The weekend's heat wave has broken and in its place is beautiful weather for baseball as the TinCaps finish up their homestand with a third and final matchup against the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
With a win tonight, the TinCaps will finish 4-2 in this stretch at Parkview Field and then have a day off before a three-game road series against the Eastern Division-leading Bowling Green Hot Rods. Fort Wayne is still a long shot to earn a playoff berth at this point, but a win tonight would give the team two straight series victories and some momentum as it heads into the final six weeks of the season.
"These guys are competing every single day, getting out there to try to do what they can to win a game," manager Anthony Contreras said after Sunday's 8-7 win over the Kernels. "Every day's going to be different, we just have to be able roll with the punches. Whatever is presented to us, we have to make adjustments, just like they're making adjustments on us.
"So far, 3-2 on this homestand is pretty good, with the way things have been going. We just want to build off this momentum and come back (Monday) ready to go."
The TinCaps won in dramatic fashion Sunday, rallying from four runs down and then scoring in the bottom of the ninth to capture the victory. That could be a springboard to better performances going forward and there seems to be some confidence surrounding this team right now.
That confidence will be high again tonight because it's Joey Cantillo Night at the ballpark. That is, the best pitcher in the Midwest League this season is taking the mound. The 19-year-old left-hander leads the league in ERA at 2.03, a figure that is more than a half-run better than the closest qualified pitcher. He also leads the league in K/BB ratio and is second in strikeouts. He's coming off a start in which he gave up one run in six innings while whiffing eight, putting him over 100 K's for the year. Quite simply, whenever he's on the mound, the TinCaps have a great chance to win. Fort Wayne has fallen behind early two days in a row before coming back late, so a good start from Cantillo tonight would go a long way.
The Kernels will counter with 24-year-old right-hander Tyler Palm, who has been with Cedar Rapids all season except for a two-day stint in Double-A in June. In 16 appearances (10 starts) with the Kernels, he's 2-5 with a 3.82 ERA and fairly average peripheral stats. The main trait that makes Palm stand out is his height: he's 6-foot-9. He came to the Twins organization from independent ball after going undrafted out of Oakland University in 2017. His fastball touches the low-90s and is difficult to hit because it's coming from such an elevated plane. The big righty complements his heater with a changeup and two different types of sliders.
The TinCaps had no trouble putting up runs Sunday, but their offense has been inconsistent recently. They need to start stringing big performances together and they have an opportunity to do that today, especially since they won't be playing on the surface of the sun anymore.