The TinCaps are in the midst of one of their best stretches of the season. They're 10-6 in their last 16 and have won four in a row, equaling a season-best. Their most recent victory was a 10-4 shellacking of the visiting Dayton Dragons in the opener of a six-game series Tuesday at Parkview Field. It was one of Fort Wayne's best offensive performances of the season as the TinCaps banged out 10 hits, drew 10 walks and put 22 total runners on base, all between the second and seventh innings.
Fort Wayne can extend its winning streak to a season-high five games with another victory tonight over the Dragons. This will be the team's third attempt to reach that mark this year; its other two four-game streaks ended with a loss in the fifth contest. A win tonight would also draw the TinCaps within two games of .500 for the first time since June 24, when they were 21-23.
With all of that on the line, the TinCaps have one of the hottest pitchers in the league on the mound. Left-hander Danny Denz saw an 18-inning scoreless streak end in his previous start, but he has still given up only two earned runs in his last 23 innings of work and his ERA in eight starts with the TinCaps sits at 1.82, with opponents hitting only .206 against him. He hasn't lived on strikeouts and his walk numbers are fairly pedestrian, but he has induced a ton of soft contact and he's been super-reliable, pitching at least four innings in each of his previous five starts. Denz gave up two runs on seven hits in five innings in his most recent appearance against West Michigan last week, the most hits he's surrendered in a start since being promoted to High-A in mid-July. He'll try to bounce back from that "down" start (by the lofty standards the southpaw has set recently) tonight, against a team that hit him hard early in his Fort Wayne tenure. On July 21, his third start with the TinCaps, Denz gave up two runs in three innings against the Dragons, surrendering five hits and walking two with only one strikeout. He's been outstanding since then and he'll have a chance to show Dayton a different pitcher when he takes the mound tonight.
The Dragons will counter Denz with 21-year-old right-hander Lyon Richardson, the No. 5 prospect in the Reds organization, per Fangraphs. Richardson, a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, has already faced the TinCaps twice this year and dominated them once. In his first start against Fort Wayne, on June 19, Richardson pitched a seven-inning complete game, giving up one run and striking out 10, easily his best overall start of the season. The TinCaps were not nearly as fooled the second time out – he faced Denz on July 21 – and totaled four hits (including a home run), three walks and two runs in four innings against the 6-foot-2 Richardson. Fort Wayne went on to win the latter game 9-3. Overall, Richardson's performance this season has been much closer to that of the second game; he is 2-5 with a 5.16 ERA and more than 4 1/2 walks per nine innings. His strikeout numbers are good, but hitters are batting a semi-respectable .248 against him. Richardson has touched 95 mph with his fastball in the past and it will be interesting to see if he's able to throw that hard this late in the season or whether he's worn down slightly.
The TinCaps lineup that will face Richardson is full hitters that had good nights Tuesday – because everyone had a good night Tuesday: all nine Fort Wayne hitters reached base at least twice. One of the most dangerous of that group is Yorman Rodriguez, who is hitting third and playing first tonight. He is the owner of a seven-game hitting streak and in the series-opener went 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBI. The only outs he made were loud line drives that were stymied by outstanding defensive plays from the Dragons. Rodriguez has been terrific since coming down from a powerful stint in Triple-A El Paso and he has helped replace some of the pop that left the lineup when Agustin Ruiz was promoted to Double-A San Antonio.