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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette TinCaps left fielder Agustin Ruiz and Dragons first baseman Bren Spillane watch the batter in the second inning at Parkview Field on Thursday.  

Friday, April 12, 2019 12:10 am

TinCaps come from behind again, continue blazing start

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Anthony Contreras couldn't explain it. He didn't even try.

The TinCaps manager usually gives his team some kind of closing speech in the clubhouse after games, but tonight, following a 5-4 win that saw Fort Wayne score four runs in the eighth and complete a four-game sweep of the Dayton Dragons, he simply told his players to turn on the music and celebrate. What more needed to be said? The TinCaps have something special going right now and everyone knows it. 

At 6-2, this is the TinCaps' best start to a season since they opened 10-0 in the charmed 2009 campaign that ended in a Midwest League championship.

"We can win at any point in time and I think everyone knows that," outfielder Jawuan Harris said. "Any time we come from behind, we know we can grind stuff out, get a man on and we've got some speed to be able to score some runs and some guys that come up clutch all the time."

Let's be clear: the TinCaps had no business winning this game tonight. For seven innings, they did not play good baseball. There were errors, baserunning miscues, bad luck, a bevy of strikeouts on offense. Entering the bottom of the eighth, it was 4-1 in favor of the Dragons and it seemed like Fort Wayne would have to settle for three wins in the four-game series. 

"Sometimes you have games like that, where's it's like, OK, maybe it's not meant for us today," Contreras said. "But they come out and score four runs in the eighth inning. ... These guys are doing it by themselves. I'm trying to push the best buttons I can, but sometimes they take the lead."

There were plenty of heroes to choose from in that eighth inning. Harris got the rally started with a booming triple to left-center and said he was thinking of taking three bases as soon as he left the box, as he always does when the ball gets to the wall. Grant Little came through with an RBI single to center to keep the rally going, his seventh hit in the last three games. Then, Luis Almanzar completed the comeback with a sharp ground ball through the left side that scored two runs to give the TinCaps the lead. It was Almanzar's second go-ahead hit in three games as he continues his hot start to the season. After he struggled all through 2018, he's come out swinging to start 2019 and the results speak for themselves: 11 RBI in six games and a .632 slugging percentage entering Thursday.

He also committed an error, his fourth of the season and second in two games, but those are forgivable sins when you're coming through in the clutch.

"We want him to maybe tighten up the defense a little bit over at third base, but for him to come up clutch like that in those situations when we need it is huge," Contreras said. "Hopefully his whole all-around game can start to improve to go along with those big hits he's been getting for us."

After the four-run rally in the eighth, the TinCaps still needed three more outs and reliever Henry Henry provided them. The tall right-hander loaded the bases with one out on a dropped third strike, a single and an intentional walk, but pitched his way out of it with some nasty breaking pitches and earned his first professional save. The scene after the game was one of jubilation and it's clear this team is having a blast right now. 

And why shouldn't they? They're 6-2 and they're in first place. Turn up the music and celebrate.