The end of the season is near at Parkview Field. The TinCaps begin their final series of 2019 today when they take on the Lansing Lugnuts. Dark clouds hang over downtown Fort Wayne as I write this and there have been some sprinkles of rain this afternoon, but the forecast is clear for tonight, so it seems like we'll have baseball at Parkview Field.
This game very nearly had significant playoff stakes. The Lugnuts needed to win Friday against West Michigan to keep their postseason hopes alive and they rallied from a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to tie the game and send into extras. In the 10th, however, the Whitecaps pushed across two runs and won 6-5 to eliminate the Lugnuts and any chance for the TinCaps to play spoiler in this series. Instead, these final three games will mostly be important on an individual level, as several young players, especially on Fort Wayne's side, continue to get their feet wet in the Midwest League.
The TinCaps have gotten significantly younger over the last several weeks as some of their best players have been promoted to higher levels and AZL and short-season recruits have replaced them. That will continue today, as Fort Wayne will send 18-year-old right-hander Carlos Guarate to the mound. Guarate is making his Midwest League debut after getting called up from rookie-ball this morning. He is the second 18-year-old pitcher to make his TinCaps debut this week, joining Jesus Gonzalez, who pitched five innings and gave up one run Thursday. Guarate was solid in rookie ball, though his strikeout and walk numbers were fairly pedestrian. The Cojedes, Venezuela native has a 2.22 ERA and a 6-1 record in 11 AZL appearances (nine starts) this season.
Guarate replaces 20-year-old right-hander Edwuin Bencomo on the roster, after Bencomo was called up to High-A Lake Elsinore. He didn't blow hitters away in the Midwest League, but he did have a 3.69 ERA and the Storm need reinforcements as they get set for the playoffs and some of their pitchers (including former TinCap Joey Cantillo) reach innings limits.
The Lugnuts will counter with 22-year-old right-hander Troy Miller, who has made 21 starts for Lansing this season. He's been with the Lugnuts all year, but his numbers are average: 4.62 ERA, more than four walks per nine innings and less than five innings per start. He's had a nice stretch here toward the end of the season with a 1.15 ERA in his last three starts, including six shutout innings against South Bend and five innings of one-run ball against the TinCaps on Aug. 16.
These three games against the Lugnuts don't mean anything in the playoff picture, but they're still important in the development of guys like Guarate, who are getting their first taste of A-ball. If the rain holds off, he has an opportunity tonight to make an impression heading into the offseason.