first game of this important homestand, Fort Wayne will send 18-year-old right-hander Luis Patino to the mound. Patino has been getting better with each start and it's becoming difficult to find new superlatives for how well he's pitched since arriving in Fort Wayne as the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League. The precocious righty has struck out more than 10 hitters per nine innings in 10 starts, while posting a stellar 2.28 ERA. 

His last two starts have been two of his best as he's tossed 11 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run, while surrendering just three hits total. Fort Wayne won both games, including a victory over Cedar Rapids that snapped a four-game losing streak in Patino's most recent outing. On July 12, Fangraphs' prospect expert Eric Longenhagen fielded a question about Patino in his chat with readers. Here's what Longenhagen wrote:

"(Patino's a) crazy athlete, 18 and pitching well in Low-A. 94-97 (mph), chance for pl[us] breaking ball, everything else projects because of his athleticism. He’s a lot of fun and quite good."

Meanwhile, the Fort Wayne offense will try to snap out of a mini-slump in which it hasn't scored more than four runs in five games. It scored two runs or fewer in four straight games on the road trip and lost some of the momentum it had had early in the second half. One player who seemed not to be affected was outfielder Robbie Podorsky, who got a hit in all five games he played on the road trip and comes into tonight's game riding an 11-game hitting streak and boasting a .356 batting average. He'll hit second in tonight's lineup.

Third baseman Kelvin Melean will hit sixth. Melean has been one of Fort Wayne's best hitters since he arrived on July 8 from Lake Elsinore. The 19-year-old is getting on base at a .485 clip in his first eight TinCaps games and scored three runs in his team's 4-0 victory to finish the road trip on Monday.