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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette TinCaps designated hitter Dwanya Williams-Sutton checks his swing while batting in the second inning against Dayton at Parkview Field on Wednesday.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 5:30 pm

TinCaps cruise to third straight win, Weathers gets first pro victory

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are rolling. 

They've won three games in a row, clinched a series victory over the Dayton Dragons and climbed into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Division, as of Wednesday afternoon. The latest in this string of victories was an easy 12-2 triumph over Dayton today, a game that featured another dominant start from Ryan Weathers, an offense scoring runs in bunches and the emergence of another potentially important reliever.

The offense got going right from the start with three runs in the first inning. Manager Anthony Contreras lightly chided his team for cold starts offensively the last few games and hoped they would come out with a little bit more firepower early today. Despite an 11:05 a.m. start, the TinCaps were ready to go, scoring three runs in the first and another in the second to take a commanding lead immediately. Contreras joked that it seemed like his team had some "red bulls and coffee" before the game and he was pleased to see them pile up early runs.

"It's always encouraging to have a young team like this, especially early in the season when it's cold to be able to produce runs like that," Contreras said. "It keeps us optimistic that when it gets warm, we'll be able to do a lot of special things out there. It's just a tribute to their preparation and the way they go at their business before the game."

Even more encouragingly, the TinCaps continued to tack on runs late in the game, precluding any thoughts of a late Dragons comeback. They could have gotten swing-happy and undisciplined with a big lead in the cold, but instead they continued to take good at-bats and make the Dragons work for every out. The bottom of the seventh inning began with four consecutive walks to force in a run.

There was never really any chance of a Dayton comeback with starting pitcher Ryan Weathers on the hill, however. Weathers was terrific for a second straight start, extending his season-opening scoreless streak to 11 2/3 innings before finally surrendering a run in the sixth. He worked his fastball around and got most of his strikeouts on sharp-breaking curveballs and sliders. The first-round pick was in complete command until the sixth, when he ran into trouble for the first time all season. He gave up two runs, but Contreras decided to let him finish the inning, putting his faith in the 19-year-old left-hander. Weathers rewarded his manager with a big strikeout and finished the day with 84 pitches, a significant number for an April start. Contreras clearly trusts Weathers to make big pitches when he needs to.

"I haven't pitched here long, but he knows I don't like coming out of games," Weathers said of his manager. "He told me (in the sixth inning), 'This is your guy, this is your inning, finish it' and I was like, 'All right, let's go.'" ... That's huge, it means he trusts me a lot, has confidence in me and it'll ultimately boost my confidence too."

Weathers exited after six innings, but reliever Trent Shelton came on and pitched the final three without a hiccup. Shelton isn't a flamethrower, but he retired nine Dragons in a row to earn his first professional save and seemed to barely break a sweat doing so. This early in the season, the bullpen's roles are still getting sorted out and Shelton could pitch himself into a late-inning work with a few more outings like that.

It was another excellent performance from a TinCaps team that has had plenty already this season. Fort Wayne is getting contributions from every facet of the team and that bodes well going forward. The TinCaps are in first place.

dsinn@jg.net