The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, July 17, 2019 6:00 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (7-17) vs. Peoria Chiefs (4-20)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are back in town. You remember them? The Midwest League baseball team that plays in Fort Wayne? It's been a while since they played a game at Parkview Field, but they return tonight, fresh off their 11-day, nine-game road trip to begin a three-game series against the Peoria Chiefs, who occupy last place in the Western Division.

That's the same position the TinCaps find themselves in in the Eastern Division, but they are not nearly as far out of contention as the Chiefs. Fort Wayne still has a path to make a playoff run, but after it went 3-6 on the aforementioned road trip – including six losses in the final seven games – it will need to put together a hot streak sooner rather than later. There might not be a better time to get that streak going than right now, taking on a team that is 1-9 over its previous 10 games.

To try to get that hot streak started, the TinCaps will send All-Star left-hander Ryan Weathers to the mound. After spinning his wheels for nearly two months and pitching no more than three innings per start repeatedly, Weathers has finally begun to get stretched out again over the last few weeks. He will be making his first start at Parkview Field since June 27 and is coming off a road start in which he worked five innings for the first time since April 22. His velocity still isn't back to where it was at the beginning of the season and his strikeout numbers have dropped accordingly, but it's difficult to expect a pitcher barely a year removed from high school to be able to maintain his velocity throughout a full minor-league season. The quality of his off-speed pitches are the key right now and those seem to be in good shape. His command, on the other hand, is a bit more of an issue as he walked three in his last start for the first time all season and also hit a batter.

After an off-day Tuesday, the TinCaps' bullpen is rested and ready, so Weathers can work five-plus innings and then give way to the relief corps, which has been solid lately, although it had a rough day against Clinton in an extra-inning loss Monday. The bullpen also took a hit today when the TinCaps announced that flamethrowing right-hander Carlos Belen had been promoted to Double-A Amarillo. Belen has been terrific over the last two months and richly deserves this promotion, but it leaves a hole in the Fort Wayne bullpen. Stepping in to try to fill that gap is 21-year-old left-hander Cullen Dana, a 30th-round pick in the 2018 draft who was promoted from short-season Tri-City on Tuesday. Dana worked 15 innings at Tri-City this season in his first pro experience and did not give up an earned run, striking out 16 and walking one. 

The Chiefs will send 22-year-old right-hander Kyle Leahy to the mound to face Weathers. Leahy has been very good this season, with his 4-7 record belied by a 2.91 ERA in 13 Midwest League starts. Leahy is coming off one his best starts of the season, in which he tied season-highs in innings (seven) and strikeouts (10).

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