The TinCaps have given the first-place Bowling Green Hot Rods a rude welcome at Parkview Field this weekend. Fort Wayne has played two outstanding all-around games in the first two matchups of this series against the Hot Rods, winning close twice and contributing to a tightening of the Eastern Division race; Bowling Green is now just a game up on South Bend and Great Lakes for the division lead. Sunday's 4-2 TinCaps victory was another well-rounded performance, as Fort Wayne got contributions from all over the roster and scored twice in the eighth inning to pull out the win.
The TinCaps have found a home-field advantage at Parkview Field recently and are now 15-12 at home in the second half, compared to 9-19 in road games. It's disappointing that they haven't been able to take their formula for winning – good starting pitching, timely hitting and dominant bullpen work – on the road, but it's nearly guaranteed that they'll be competitive when they play at Parkview Field. Even a team like the Hot Rods, which had been playing well entering this series, will find tough sledding when they travel to the Summit City.
"I just think, of course being at home is always great," said Michael Curry, who went 2 for 4 and is hitting .290 with Fort Wayne this season. "Playing here at Parkview Field is one of the best, but we're just coming out and taking care of our business, going about our business the right way. Just competing. There's not much ball left in the season and we all just want to finish on a positive note."
The TinCaps once again Sunday had a hero in Ethan Skender, who put his team in front in the fifth inning with a go-ahead single and then added another RBI single in the eighth that provided an insurance run after Agustin Ruiz had ripped what turned out to be the game-winning run-scoring hit to right-center. Skender has been terrific since he arrived in Fort Wayne and from my perspective is one of the best stories in minor-league baseball this season. After driving in four runs in the first two games against Bowling Green, he's now hitting .330 with the TinCaps and is one of Fort Wayne's most dangerous hitters.
"He's an aggressive hitter," manager Anthony Contreras said. "He takes his rips. His story and being off so long from baseball, he's itching at the bit to come up and provide for the organization, to showcase his talents. He's a savvy little hitter and he has pop for being a smaller guy (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) and has a knack for finding the barrel and putting the ball in play. In this game, if you can put the ball in play, good things will happen."
The TinCaps are beyond a longshot to make the playoffs at this point, even if they get red-hot over the next couple of weeks and get some help. They're seven games out of the final playoff spot with 15 games remaining and only three of those games are against South Bend, the team they're chasing. Still, they're back at home and having some fun right now, showing once again how much ability this team has when it puts everything together. It's playing spoiler and if it stays hot and finds a way to take this show on the road, there could be meaningful games yet to be played.
"Of course, come out every day and just work hard and win, winning's always fun," Curry said of the team's goals in the final weeks of the season. "I don't know what our chances are for the playoffs, but try to make it interesting. Just come out and enjoy it, too. Enjoy it, have fun, go out with a bang."