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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette TinCaps left fielder Grant Little fist-bumps TinCaps fielding coach Jhonny Carvajal after hitting a base hit in the third inning against Dayton at Parkview Field on Tuesday.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 10:20 am

Pregame: TinCaps (4-2) vs. Dayton Dragons (2-4)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps have won the first two games of their series against Dayton with late rallies, including a game-winning double by Dwanya Williams-Sutton in the ninth inning Tuesday. Less than 12 hours after that exciting victory and subsequent infield celebration, the same teams will take the field this morning for Parkview Field's first day game of the season.

Fort Wayne is going for its third straight win and its first series victory of the year and it will send ace Ryan Weathers to the mound in pursuit of those goals. The 19-year-old left-hander opened the season with nine strikeouts in five shutout innings and showed the competitive fire that has made him so successful already in his professional career. Crucially, the 2018 No. 7 overall draft pick also did not walk a batter in that first start, one of three TinCaps starters to walk none in the first turn through the rotation. One key to his success in that first outing was superb command of his off-speed pitches, particularly his slider, which he said felt the best it ever had. He challenged himself after the game to command his fastball better the next time out, so we'll see if he made some adjustments to do that. In that first start, Weathers used the cold temperatures to his advantage, pitching aggressively inside, with the notion that hitters wouldn't want to hit pitches in on the hands in the cold. The strategy worked perfectly last week and after a couple of warm games to start this series, it's chilly again this morning. Look for Weathers to try to get first-pitch strikes on the inside corner.

The Dragons will counter Weathers with another left-hander, 20-year-old Jacob Heatherly. Heatherly spent all of 2018 at rookie ball and struggled, going 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA in 11 starts. His fastball velocity was inconsistent, sitting 89-93 mph last season and topping out at 95, while his command left a lot to be desired (more than a walk per inning last season). He has a decent curveball, though, and the Reds are hoping he can break out in the Midwest League this year. The TinCaps' goal today will be to jump on Heatherly early. Manager Anthony Contreras said his team was a little flat at the outset Tuesday after he let them arrive to the ballpark slightly later than usual to catch up on sleep before the day game today. After such an emotional win Tuesday night, it will be interesting to see if the TinCaps are ready to go from the start today. Offense late in games hasn't been a problem, but getting some more runs early would take pressure off Weathers and the bullpen.

Of course, the Dragons are dealing with the same early start, so there's really no excuse for the TinCaps not to come out swinging. It's important to build on exciting wins like they had last night and keep the momentum going.