How it Happened
For the third straight game in this series against Cedar Rapids, the TinCaps fell behind early. This time, the Kernels took the early lead in the second inning, when shortstop Wander Javier, who made the game-losing error in Sunday's Fort Wayne win, ripped a line drive over the left-field wall for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead. The ball left his bat at a blistering 105 mph and traveled 353 feet for Javier's fifth home run of the year. He came in hitting .156 this season.
This time, however, the lead did not last long. In the bottom of the second, Michael Curry led off with a single and Luke Becker reached when first baseman Albee Weiss booted a ground ball. Tyler Benson hit next and bounced what looked like a double play ball to third base. Instead, however, the second baseman and the shortstop had a miscommunication over who was covering the bag and the (good) throw sailed into right field as both fielders watched and Curry raced around to tie the game. Tucupita Marcano then began a big night for him when he yanked a double into the right-field corner that plated Becker and made it 2-1.
The TinCaps didn't stop there and loaded the bases for the powerful Dwanya Williams-Sutton. Instead of getting a big hit, Williams-Sutton got plunked with a curveball, driving in a run to make it a two-run advantage. Thus began one of the strangest games I've ever seen from a single hitter. Williams-Sutton was hit by a pitch in four straight at-bats, taking his base in the second, fourth and fifth and seventh. He drove in two runs with HBPs after coming in already having been hit 15 times this season. Maybe he has a bulls-eye painted on his back.
The Kernels got a run back in the third despite a spectacular defensive play from Marcano and catcher Blake Hunt. With a runner on second, Yeltsin Encarnacion hit a grounder up the middle. Marcano, playing second, ranged over to the shortstop side of the bag and made a terrific diving stop, keeping the ball close to the infield. The runner tried to score anyway and Marcano leaped to his feet, firing the ball home. The throw was slightly up the first-base line, but Hunt caught it on one hop and dove full-out to make the tag. It looked for all the world like the runner was out, but the umpire called him safe, making it 3-2 and depriving the TinCaps of what would have been a likely Top 10 play on SportsCenter.
That wasn't nearly enough to stop the Fort Wayne offense, however. The Cedar Rapids pitching struggled to hit the strike zone all night and the Tincaps took full advantage, drawing walk after walk (and in Williams-Sutton's case, getting hit by pitches). Curry had an RBI single in the third and Marcano walked with the bases loaded later in the inning to make it a three-run lead. In the fifth, Fort Wayne piled on, walking three times and getting another RBI HBP from Williams-Sutton in a three-run rally to increase the advantage to 8-2. Marcano added an RBI single in the inning, as well.
That was more than enough for Cantillo, who was his usual masterful self outside of the home run. He mixed in fastballs, changeups and a tight, Rich Hill-like curveballs. He whiffed the side in the second and struck out four straight between the fifth and sixth. He worked efficiently and quickly and seemed completely in command as he plowed through the Cedar Rapids lineup. He hit 94 mph, which is the fastest I've seen him throw this season.
Player of the Game: Dwanya Williams-Sutton
This is less of a "MVP" award for the game than it is a recognition that Williams-Sutton did something I've never seen before. He went 0 for 1 with four HBPs and a walk and moved into the league lead in hit-by-pitches with 19, despite having about 40 fewer plate appearances than the two players in second place with 17. The Fort Wayne franchise record of 23 is well within reach at this point. He has been hit five times in the last two games.
Facts and Figures
The TinCaps have won two series in a row for the first time in the second half. They won their final two series before the All-Star Break, but hadn't done so since ... Cantillo came in leading the league in ERA and his mark now sits at 2.09 after he gave up two runs on five hits while striking out a career-high 10 (the second time he's season he's reached that mark) and walking one. His strikeouts bumped him into the league lead in that category, as well, with 115. ... This was the first time he'd pitched at home since June 26 after three straight road starts.... Jawuan Harris went 2 for 5 with a walk and an RBI, extending his season-long hitting streak to seven games. He added a stolen base, running his total to 22 and moving him into third in the Midwest League. ... Marcano went 3 for 5 with a double, four RBI, a run scored and a walk. ... Curry had three hits and scored three and Benson had three singles and two runs scored. Benson has back-to-back three-hit games. Becker walked three times and Hunt had two hits, including a double, and a walk. ... The TinCaps walked eight times in the game. ... Fort Wayne left 15 runners on base.
The TinCaps have Tuesday off before starting a three-game road series against Eastern Division-leading Bowling Green on Wednesday. All three games against the Hot Rods will start at 7:35 p.m. and the TinCaps' three starters on the mound will be Ryan Weathers (3-4, 3.36 ERA), Sam Keating (3-6, 6.53) and Omar Cruz (1-1, 4.74).