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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, July 22, 2018 11:10 am

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

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

After two straight games washed away by incessant rain, the forecast is dry-ish for Sunday and the TinCaps and Clinton LumberKings will try to squeeze in a doubleheader. The first game will begin in the bottom of the second inning – where Saturday's game was suspended – with Fort Wayne trailing 3-0. All three Clinton runs that scored in the top of the second arguably had something to do with the slippery conditions during a steady downpour. It was unlucky for the TinCaps they had to play defense in those conditions while the LumberKings did not, but the home team will get to bat first this afternoon.

The TinCaps will send left-hander Aaron Leasher to the mound in the suspended game, taking the place of MacKenzie Gore, whose start was cut short because of the rain. Gore threw 30 pitches in the batting cage during the rain delay to finish his night, so it will fall to Leasher to keep Fort Wayne from dropping further behind. Leasher was originally scheduled to start Friday, but that game was rained out, as well, so he has two extra days of rest. It will be technically be his fifth relief appearance this season, though he'll treat it like a start.

As I wrote Friday, Leasher has been knocked around in his last two starts, giving up seven runs on 14 hits in 9 2/3 innings. He's still struck out nine in those innings, however, and his 3.06 ERA ranks seventh in Midwest League despite his recent struggles. He'll need to be very good today, or the TinCaps won't have much chance for a comeback victory.

The second game will feature Sunday's scheduled Fort Wayne starter, Osvaldo Hernandez. The 20-year-old left-hander comes into the game leading the Midwest League in ERA with a 2.09 mark and has gotten the victory in three of his last four starts to run his record to 7-3. Perhaps most encouragingly, Hernandez has not walked a hitter in 16 innings over his last three starts. Prior to those three outings, he had only had two other starts all season in which he'd held the opposing team without a free pass. That suggests his command and confidence are improving as the season goes on, not to mention that fewer walks will help him pitch deeper into games because his pitch count will stay in check. He's tossed six shutout innings in two of those last three starts and might have to play stopper for a Fort Wayne team that has lost six in a row at home and might make it seven in Game 1 if the TinCaps can't rally from a three-run deficit. 

Game 2 will only be seven innings because of minor league doubleheader rules, so Hernandez has a chance to pitch his first career complete game if he has a particularly efficient outing.

dsinn@jg.net