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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, July 21, 2018 6:00 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (13-14) vs. Clinton LumberKings (15-12)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps got a needed day off Friday when their series finale against the Burlington Bees was canceled because of an all-day steady rain at Parkview Field. That rain has not subsided as of this writing, so tonight's game is in danger, as well, but if the game is played, the TinCaps will open a series against a Western Division opponent, the Clinton LumberKings.

Clinton is in the middle of the pack in the tougher West, but if it was in the East, its 15-12 second-half record would put it in second place, behind only the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The LumberKings ranks fourth in the league in runs scored, presenting a challenge for Fort Wayne pitchers this weekend. The first TinCap to face the tough Clinton offense will be left-hander MacKenzie Gore, who has been routinely dominant in recent weeks.

Gore has had two straight starts in which he's given up two runs on three hits over five innings. His last outing, on July 15 against the Peoria Chiefs, was a masterpiece, with the 19-year-old whiffing a career-high 10 hitters and lowering his ERA to an even 4.00 for the season. It's a sign of how much the Fort Wayne offense has been struggling that Gore took the loss in that contest, which the TinCaps dropped 2-1. 

Gore also threw a season-high 93 pitches in that performance and remained healthy, which is a very good sign after all the blister issues he had earlier in the season. He still struggled with his command a little, walking three and unleashing two wild pitches, so that is something the 2017 No. 3 overall pick will try to get under control against Clinton.

The LumberKings, a Seattle Mariners affiliate, will send 23-year-old left-hander Raymond Kerr to the mound to take on the top left-handed pitching prospect in the minor leagues. Kerr has been so-so this season, posting a 4.34 ERA and giving up nine home runs in 76 2/3 innings. Clinton's potent offense has not been so when Kerr has been on the mound, as his record is an awful 3-9. The nine losses rank second in the Midwest League. 

Fort Wayne has an opportunity to snap out of its offensive doldrums against a less-than-impressive Clinton starter. As I wrote prior to the Friday's rainout, the key for the TinCaps will be to keep tacking on runs in the middle and later innings. They've scored early in the last few games, but have let that momentum slip away with low-quality at-bats, especially with runners in scoring position.

A win would snap a season-long six-game Fort Wayne losing streak at Parkview Field and get the TinCaps back to .500 in the second half.