After the TinCaps win Monday over the Dayton Dragons, the strains of Lil Nas X's hit "Old Country Road" could be heard blaring through the victorious team's clubhouse. The TinCaps are having fun and after Monday's game, they should be. It wasn't a perfect performance, but they looked to be in midseason form on a beautiful night at Parkview Field. Blake Hunt said on Opening Day this team has a chance to be "special" and tonight we got a glimpse of what that might look like.
It's already becoming clear that this team can score runs in bunches. They piled up eight in the final three innings without a home run, lacing line drive after line drive the other way and throwing in a bunt single from Xavier Edwards for good measure. Edwards, Tucupita Marcano, Nick Gatewood and Dwanya Williams-Sutton each had two hits and the TinCaps reached base 17 times, not counting the two errors the Dragons gifted them.
"Offense started slow early, but we got it going and we stuck with it," Hunt said. "That's the thing our team can do, we can manufacture runs like that, it doesn't matter how. ... Early we were just chasing and I think late in the game, we decided to minimize our strike zone where we were looking and look for a smaller target so we wouldn't be chasing. We started to walk, started to get those knocks and everything fell into place."
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne's starting pitching continued to shine. Ramon Perez became the latest to turn in a solid start, going five innings, striking out eight and giving up no earned runs. The left-hander had his curveball working and battled through a couple of TinCaps errors that cost him pitches. He has the stuff to be an important part of the Fort Wayne rotation this season and it seems that rotation could be one of the best in the league for a second straight year, even with an entirely new cast of characters.
Out of the bullpen, Henry Henry picked up his second win just five games into the season, going three innings and pitching scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth to salt the victory away. The talented right-hander is worlds different from the pitcher who couldn't find the plate in Fort Wayne at the start of last season, throwing with more confidence and showcasing the stuff that could put him in a key relief role eventually in the big leagues.
"He seems a lot more composed," manager Anthony Contreras said. "Just watching him the way he prepares now, it's cool to see these guys year by year get older and mature a little bit in terms of their routine and how they get themselves ready. Just watching him with (pitching coach) Matt Williams, they're working on some stuff to fine-tune his mechanics and it's starting to carry over into the game. Hats off to him for putting that work in."
The bullpen has been Fort Wayne's biggest question mark so far, but Henry has staked an early claim as a reliable bridge between the starters and the back end. With an offense that can score like the TinCaps' can, the staff doesn't need to be perfect, just good enough. Tonight, they were plenty good and Fort Wayne cruised to an entertaining victory. Time to crank up the music.