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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette TinCaps second baseman Xavier Edwards scoops up the ball in the second inning against Dayton at Parkview Field on Wednesday.  

Thursday, April 11, 2019 4:30 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (5-2) vs. Dayton Dragons (2-5)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps take the field tonight with a chance to a complete a four-game sweep in their first full home series of the season. It's a little early in the year to be making statements, but this team has come out playing with a crispness and confidence that wasn't there early in the 2018 season. It might be because this team is (relatively) older or because there happens to be more veteran leadership, but the TinCaps are clicking and a sweep at home would emphasize that point.

To try to win their fourth game in a row, Fort Wayne will send right-hander Efrain Contreras to the mound. Contreras wasn't bad in his first start – he gave up two runs in four innings while striking out four and walking two – but manager Anthony Contreras said the pitcher's command wasn't where he's seen it in the past. Efrain Contreras came to Fort Wayne with a track record of walking hardly anyone so two free passes in four innings, while a tiny sample size, is out of character for him. Look for the 5-foot-10 19-year-old to pitch to contact more tonight, a strategy that has worked well for Fort Wayne starters so far this season. In six games, the TinCaps' starting pitchers have walked just five hitters and struck out a whopping 45. It's been about as good of a start for the rotation as anyone could have imagined, especially with a couple of cold-weather games thrown in. The temperature shouldn't affect Contreras tonight – it's supposed to be in the high 60s at first pitch – but it will be extremely windy.

The Dragons will counter Contreras with 6-foot-4 right-hander Jhon De Jesus as they try to avoid the sweep. De Jesus has already been in the professional ranks for four years and at 22 is not a hot prospect. He didn't pitch at all in 2018 and this is his first season above rookie ball. Still, in his first Midwest League start, against the Bowling Green Hot Rods on Saturday, he tossed five shutout innings and gave up only three hits. He only struck out three and walked two, however, so the TinCaps should have some opportunities to put runs on the board with a patient approach. Fort Wayne's offense exploded Wednesday, piling up 12 runs and putting together three three-run rallies. The TinCaps have excelled at taking advantage of opponents' mistakes and the Dragons have made plenty of them in this series. The performance of Dayton's defense will be almost as important as De Jesus's tonight.

A four-game sweep doesn't amount to much in the grand scheme of a season, but with a six-game road trip coming up (and three more games against the Dragons starting Monday), the TinCaps can build significant confidence by completing the series victory tonight. It's getaway day and that bus trip to Bowling Green would be a lot more fun after a win.