The TinCaps' losing streak reached a season-high six games tonight as they fell 12-3 in the opener of a six-game series against Lake County at Parkview Field. Fort Wayne is a season-worst eight games below .500.
How it Happened
The game began poorly and got worse for the TinCaps. The Captains got going immediately, with left fielder Will Brennan lacing a line drive into the right-center gap for a leadoff double in the top of the first. A single put two on and by the end of the inning, two runs had scored against Fort Wayne starter Moises Lugo, putting Lake County in front early.
Fort Wayne bounced back in the bottom of the inning in the way it has so often in recent weeks: with patience at the plate and a dash of Jonny Homza. Homza matched Brennan, leading off the inning with a ringing double that one-hopped the wall. Two of the next three batters walked, including a bases-loaded free pass to Tirso Ornelas that forced in Homza from third and left the bases loaded still with nobody out. In between the bases on balls, Agustin Ruiz bounced softly to third, but the ball was bobbled by Aaron Bracho and everyone was safe, filling the bases. It was one of two gifts the Captains gave Fort Wayne in the inning: after Ornelas walked, Kelvin Alarcon grounded into what should have been a double play, but shortstop Jose Tena flat out dropped the flip and everyone was safe, bringing in the tying run.
The Captains were in a giving mood most of the night, committing four errors. Fort Wayne could not take advantage of the miscues, however. In the first inning, Luis Almanzar followed the huge break by actually grounding into a double play to end the inning. The TinCaps pushed across two runs in the first, but it probably should have been several more and Lake County made them pay for the missed opportunity.
That process started in the second inning. Lugo walked Aaron Bracho to open the inning and designated hitter Victor Nova followed with a titanic home run to right field that put Lake County on top for good at 4-2. Agustin Ruiz could only watch the ball sail over his head, taking only one step backward before stopping in place. He had déjà vu in the seventh, when Nova launched a second two-run shot to the lawn seats in right field that put an exclamation point on the Lake County romp.
The biggest problem for the TinCaps coming out of this game will likely be Lugo, who struggled for the second consecutive start. The big right-hander went a season-low three innings and gave up season-highs in runs (five) and hits (six). For the second straight start, his stuff was a level below what it had been in early- and mid-June, when he was one of the hottest pitchers in the league. His fastball topped out at 93 mph (compared to 95-96 mph earlier in the year) and he struck out a season-low two hitters. One start could be considered an anomaly, but the same issues have popped up twice in a row.
The Fort Wayne bullpen also struggled again. After letting leads get away in the sixth inning or later in four straight games to end the Great Lakes series last week, the relievers could not do so tonight because the TinCaps trailed 5-2 when the bullpen took over. Still, Ramon Perez surrendered three runs in two innings, Felix Minjarez surrendered a gopher ball to Nova and Mason Feole gave up another long ball to Brayan Rocchio. Perez and Minjarez each had stretches of very good work in mid-June and have struggled significantly since then, giving the TinCaps fewer reliable arms.
Fort Wayne's offensive output after the first inning was mostly erased with double plays. The twin killing from Almanzar in the first (and the near double play from Alarcon just before) were a harbinger of what the rest of the night would bring. A rally in the sixth was snuffed out when Reinaldo Ilarraza grounded into a double play in the sixth and Agustin Ruiz grounded into another with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh.
Player of the Game: Victor Nova
Nova 4 for 5 with two home runs and five RBI. He doubled his home run total for the season after coming into the game with two all season. He had never had more than two homers in a season before hitting two in the game tonight. It was his first career multi-homer contest.
The TinCaps are in the midst of a 12-game homestand, equaling the longest in Fort Wayne franchise history. ... Fort Wayne entered the game in last place in the High-A Central East Division, seven games out of first. ... In his High-A debut, TinCaps third baseman Chris Givin went 0 for 3 with two walks. Givin was demoted from San Antonio prior to the game, replacing the promoted Kelvin Melean on the roster. Melean batted .375 with a 1.042 OPS in his final 13 games with Fort Wayne. ... Homza came into the game eighth in High-A Central in OPS at .911. He went 2 for 5 with a double and has reached base 13 times in the last four games. ... Lake County came into the game last in the league in runs scored. ... Lugo came into the game leading High-A Central in opponent batting average at .177 and seventh in ERA at 3.40. After pitching six consecutive no-hit innings during one stretch in late June, he has surrendered 10 hits in his last six innings. ... The Fort Wayne bullpen gave up seven runs on nine hits in six innings. ... Brennan went 4 for 6 with a double, three runs scored and two stolen bases. ... Fort Wayne walked eight times. The TinCaps have averaged 6.1 walks in the last 13 games. ... The TinCaps went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position. ... Prior to the game, the TinCaps announced that infielder Ethan Skender had been placed on the Injured List. Skender has not played since Thursday. He is getting on base at a .331 clip with one home run and 19 runs scored.
These teams will meet again Wednesday for the second matchup in this six-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send left-hander Erik Sabrowski (1-0, 0.90 ERA) to the mound. Sabrowski will be making his first pro start after four appearances as a reliever. He will be replacing Anderson Espinoza in the rotation this week. The Captains will counter with 22-year-old right-hander Xzavion Curry (4-0, 1.77 ERA/1-0, 2.66 ERA at High-A). Curry pitched five shutout innings and gave up just two hits against Fort Wayne on June 9.