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  • Jorge Ońa of the TinCaps is tagged out at home by Quad Cities catcher Chuckie Robinson in the fourth inning Thursday night of Game 2 of the Midwest League Championship Series at Parkview Field. (Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette)

Friday, September 15, 2017 1:00 am

TinCaps teeter on brink

Unproductive offense has team facing 3 elimination games on road

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

TinCaps

vs. Quad Cities

What: Midwest League Championship Series

Series: Best of 5

Game 1: River Bandits 6, TinCaps 3

Game 2: River Bandits 5, TinCaps 0

Game 3: 7:35 p.m. Saturday in Davenport, Iowa

Game 4 (if necessary): 6:15 p.m. Sunday in Davenport, Iowa

Game 5 (if necessary): 7:35 p.m. Monday in Davenport, Iowa

The TinCaps are on a big stage, to borrow manager Anthony Contreras' term, and perhaps they are pressing, too conscious of what's at stake in the Midwest League Championship Series.

A Fort Wayne team that scored 629 runs in the regular season couldn't hit Thursday night as Patrick Sandoval and Salvador Montano combined to lead Quad Cities to a 5-0 victory and a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

“I don't think it's nerves anymore,” Contreras said. “I think they feel the pressure of how big a game is, and everybody wants to do something to turn it around. In games like this, you have to be able to relax and treat the (at-bat) like you did during the season.”

It's hard to say the TinCaps stuck with a strategy against Sandoval, who went six innings, because they didn't drive up his pitch count enough to get him out early. They had used that blueprint in Game 1 against Cristian Javier, even though Fort Wayne lost 6-3.

When Sandoval's pitch count hit 91, manager Russ Steinhorn went to a second left-hander, Montano, for the final three innings. He kept getting swings and misses with a breaking ball that dived out of the strike zone.

“Yeah, he's a tall kid with a sharp curveball, but like I said, I think it was more the approach we employ at the plate,” Contreras said. “These guys get late in the game and want to make something happen, but you've got to be able to relax and let the at-bat play out.”

Lake Bachar started for the TinCaps. He hadn't pitched since Sept. 3. The question was how much rust Bachar had accumulated in the 10 days since his last start, and early on his command appeared lacking.

Bachar issued two of his four walks in the first inning, when Abraham Toro hit an RBI single. He eventually was able to complete 31/3 innings, giving up just the one run on four hits.

Quad Cities' offense re-emerged in the sixth. Chas McCormick knocked an RBI single off Osvaldo Hernandez. Later in the inning, Troy Sieber connected against Will Headean for an RBI single.

The River Bandits added insurance runs in the eighth, on Colin Moran's RBI single, and ninth, on J.J. Matijevic's RBI double.

“Any situation this year, whether we've been backs against the wall in an elimination situation or a championship series, we just continue to play hard, compete and leave it all out on the field,” Steinhorn said. “We don't talk about it's any high-leverage game. We treat it as any other.”

On a sun-splashed September evening, an announced crowd of 3,880 attended the final game of the year at Parkview Field. 

After an off day today, the remainder of the series shifts to Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, where the TinCaps must win three times in order to claim the George H. Spelius Championship Trophy.

“We're going to be in a good spot going over to Quad Cities,” TinCaps outfielder Jack Suwinski said. “I think we're handling it well. We've lost two games before and won three in a row.”

cgoff@jg.net