The TinCaps are playing some of their best baseball of the season in the closing days of the first half, causing some chaos in the Midwest League Eastern Division standings in the process.
Fort Wayne returned home after sweeping Bowling Green and kept on rolling, beating the second-place Lake County Captains 3-2 behind home runs from Agustin Ruiz and Michael Curry and six combined innings from three relief pitchers in front of a season-high announced crowd of 8,007 on Friday at Parkview Field.
The win was the TinCaps' fourth in a row and kept Lake County from clinching the final first-half playoff spot in the East on Friday evening. Fort Wayne is in position to play the spoiler with two more matchups against the Captains (39-29) this weekend to close out the first half.
“Absolutely (we're thinking about it),” Curry said of the standings. “(Lake County) has champagne ready, they're one win away from clinching it. We announced it in the clubhouse like, 'It's not happening this series.' ”
The TinCaps (32-34) took the lead in the first inning and never relinquished it. With a runner on first and two outs, Agustin Ruiz turned on a changeup and launched it on a line to right field for a monster home run. The ball traveled 424 feet, clearing the lawn seats and landing on the concourse for a 2-0 TinCaps lead.
It was Ruiz's second home run of the season, both of which have come in the last week.
Curry added another long ball in the fifth on an 0-1 pitch. The left-fielder didn't start the game, but he came in after Jawuan Harris ran into the wall and exited with a headache. Curry said he wasn't happy with his performance on the team's recent road trip, swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone.
“Today in (batting practice), I really worked on trusting my hands and pitch selection,” the 21-year-old said. “So I just really focused (in the game) on what I worked on, just staying back on the ball, recognizing the pitch first, then swinging.
“I was ready for the heater, and (pitcher Luis Oviedo) threw me a fastball and I didn't miss it.”
Curry's solo homer was his third of the season and traveled 381 feet to straightaway left field to put Fort Wayne up 3-1. That was the score in the ninth inning when Lake County's Will Benson yanked a towering home run, his league-leading 17th of the year, to right off of Austin Smith to cut the lead to 3-2.
Mitch Reeves followed Benson's blast with a single to put the tying run on base, but Justin Lopez and Xavier Edwards turned a pretty double play up the middle to nail down the win and Smith's fourth save.
Smith, Adrian Martinez and Jose Quezada each worked two innings out of the bullpen, and Quezada earned the victory with two scoreless to improve to 5-1.
Those three pitched in relief of starter Ryan Weathers, who worked three innings. He gave up one unearned run and stuck out four. Weathers is still working his way back from a tired arm and his velocity isn't 100% yet, but his off-speed pitches were effective.
“(Weathers) had a little bit more aggression coming out of the dugout so that was a good sign for us,” manager Anthony Contreras said. “The velocity is starting to tick back up there. ... It was good for us to see what we saw today.”
TinCaps vs. Lake County
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Efrain Contreras (TinCaps) vs. Cody Morris (Captains)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM