The TinCaps dropped the opener of their final home series of the season, losing to visiting Lansing 7-3 at Parkview Field in the first game of a doubleheader.
How it Happened
The Lugnuts opened the game swinging against TinCaps right-hander Connor Lehmann, who struggled for the third outing in a row (though one of those was a one-inning appearance cut short by rain). Lehmann walked Shane Selman to start the game and Cobie Vance followed with a single back through the middle. William Simoneit made it three straight hitters on base to start the evening when he poked a double off the wall in right field, brining Selman in with the game's first run.
The situation went from bad to worse from Fort Wayne when Lawrence Butler grounded slowly between the mound and first base. Lehmann raced over and picked up the bouncing ball, but it slipped out of his hand as he tried to make the routine flip to first, resulting in an error and leaving everyone safe, including Vance crossing the plate for the inning's second run. A ground ball and an RBI single from Patrick McColl made it 4-0 by the time the dust settled in the first inning, during which Lehmann threw more than 30 pitches.
Despite trailing by four before they ever came to bat, the TinCaps responded. Robert Hassell III led off the bottom of the inning with a line drive up the middle for a base hit and Lansing starter Osvaldo Berrios followed by hitting Euribiel Angeles in the ribs with a fastball. Tirso Ornelas kept the rally going with a sharp single to right-center, bringing Hassell in from second to make it 4-1. Angeles got a good jump on the ball and reached third on a bang-bang play at the base, also giving Ornelas a chance to take second base. That became important when the next two Fort Wayne hitters, Brandon Valenzuela and Justin Lopez hit nearly identical fly balls to deep right that both turned into sacrifice flies, bringing the TinCaps within 4-3 after an inning.
But Lehmann never really settled in and the Lugnuts took advantage. After the right-hander worked around a walk in the second and a double in the third, the first three Lansing batters of the fourth ripped sharp singles, bringing in an a run to give the visitors some breathing room. After a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third, Simoneit smoked another hit back through the middle, bringing in two more runs and chasing Lehmann from the game. The 6-foot-7 right-hander had done a good job in early August with a fastball in the low-90s and a solid curveball, but the curveball wasn't really fooling anyone today and the fastball was only in the high-80s.
Meanwhile, the Fort Wayne offense was unable to keep the heat on Berrios. Luis Almanzar kept the offense rolling with a single to start the second inning, but Chris Givin grounded into a double play on the very next pitch, kicking off a string of nine straight TinCaps retired for the Lansing pitcher.
One of the most important plays of the game came in the fifth. The TinCaps finally broke through again against Berrios when Givin and Ripken Reyes lined soft singles to similar spots in center field to put two on with Hassell coming up. The 2020 No. 8 overall pick reached down and poked a flare into left-center and it looked for a long time like it would fall in for a run-scoring, rally-extending hit, but instead Butler tracked it down, making a catch at waist-height on a dead sprint to rob the highly-touted prospect. Angeles followed with a hot shot to third right at Brett Harris for the third out.
The TinCaps had another opportunity to cut into the lead in the sixth, when Ornelas singled and Valenzuela walked to put two on with none out. But Butler robbed them again, sliding to grab a sinking line drive off the bat of left-fielder Angel Solarte in shallow center. After putting the first two on, three straight Fort Wayne hitters were retired, leaving the TinCaps with too much of an uphill battle in the final frame.
Player of the Game: William Simoneit
The Lansing catcher went 2 for 4 with a double, a single, a run scored, three RBI and a stolen base. The 24-year-old backstop had been 1 for 12 in his previous four games.
These teams entered the game with identical 51-57 records, tied for fifth in the six-team High-A Central East Division. The matchup was the first game of a doubleheader, necessitated because Tuesday's matchup was rained out. ... Per MiLB rules on doubleheaders, the game was seven innings. ... This is the third doubleheader the Lugnuts have played in the last seven days. ... Solarte, the No. 39 prospect in the Padres farm system, according to Fangraphs, was making his High-A debut after getting called up from Low-A Lake Elsinore, where he hit .306, last week. He went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. ... Berrios threw 25 pitches in the first inning and three in the second. He got the three outs of the second inning on two pitches after Luis Almanzar led off the frame with a single. Almanzar was the first of four straight hitters that put the ball in play on the first pitch of their plate appearance. ... TinCaps reliever Edwuin Bencomo retired the first seven hitters he faced after coming on in place of Lehmann. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out the side in the sixth. ... Ornelas went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored. He is working on an eight-game hitting streak and he has three consecutive multi-hit games, with seven hits across those three contests.
These teams will meet again at about 7:55 p.m. in the second matchup of the day and of this six-game series at Parkview Field. The TinCaps will send right-hander Felix Minjarez (3-4, 4.64 ERA) to the mound to make his second start of the season. The first came Aug. 27 against Dayton, also as part of a doubleheader. It's likely that Minjarez will be followed by piggyback starter Gabe Morales, who struck out eight in 3 1/3 innings in a piggyback start behind Gabe Mosser on Thursday.
The Lugnuts will counter that duo with 23-year-old lefty Jack Owen (0-1, 6.10 ERA), making his fourth pro appearance after pitching for Auburn in the spring. He has 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings as a professional.