Everything just seems to be easier when Joey Cantillo is on the mound.
Cantillo didn't even have his best stuff tonight in the TinCaps' matchup against the Dayton Dragons, but he grinded through six innings, giving up just one run on four hits while striking out six to take the Midwest League lead in whiffs. Thanks to that outing, some timely hitting and a lights-out bullpen, Fort Wayne cruised to a 5-1 win and a series victory against the Dragons. Baseball feels like a simple game when Cantillo is out there dealing. As Dwanya Williams-Sutton said, he might as well have gotten a beach chair out for all the action he gets in the outfield when the 19-year-old left-hander is on the mound.
Cantillo continues to be nearly unarguably the best pitcher in the league. In the pitching triple crown categories of wins, ERA and strikeouts, he now ranks – in order – tied for second, first and first. He's putting together a special season and seems to be having fun doing it. After reaching 94 mph for the the first time in his life in his last start, the velocity was down a notch today as he sat mostly 89-91 mph and touched 93 mph only once that I saw. That's still plenty good enough to get hitters out in this league, especially with his changeup and curveball as good as they've been, but he would say that he can do better. Still, it was a sixth quality start in seven outings and Cantillo led the TinCaps to a win to improve his own record to 8-3.
One last note on Cantillo: if you get a chance, you should watch the hype video the TinCaps posted on Twitter for his start today. It's one of their best pieces of content this season. You can find it here: https://twitter.com/DylanSinn/status/1155837208995217408?s=20.
Outside of Cantillo's start, the rest of the game was pretty straightforward for the TinCaps. They took an early lead, bolstered it with a Williams-Sutton home run and then shut down Dayton in the late innings with some terrific bullpen work. The Fort Wayne bullpen was lights-out this entire series and added a new piece tonight as Moises Lugo made his Midwest League debut after three years in rookie ball and pitched a scoreless ninth. He flashed a nasty curveball and earned his first Single-A strikeout.
The win cemented a solid series for the TinCaps. They gave up 13 runs in the first two innings of the three-game set Saturday, but dominated the rest of the series, outscoring Dayton 19-3 in those final 25 innings. They took 2 of 3 to earn their third straight home series victory and get one step closer to climbing out of the Eastern Division cellar.
Now comes the more difficult part: winning on the road. Even more difficult: winning on the road against the Great Lakes Loons, a team that has had Fort Wayne's number this season. The Loons, the first-half Eastern Division champions, are 12-5 against the TinCaps this year and Fort Wayne is just 20-33 on the road. If the TinCaps are going to have any shot at making a playoff push, they have to find a way to win some of these road games. They get four chances against the Loons this week.
"Great Lakes is a hard team to hit against," Williams-Sutton said. "But we've just gotta keep focused at-bats. We've been scoring runs here, so hopefully it can transfer over on the road and our pitchers can get us out of some jams and our hitters can put some at-bats together and we can win some games there."