In their first 10 games against the Lake County Captains this season, the TinCaps won just twice. Over two games this weekend, they doubled that total behind an offense that is performing as well as it has all season.
The TinCaps took the last two matchups in the six-game series against the Captains at Parkview Field, culminating with a 7-6 victory Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 3,132 that featured a season-high 16 hits for Fort Wayne and another solid performance from the suddenly surging bullpen.
The TinCaps (16-19) combined for 29 hits in their pair of weekend victories, which earned them a split of the six-game series. It was the team's fourth straight series split.
“I'm proud of the guys for coming out and finishing strong,” manager Anthony Contreras said. “We always say it's not how you start, it's how you finish, and these guys are putting together good (at-bats), our bullpen is starting to step up and shut down some innings, and this is the second game in a row now that everyone in the lineup is contributing in some way.”
The game was tied at in the bottom of the eighth when Fort Wayne's Yorman Rodriguez bounced a single up the middle through a drawn-in infield to score Reinaldo Ilarraza from third with the go-ahead run.
TinCaps closer Carter Loewen earned his league-leading sixth save with a scoreless ninth. Catcher Jonny Homza, who went 2 for 4 with a walk, threw out Quentin Holmes stealing second after Holmes had led off with a single, one of two runners Homza cut down in the game.
The TinCaps jumped in front early with a six-run uprising in the second inning, including four straight RBI hits with two out from Tirso Ornelas, Rodriguez, Seamus Curran and Justin Lopez.
At the end of the inning, the TinCaps had scored 21 runs in their previous 14 innings.
“Our hitting coach Jonny Mathews was just talking to us about getting some runs early, and we did that,” said Ethan Skender, who led off the inning with a single and went 3 for 4 in the game. “It puts pressure on the other team and is a great start to the day. ... Hits were falling (in the second) and it was a lot of fun. It was awesome.”
Starting pitcher Anderson Espinoza served up an RBI triple and two-run homer in the third that brought Lake County (18-18) within 6-4, and the Captains scored again in the fifth before finally tying the game in the eighth, setting up Rodriguez's heroics.
The Fort Wayne bullpen gave up two runs in six innings while striking out 10 and has a 1.54 ERA in its last five games.
The victory completed a 12-game homestand, the longest in franchise history, during which Fort Wayne went 6-6. Skender's family, including his grandparents, came into town during the homestand.
“We like it a lot, it was super nice,” Skender said of playing 12 straight at home. “It was a lot of fun being here for two weeks, especially for me ... it's been really good to see my family and it was a fun two weeks, that's for sure.”
The TinCaps begin a franchise-record 12-game road trip Tuesday with the start of a six-game series against first-place Dayton.