The TinCaps have struggled on this homestand to drive in runners. Jack Suwinski put an end to those problems with one swing Monday night.
The 20-year-old hit with a runner on in the third inning at Parkview Field and dropped his barrel on a hanging first-pitch changeup, launching it to right field for a two-run homer that paced the TinCaps to a 3-2 victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps in front of an announced crowd of 4,655.
The home run was Suwinski’s eighth of the season and third since Aug. 2. He has been one of the Midwest League’s hottest hitters in August, hitting safely in 11 of 12 games and batting .375 overall with a .625 slugging percentage.
“I’m just staying consistent with my approach and routine,” Suwinski said. “I know what I need to work on and now I know what I need to do to get ready for the game. (The coaches and I) are watching video on myself and seeing what’s going on and just working from there.
“It’s just being able to stay aggressive in any at-bat, any count, any day. Just not getting too relaxed up there, always looking for your pitch and assuming it’s going to be there.”
Suwinski was supposed to have the night off, but starting left-fielder Olivier Basabe dislocated his finger sliding head-first into third base in the first inning, and Suwinski replaced him.
“It’s almost the same mindset as if you were in there,” Suwinski said of his pre-game preparation before an off day. “You’re doing the same stuff, you’re taking it serious, you’re going through your routines and drills and when it comes down to game time, ... we’re ready in case something like that happens.
“I was just ready when I was called on.”
TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras said trainers were able to pop Basabe’s dislocated finger back in place and the left-fielder was able to bend it afterward.
He was scheduled to see a doctor today, but Contreras doesn’t think he’ll miss significant time.
Suwinski’s home run gave the TinCaps (55-63, 23-26 second half) an early 3-0 lead. Starting pitcher Mason Thompson held the advantage, retiring 10 hitters in a row between the first and fourth innings. Thompson was making his first start since July 18 because of a triceps strain and threw just 54 pitches, but he tossed four shutout innings and just one runner reached base against him.
“I felt good, felt comfortable out there,” Thompson said. “Even though I’ve had kind of a longer layoff, I felt like my pitches were working well, just excited to be back out there.
“The defense played well behind me, they were a big part of that tonight. I was able to get in a groove out there and set these guys down. I owe a lot to the defense tonight.”
The Whitecaps (60-59, 24-25) scored a run in the sixth and another in the seventh to make it 3-2 and put runners on first and third with two outs in the ninth.
Catcher Chris Proctor hit a sharp ground ball to the right side that seemed ticketed for right field and a game-tying single, but first baseman Nick Feight made a diving stop and flipped to reliever Evan Miller for the final out.
vs. West Michigan
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: MacKenzie Gore (TinCaps) vs. Elvin Rodriguez (Whitecaps)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM