Joey Cantillo dominating is becoming a regular occurrence. In fact, I've used the word "dominant" to describe his performances this season so often that I almost feel like I'm cheapening the term. But there's no other appropriate word for what the 19-year-old left-hander did tonight, striking out 10 in six innings and pitching the TinCaps to a 10-2 win.
Cantillo hadn't pitched at Parkview Field in close to a month and he was excited to be back, especially with the abnormally large Monday crowd that showed up for a beautiful night at the ballpark.
The early innings were a little rocky for Cantillo as he gave up a home run in the second (surrounded by three strikeouts) and another run in the third on a couple of softly-hit balls. Those early runs served as fuel for the pitcher's fire and he was tremendous near the end of his start, striking out five in the fifth and sixth and hitting 94 mph in his final inning of work. That is a season-high and it's been a goal of Cantillo's to hit 94 this year. Mission accomplished.
"I don't check the scoreboard (for velocity readings)," Cantillo said. "But what happened was for some reason I looked and I've said this before, I don't like to look. And I peaked and I saw it and I was really surprised and everything. ... I'm really happy about that, it means a lot, to be honest.
"Obviously velocity's not everything, but it's one of those things in the back of your head that you work for. My velo isn't great, obviously it still plays ahead. Just continuing to get stronger and working toward throwing harder, that's a huge step."
It's somewhat ironic that Cantillo has had so many starts without giving up a run because he gave up two tonight while pitching with maybe his best pure stuff of the season. He had all three of his pitches – fastball, changeup and curveball – working, which is what he's been gunning for all season. The curveball has long been a work in progress for the lefty, but he threw it close to 10 times tonight and many of those were beauties, dropping in from the sky like a Rich Hill breaking ball. Outside of the home run, there were very few balls hit hard all night against Cantillo. He's now one away from leading the Midwest League in all three pitching triple crown categories (wins, ERA and strikeouts).
Of course, Cantillo wasn't the only story from this game. Dwanya Williams-Sutton had one of the wildest games you will ever see, even in minor-league baseball, getting hit in the arm four times. He did not even swing the bat until the ninth inning and Cedar Rapids catcher Alex Isola had to continually reassure him that the Kernels were not trying to hit him on purpose.
Williams-Sutton now leads the Midwest League in hit-by-pitches with 19 despite having about 40 fewer plate appearances than the players in second and third. He insists that he hasn't been trying to get hit.
"I'm pretty sure I had 13 (hit-by-pitches) my junior year of college, but I don't try to get hit by pitches," Williams-Sutton said. "My teammates think I try to lean into it, but it's where I stand (in the box). My coach in college told me 'Don't move your feet, it's going to mess up your mind for your at-bat swinging at stuff away.' I just don't move my feet and they keep throwing in, so I'm going to keep getting hit I guess."
The Fort Wayne franchise record for hit-by-pitches is 23. For all we know, Williams-Sutton might break it by this weekend. Keep those bruises coming, DWS.
This was a fun game all around for the TinCaps. They pounded 14 hits, walked eight times and scored 10 runs despite leaving 15 runners on base. They went a wild 9 for 23 with runners in scoring position, which has to feel like a sigh of relief for a team that had been struggling so mightily in those clutch situations.
Fort Wayne has won two series in a row for the first time in the second half and now get a chance against first-place Bowling Green on the road. This is a golden opportunity to build some legitimate momentum and maybe begin to climb back into the playoff hunt.