The TinCaps got to above the .500 mark for the first time this season Monday, running their record to 3-2 in the second half against a Bowling Green team that had been one of the hottest in the league.
The Hot Rods remain probably the best team in the Midwest League and the TinCaps have a chance to earn another confidence-building victory tonight, a win that would clinch the series before the finale of the 10-game homestand Wednesday afternoon.
After All-Star left-hander Nick Margevicius tossed seven strong innings in the series-opener, Fort Wayne will send another All-Star lefty to the mound in 22-year-old Aaron Leasher. Like Margevicius, Leasher pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game. The difference between them is that Leasher hasn't actually started a game for the TinCaps since May 29. In his last three outings, he's been the second half of a "piggyback" with another starter. Once that other starter was Mason Thompson and twice it was MacKenzie Gore, but each time, Leasher entered the game in the middle innings. The role seemed to suit him, as he went 13 innings and gave up one run while striking out 17 in those three appearances.
He said that he treated those piggyback outings as starts, so it's possible that the transition back to actually pitching in the first inning will be seamless. Even if it's not, the TinCaps have a rested bullpen because of Margevicius' brilliance in Game 1.
The Hot Rods will counter with right-hander Tobias Myers to start the game. Bowling Green came into this series with the second-best team ERA in the league at 3.16, but, like Monday's starter Resly Linares, Myers has not been one of the team's stable of dominant pitchers, despite possessing a world of talent.
Myers is a 6-foot 19-year-old with a fastball that already hits 97 mph and a curveball and changeup that both "flash plus", according to Fangraphs, which ranked him No. 14 among Tampa Bay prospects this season. The young Myers is tied for the league lead in wins with eight, but his ERA is a mediocre 4.63. His problem this season has been too many walks; he's given out nearly five free passes per nine innings, although he's been better recently. He gave up one run in six innings in his last outing, which was before the break.
The TinCaps' offense mostly took advantage of Bowling Green errors to score Monday, plating five unearned runs. It's unlikely the Hot Rods repeat such a sequence of miscues, so Fort Wayne will have to string together some hits tonight. Against a pitcher with good stuff who has had control issues like Myers, it's probably best to hit the first fastball that catches too much of the plate.