CJ Abrams went 0 for 4 in his first game with Fort Wayne. His second game, on Wednesday, was much more in line with the player the TinCaps and the Padres expect him to be.
Abrams, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft, went 2 for 3 with a double, stolen base, run scored and a walk and made a couple of nice plays at shortstop to help lead the TinCaps to 3-1 win over the Dayton Dragons in the opener of a three-game series at Parkview Field in front of an announced crowd of 4,401.
The win was the sixth in seven games for the TinCaps (52-61, 19-26) and it guarantees them a winning homestand after they took three of four from the West Michigan Whitecaps.
“It's lit,” Abrams said of the clubhouse atmosphere. “You can hear the music. Everyone's having a good time, working hard, getting wins is always good.”
Abrams got his first Midwest League hit on slow roller to short in the first inning, which he beat out easily. In the third, inning, he showed off all of his considerable offensive skills.
With one out, the 18-year-old infielder turned on a fastball and drove it deep to right-center, where it bounced on the warning track and bounded over the fence for a double.
“It was first pitch, 97 (mph), fastball,” Abrams said. “I was looking for a fastball, inside part of the plate, just put a good swing on it and hit it pretty far.”
On the first pitch of the ensuing at-bat, Abrams took off for third and made it with little trouble, eventually coming around to score the game's first run when Tucupita Marcano singled him home.
“I usually steal when I'm on second,” he said. “I love stealing from second. (Pitcher Jhon De Jesus) was a one-look guy, he gave up one look, I got a jump lead and took third.”
The TinCaps got another run in the fourth when Ethan Skender walked, went to third on Tyler Benson single and scored on a passed ball. The first two runs both scored as a result of excellent TinCaps base running, which was a theme all night. Fort Wayne stole a couple of bases and repeatedly took extra bases on hits.
The TinCaps' pitching staff, led by starter Omar Cruz, made that lead stand up all night. Cruz, who pitched for the first time since July 26 following an injured list stint, went 52/3 innings, using a sharp-breaking curveball paired with solid fastball command to strike out six and give up just one run on three hits. He earned the victory to improve to 2-2.
“Fastball command was OK, I think early he was dotting up,” manager Anthony Contreras said of Cruz. “Obviously the curveball was the big complement to that today, when you can do that, you see that all over the league. Guys that can (throw) that curveball or that changeup whenever they want are going to be pretty successful.”
The TinCaps' bullpen was just as good, throwing 32/3 scoreless innings. Franklin Van Gurp, making his Midwest League debut, Henry Henry and Mason Fox all worked shutout outings and Fox struck out the side in the ninth to seal the victory, ending the game on a particularly devastating curveball for a swinging strikeout.
TinCaps vs. Dayton
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Efrain Contreras (TinCaps) vs. Lyon Richardson (Dragons)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM