The TinCaps could not catch a break Saturday night, suffering from a fly ball lost in the lights, a runner thrown out stealing in a key moment, a potential run-scoring infield hit getting thrown out by a quarter-step and a potential go-ahead three-run homer twisting foul. It was a difficult way for a three-game winning streak to end as Fort Wayne ended up on the wrong side of a 4-3 final against the Dayton Dragons, dropping it back to fifth place in the High-A Central East Division.
Despite the loss, the TinCaps can still win the series with a victory in the finale this afternoon. That would be a significant triumph because Fort Wayne has not won a home series since the opening week of the season, May 4-9, against West Michigan. It would be nice for the TinCaps to head out on a 12-game road trip with some momentum, which they would have after two series victories in a row.
Getting that fourth victory in the series won't be easy, however. The Dragons are sending 23-year-old right-hander Carson Spiers to the mound and he dominated the TinCaps in the series-opener Tuesday. Spiers went five shutout innings in that start, striking out seven and giving up only two hits, both singles, and no walks. He retired the final 10 hitters he faced, touching 95 mph with his fastball and keeping Fort Wayne off balance with an 84 mph slider. It was a good bounce-back start for Spiers, who had given up a combined four home runs in eight innings in his previous two outings. The TinCaps are not a home-run hitting team, but Agustin Ruiz, getting the start in center field this afternoon, has two homers in the series and 12 this season.
The TinCaps will counter Spiers with 20-year-old right-hander Carlos Guarate, the youngest pitcher in High-A Central. This will be a replay of Tuesday's matchup, in which Guarate gave up two runs on four hits in five innings in his first start in High-A Central, taking a tough-luck loss in the process. Guarate, the No. 17 prospect in the San Diego farm system, pitched well in his opening start at this level and both of the runs scored by inches: a solo home run that hit the exact top of the wall and caromed over and an RBI double on which left-fielder Tirso Ornelas very nearly made a sliding catch, only for the ball to slip under his glove. Guarate was efficient, throwing only 64 pitches in his five innings (45 strikes) and admitted to being somewhat tired after a long trip from Lake Elsinore to Fort Wayne that saw his flight delayed in Dallas. He could go deeper into the game this afternoon if he's rolling.
The Fort Wayne lineup will feature a couple of new faces in third baseman Zack Mathis and left-fielder Tyler Malone. Mathis will be playing in his first High-A game after getting on base at a .333 clip in 34 games at Low-A Lake Elsinore. Malone, meanwhile, was brought to Fort Wayne after spending all of 2019 at rookie ball, where he had a .398 OBP and walked in 18% of his plate appearances. He was sent here to be the team's third catcher, but after outfielder Jawuan Harris was released Saturday, the TinCaps are short an outfielder, so Malone will get the start there as Grant Little gets a day off. Fort Wayne could be sent another outfielder from Low-A Lake Elsinore in the coming days.
The TinCaps have drawn 17 walks in the last two games, so Malone's patient approach would fit right in.