The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 24, 2021 5:40 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (46-50) vs. Dayton (50-46)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps have gone 9-6 over their last 15 games. That's not unusual and it's actually been an overall solid stretch of baseball – any time a pro baseball team can win 60% of its games, it will take it – but what is unusual is how Fort Wayne has arrived at that record. For 15 games, the TinCaps have alternated three-game winning streaks with three-game losing streaks. In each of their last two series, against South Bend and West Michigan, they've dropped the first three games before roaring back to win the next three. What makes this stretch even more noteworthy is that the TinCaps have followed up two of their roughest games of the season – getting no-hit against the Cubs and losing to the Whitecaps 18-6 – with three wins in a row.

Fort Wayne enters its six-game series against Dayton, which begins tonight at Parkview Field, on a three-game winning streak. This will be the third straight series that has been the case and in the first two the positive momentum did not carry over. The TinCaps are hoping to finally break that chain and earn a fourth consecutive win tonight, which would equal a season-high. The Dragons are the team directly ahead of Fort Wayne in the High-A Central East Division standings, sitting in third-place, four games clear of fourth-place Fort Wayne. A win would also send the TinCaps to just three games below .500 for the first time since they were 23-26 on June 30.

Fort Wayne has had excellent starting pitching all season, but tonight's starter is coming off one of the worst outings all season by a TinCap. Right-hander Carlos Guarate, the youngest pitcher in the league at 20 years and four months, gave up eight runs on nine hits in two innings of work without a strikeout against West Michigan his last time out. That was the game that Fort Wayne lost 18-6 (it trailed 18-1 at one point) and Guarate is hoping he can bounce back as well as his team did. The 6-foot-2 righty had been generally pretty good with the TinCaps – he was called up in mid-July from Low-A Lake Elsinore – prior to that disastrous outing Wednesday; in his previous start, he'd surrendered two hits in 6 1/3 innings. He hasn't missed many bats since getting to Fort Wayne, however, and opponents are hitting .330 against him. The No. 15 prospect in the San Diego farm system, per Fangraphs, will try to turn that around tonight in his third start in the last 35 days against the Dragons. In the first two, he had a 5.00 ERA and gave up 10 hits in nine innings with four strikeouts and two walks.

The Dragons will counter Guarate with one of the hottest pitchers in the league in 23-year-old Carson Spiers. Spiers had a pair of terrific starts against the TinCaps in a series at Parkview Field in late July, giving up only one earned run on five hits in 10 innings with 15 strikeouts and one walk. He's kept right on rolling since then and in his last six starts, Spiers is 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 40 strikeouts against only 16 hits and eight walks in 30 innings. He'll be making his fourth start against the TinCaps this season and the Dragons have won each of the first three. Spiers touches 94 mph with his fastball and also features a good changeup and breaking ball. He seems to be refining the breaking ball, which he added to his repertoire during the pandemic, as the season goes on, making him much more difficult to hit.

The Fort Wayne lineup that will do battle with Spiers features Grant Little, owner of a seven-game hit streak, in the leadoff spot. Little hit his first pro home run during the series against West Michigan and is getting on base at a .374 clip since coming back from an injury July 7. Jonny Homza, who was the team's hottest hitter for much of the early part of the season, will be in the lineup tonight for the first time at Parkview Field in almost exactly a month. He's working back into form after returning from a two-week absence during the Whitecaps series.

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