Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette MacKenzie Gore of the TinCaps, the Padres' top pitching prospect, spent much of the first half of the season injured and could provide a big lift in the second half if healthy.
Thursday, June 21, 2018 1:00 am
TinCaps look poised for another big 2nd half
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
TinCaps vs. West Michigan
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m. tonight
Pitchers: Osvaldo Hernandez (TinCaps) vs. TBA (Whitecaps)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM
The second half of the Midwest League season opens tonight, and the TinCaps are hoping to re-create the magic of last season's midseason turnaround that saw them go from last place in the first half to the league's championship series in September.
There are enough similarities between the teams that such a turnaround seems plausible.
For example, the TinCaps are once again the youngest team in the league – their average age of 19.3 is two years younger than the league average.
In addition, they are again loaded with talent as nine of the San Diego Padres' top 30 prospects call Fort Wayne home.
One of the players in that group, 19-year-old All-Star catcher Luis Campusano, believes the team is good enough to improve dramatically in the second half.
“We just have to play baseball the right way,” said Campusano, who is hitting .324 since May 15. “We have a talented team, so if everything works out I don't see why we can't just win the whole thing.”
There are actually signs this TinCaps team might be even better positioned to make a second-half run than it was a season ago. Despite all the comparisons between this year's first half and last year's, Fort Wayne was significantly better in the first half this season than it was last season.
The TinCaps finished the first half with a 32-37 record, which, while only good for fifth place in the Eastern Division, is far better than the 26-44 mark they posted last season that was the worst in the league. Fort Wayne had more success in the first half despite being even younger than they were last year.
In addition, the TinCaps have already played like a playoff team at home this season going 21-14 at Parkview Field, including a three-game sweep of the Great Lakes Loons to end the first half.
“I just think it's familiar ground (at home),” manager Anthony Contreras said June 8. “You come here (to Parkview Field), you know where everything is. Our schedule is the same pretty much every single day. ... They know the restaurants; they know they're going to go back to their own place and sleep in their own bed at night.”
The TinCaps play their first seven games of the second half at home, giving them an opportunity to get off to a fast start. After that, they'll have to improve upon the 11-23 road record they compiled in the first half.
“Hopefully it just picks up where it left off (after the sweep),” Contreras said Sunday. “These three days are important for them to recoup and get their energy back and just enjoy some time away from the field because it can get a little monotonous.”
The TinCaps could also improve in the second half simply by getting healthier. MacKenzie Gore, the Padres' top pitching prospect, pitched just 13 innings in the first half but seems healthy heading into the latter part of the season. Gore will start for the first time in the second half Sunday.
“Every time he goes out there and looks good and looks healthy, it's a win in our books,” Contreras said of Gore after the left-hander's last start. “As long as he stays healthy that's all we care about.”
The TinCaps' quest for the team's first Midwest League title since 2009 begins with a four-game series this weekend against the West Michigan Whitecaps.