The TinCaps won their third straight game, striking early and adding some insurance runs late on the way to a 6-1 victory over the visiting South Bend Cubs at Parkview Field this afternoon. The teams split the six-game series after South Bend won the first three and Fort Wayne earned a season-series triumph over the Cubs, 10 games to 8.
How it Happened
With former TinCap Anderson Espinoza on the mound for South Bend, the TinCaps got the bats going right away. Chris Givin led off the bottom of the first with a seeing-eye single that eluded the first baseman and second baseman by inches, putting Espinoza in the stretch immediately.
Pitching with a runner on seemed to make Espinoza lose his command a little bit and he walked two of the next three batters to load the bases with one out. He was obviously frustrated with himself as he tried to find his release point. The frustration grew when TinCaps shortstop Justin Lopez took a good pitch, a breaking ball down and away with two strikes and poked it the opposite way. The ball had some authority behind it and it carried over left-fielder Yonathan Perlaza's head for a double, clearing the bases. Tirso Ornelas scored from first, sliding in just ahead of a tag at the plate to put Fort Wayne in front 3-0.
Espinoza struck out Tyler Malone, but Luis Almanzar followed with a sharp single to center field, bringing Lopez home from second and making it a four-run first inning. That was all for Espinoza, who survived only 2/3 of an inning, throwing 32 pitches and giving up three hits.
That was all the offense Fort Wayne would need. The TinCaps got yet another excellent starting pitching performance, this time from big right-hander Connor Lehmann. The 6-foot-7 Lehmann gave up a single to start the game, but quickly settled in, striking out the next two and retiring eight hitters in a row before another runner reached base. Lehmann mixed his 89-91 mph fastball with a sharp-breaking curveball and that was enough to keep the Cubs off-balance all afternoon.
The TinCaps really broke the game open in the fourth. With one out, Ethan Skender picked up his second hit of the day, a soft single that he dumped into right field. Adam Kerner followed with a ball deep into the gap in left-center that center-fielder Edmond Americaan saw tick off his glove after a long chasedown. Kerner ended up with an RBI double as Skender scored from first and then Kerner came around to score when Givin laced a hit to center. Givin hustled out of the box and turned what seemed to be a relatively routine RBI single into a double that put Fort Wayne in front 6-0.
After that, there was not much doubt as to how the game would finish. The Cubs put a runner in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and ninth, were only able to push across one run as the Fort Wayne bullpen made sure any thoughts of a comeback stayed buried. Felix Minjarez and Austin Smith combined to pitch three scoreless innings in relief and Ramon Perez got a 4-6-3 double play after the first two runners reached in the ninth that limited the damage to a single run.
Player of the Game: Connor Lehmann
Lehmann, who celebrated his 25th birthday today, tossed five scoreless innings, striking out four and giving up only two hits and two walks. He earned the victory to improve to 2-2 and he continued a string of terrific starts for the TinCaps in this series: the Cubs scored just one prior to the fifth inning in the entire six-game series. Lehmann pitched parts of 10 innings in two starts in the series and gave up no runs in nine of those innings.
The TinCaps entered the game in a three-way tie for fourth place with Lansing and West Michigan in the High-A Central East Division, six games out of the final league playoff spot. ... Fort Wayne entered the series against South Bend on a three-game winning streak and ended it on a three-game winning streak. ... TinCaps outfielder Grant Little did not play for the second consecutive day after jamming his finger sliding into third in the first inning Friday. ... After being scratched from the lineup late in the afternoon Saturday, Givin went 2 for 5 with a double, a run scored and an RBI today. He also made a tremendous diving play at second base to rob South Bend's Tyler Durna of a hit in the eighth. He has five hits in his last two games after an 0-for-17 stretch. ... Skender went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. He extended his on-base streak to 15 games, the longest string for a TinCaps player this season. Since July 23, Skender has an OPS greater than 1.000. ... Lopez was 2 for 4 with a double and three RBI. He has doubles in back-to-back games after having no extra-base hits since July 21. ... Espinoza made 12 starts for the TinCaps this season before being traded from the Padres farm system to the Cubs in the deal that brought MLB outfielder Jake Marisnick to San Diego. The 23-year-old right-hander had a 13.50 ERA in two starts against his former team this week.
The TinCaps have Monday off and then travel to LMCU Ballpark to take on the West Michigan Whitecaps for a six-game series starting Tuesday. The Whitecaps and TinCaps entered Sunday with identical 42-47 records. Fort Wayne will return to Parkview Field on Aug. 24 for the penultimate series of the season, against first-place Dayton.