Almost as soon as the TinCaps and Cedar Rapids Kernels walked off the field after their game tonight, the sky above Parkview Field opened up, unleashing a torrential downpour for about 15 minutes.
That weather matched Fort Wayne's mood after letting a potential game-tying or -winning rally slip away in the ninth inning (with some help from an overly generous umpire).
The TinCaps entered the ninth trailing by two and loaded the bases with nobody out, but Ethan Skender, Agustin Ruiz and Blake Hunt all struck out and Fort Wayne fell 6-4 on another brutally warm night at Parkview Field.
Skender's strikeout should not have been. He worked the count full and took a pitch that was not really even borderline; it was low, clearly. He was unhappy with the call and manager Anthony Contreras, when asked about it only said:
"I thought it was low, as well."
That was the tipping point in the game. If it's called a ball, Skender walks, a run comes in and the TinCaps might come back to tie the game. It was extremely disappointing after Fort Wayne worked three straight good at-bats to open the inning that it was not able to push across a couple of runs and at least send the game into extra innings. Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a consistent problem for this team, especially in the second half, and that was the case again tonight, as the TinCaps went 1 for 6 with RISP in the final four innings and 1 for 7 with runners on base in the same span.
Still, as tough as Skender's strikeout was, Ruiz and Hunt each had opportunities to come up big and both chased pitches out of the strike zone for whiffs. Hunt's at-bat was especially difficult because he laid off two very good sliders with two strikes, but also cut and missed on two fastballs over his head. He's been one of the team's hottest hitters and he's the guy you'd want at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, but he just didn't get it done tonight.
The good news is the TinCaps won't have much time to dwell on this loss. They have another game at 1 p.m. on Sunday, so they'll have to be up early and ready to go.
"Short sleep and we're playing tomorrow," Skender said. "We're excited to get back out there. ... It's good to have a quick turnaround tomorrow. That's the thing about baseball, it's one day at a time and go get a win tomorrow."
Despite the quick turnaround, it's tough not to be disappointed in the last two games for the TinCaps. They had such a thrilling comeback Thursday and it was possible that they would use that game as a springboard to get back into contention in the Eastern Division. Instead, they've dropped the next two and let that opportunity to start a hot streak slip away. Hope for the playoffs is getting slimmer and slimmer and trading wins and losses at home – as they've done on this homestand – won't get it done. The game Sunday is an opportunity that Fort Wayne can't afford to miss.