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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The TinCaps' Tom Cosgrove will Game 1 of today's doubleheader. He is just 2-6 with a 4.39 ERA this season, but he has struck out more than a batter per inning and walked fewer than three per nine innings.

Friday, August 17, 2018 5:20 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (25-26) vs. South Bend Cubs (22-30)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Rain has been a near-constant factor in this series between the TinCaps and South Bend Cubs and it has necessitated a doubleheader tonight to finish the three-game set. The rain has now intervened again and the first game of that doubleheader, originally scheduled to start at 5:35 p.m., will begin in a rain delay. If the teams do eventually play tonight, the TinCaps will open the doubleheader trying to win their fifth game in a row for the first time since they won six in a row from June 24-28. 

If they can win both games, Fort Wayne will equal that June winning streak for the longest such streak of the season. In order to reach that mark, the TinCaps will send a pair of left-handers to the mound in Tom Cosgrove and Ben Sheckler. Cosgrove, who was scheduled to pitch a rained-out Game 2 on Thursday, will start the first game, while Sheckler will start the second. 

Cosgrove is just 2-6 with a 4.39 ERA this season, but his underlying numbers have been much better. The 22-year-old has struck out more than a batter per inning and walked fewer than three per nine innings. Opponents have hit .282 against him, but that's due in large part to an unlucky .359 batting average on balls in play. He'd put together a string of solid starts before his last outing, in which he gave up eight hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings. The TinCaps bullpen has been strong of late and these games tonight are only seven innings per minor-league doubleheader rules, so if Cosgrove can just keep his team in the game in the early innings, he'll have done his job.

Sheckler, meanwhile, has a solid 3.50 ERA and has been more than passable since moving into the rotation July 23. In his last three starts, he's posted a 3.38 ERA and walked just three in 16 innings. He's never been a strikeout pitcher, but he's whiffed a season-high four hitters in two straight appearances. The biggest issue has been the long ball. Sheckler has surrendered six this season in 74 2/3 innings, including one in each of his last two starts. If he can keep the ball in the yard tonight, he'll give the TinCaps a chance to win.

The Cubs will counter in Game 2 with 26-year-old right-hander Ryan Williams. Williams, in addition to being far older than nearly everyone else in the Midwest League, has one of the strangest résumés I've ever seen. He pitched in the Midwest League in 2015 and absolutely dominated to the tune of a 1.17 ERA and two walks in 53 1/3 innings. He was similarly effective in Double-A that season and earned Chicago's Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award for his combined performance. He reached Triple-A in 2016 before an injury shut him down and a torn rotator cuff ended his 2017 season, also at Triple-A. He started this season at short-season A-ball and and is now back in the Midwest League, where he has a 5.56 ERA in four starts. My head hurts.

Williams faces a TinCaps lineup that will be without catcher Juan Fernandez. The smiling clubhouse sparkplug is the latest Fort Wayne player to fall victim to the injury bug and was placed on the disabled list with a wrist injury today. In his place, the Padres promoted catcher Chandler Seagle from Tri-City. Seagle, a 2017 30th-round pick, played 10 games with the TinCaps last season and has gotten on base at a .357 clip with the Dust Devils in 2018.

The TinCaps start the day a half-game in front of West Michigan for the top playoff spot in the Eastern Division's second-half standings. A sweep of the doubleheader would guarantee they would gain ground on the Whitecaps before Fort Wayne heads out on the road for 10 games.

dsinn@jg.net