The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, July 21, 2021 11:30 pm

TinCaps beat Dayton, 9-3, behind big offensive night

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps exploded for 15 hits, one short of a season high and erased an early deficit to beat the first-place Dayton Dragons 9-3 at Parkview Field tonight, evening the series at a game apiece.

How it Happened

The game was knotted at 2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Fort Wayne had very nearly plated the go-ahead run in the fifth, when Agustin Ruiz was thrown at the plate trying to score from first on a Jonny Homza double. The TinCaps didn't let their opportunity in the sixth get away, however. With one out, Kelvin Alarcon roped a double to deep center that got over the head of speedy center-fielder Michael Siani for a double. That put a runner in scoring position, but Adam Kerner followed with a strikeout and it seemed as though Dayton would escape again.

Reinaldo Ilarraza wouldn't let that happen. On a 2-2 count, the No. 9 hitter shortened up and lashed a 94 mph fastball at the knees to nearly the same spot as Alarcon. Siani, one of the best defensive center-fielders in High-A Central, nearly ran the ball down, but it barely eluded his glove and Ilarraza had a go-ahead RBI double. From there, the floodgates opened. Chris Givin reached on a near-routine grounder to short that he beat out and then Grant Little launched a ground-rule double to deep left-center, bringing in Ilarraza to make it 4-2. An Agustin Ruiz slow roller to second then plated another run when Dayton's Francisco Urbaez couldn't handle it. Finally, Little came around to score on a wild pitch that pushed the Fort Wayne advantage to four runs. 

The TinCaps weren't done, however. Nearly the same cast of characters got a rally going in the seventh. Alarcon went with a pitch on the outside corner and slapped it down the left-field line, where it rattled around as Alarcon advanced to third with a triple. That left-field line got a workout for the rest of the inning: Kerner grounded one down that line for an RBI double and Little lined a two-bagger down the same line to score another run later in the inning. A Givin sacrifice fly brought in the third run of the inning to increase the TinCaps' advantage to 9-3.

The TinCaps had trailed 2-0 in the early going despite putting runners in scoring position in two of the first three innings. Dayton starting pitcher Lyon Richardson appeared to be cruising in the fourth, having retired six hitters in a row. With one out in that fourth, however, Justin Lopez fisted a soft fly ball to left, breaking his bat in the process. The ball dropped in for a single. The proverbial bloop was then followed by a blast. That came off the bat of first baseman Luis Almanzar, a towering fly to left that was carried on the wind ever so slightly into the bleachers for a game-tying two-run homer. Richardson went to a three-ball count on four straight hitters after the home run, walking two of them, but Givin hit a blistering line drive to center that hung up long enough to be caught for the third out.

The Dragons struck early against TinCaps starter Danny Denz, opening the game with a Francisco Urbaez single and a Miguel Hernandez double to score a run two batters into the game. Dayton added another run in the second on Siani triple and a sacrifice fly, but Denz worked a scoreless third, picking off a runner in the process, and the Fort Wayne bullpen took charge for the rest of the game.

That bullpen pitched very well, working six innings and giving up just one run on four hits. Felix Minjarez pitched two scoreless frames and lefty Fred Schlichtholz followed with a scoreless sixth before giving up a run in the seventh. Right-hander Austin Smith continued his string of excellent appearances, tossing a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Smith has thrown 9 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over his last seven appearances, giving up only two hits in that span and striking out 12. 

Michell Miliano finished off the excellent relief performance, pitching a perfect ninth to finish off the victory.

Player of the Game: Kelvin Alarcon

Alarcon fell a home run short of the cycle, going 3 for 4 with a triple, double, walk and two runs scored. It was his first multi-hit game since May 30 and his first three-hit performance since July 27, 2019, when he was with short-season Tri-City. He came into the game batting .180.

Extra Innings

The TinCaps entered the game in last place in the High-A Central East Division, 7 1/2 games behind the Dragons for the final HAC playoff spot. ... Fort Wayne sent all nine hitters to the plate in the decisive seventh. ... The TinCaps came into the game second in the league in doubles with 123 and had a season-high seven two-baggers in the game, pushing them past Quad Cities for the league lead. ... Little doubled twice. He has eight extra-base hits this season, five of them in the last two weeks. ... Homza was 2 for 4 with a walk and a double. ... Justin Lopez was 2 for 4 with a double, walk and a run scored. ... Ilarraza went 2 for 4 with a double, RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. It was his 22nd steal of the year, seventh in the league. ... Almanzar's home run was his second of the season and first since May 8, the opening series of the season. The blast had a super-high launch angle of 36 degrees. ... Schlichtholz was making his first appearance for the TinCaps since Aug. 30, 2018, when they were a Low-A team. ... Dayton second baseman Francisco Urbaez came in batting .335, No. 2 in High-A Central. He went 2 for 4 with a double, walk and run scored, extending his hitting streak to 15 games. ... The three innings that Denz pitched were a season- and professional-high. 

What's Next?

These teams will meet again Thursday for the third matchup in this six-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send right-hander Anderson Espinoza (0-1, 5.87 ERA), their top prospect, to the mound. Espinoza is coming off his best start in quite a while, facing the minimum in three no-hit innings and striking out two. The Dragons will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Eduardo Salazar (2-3, 4.26 ERA), the No. 29 prospect in the Reds farm system, per Fangraphs.

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