Friday, July 20, 2018 12:30 am
TinCaps drop series to last-place Bees, fall in 12 innings
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
There were plenty of superlatives during Thursday's game. It was the second-largest crowd at Parkview Field this season, with more than 8,600 tickets sold. It was the longest game at the park this season, lasting 12 innings and nearly four hours. Perhaps the most important, however, is that the TinCaps have lost a season-high six games in a row at home.
All season, Parkview Field has helped Fort Wayne get back on track, keeping the TinCaps close to .500 even though they've been one of the worst road teams in the league. Fort Wayne is still 28-22 at home this season, but with six losses in a row, Parkview Field isn't the sanctuary it's been for most of the year.
Even worse for the TinCaps, their offense continued to struggle. Despite playing 12 innings, they still scored two or fewer runs for the sixth time in seven games. They had a runner on third with one out in the 10th and the bases loaded with nobody out in the 11th, but didn't score either time. The 11th was particularly difficult to stomach, as both Kelvin Melean and Juan Fernandez struck out swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Manager Anthony Contreras said it was a learning experience for his team, but he wanted them to be more selective in big situations.
"We get to that moment, everyone wants to be a hero," Contreras said. "You've gotta be able to calm yourself down and let the game play out like it's going to."
Just as in Wednesday's game, there was one Fort Wayne hitter who bucked the trend and had a great night at the plate. Wednesday it was Jeisson Rosario, while tonight it was Esteury Ruiz. Ruiz hit a first-inning home run and added three singles, making it his first four-hit game of the season. The homer was his team-leading ninth.
"He's a competitor," Contreras said. "He's a good little hitter that has a good approach at the plate. He's probably been waiting for a game like this to kind of get him back on track and hopefully it can kind of springboard him for the rest of the season."
In more good news, Tom Cosgrove had one of his best starts of the season. The left-hander matched a season-high eight strikeouts in six innings and retired 15 of 16 hitters during one stretch. Both he and Contreras said an improved changeup has propelled him to another level recently.
"That's been probably the one pitch he's kind of wanted to get consistent," Contreras said. "And today was probably the best I've seen him throw that pitch. He did a good job keeping these guys off balance. When he can start mixing in three pitches, he's going to do pretty well and he kind of showed himself today that he can use that changeup when he wants to."
The TinCaps relievers were also solid before the game-winning home run off Fred Schlichtholz in the 12th, with Austin Smith pitching two scoreless and striking out five and Travis Radke adding three shutout innings and four strikeouts. He kept the Bees scoreless in the 10th and 11th, giving Fort Wayne a chance to win.
With two losses in a row against last-place Burlington, it's a disappointing series loss for the TinCaps. They'll try to salvage one game on Friday night before taking on Clinton this weekend.