The TinCaps won their fourth consecutive game behind an offensive explosion that saw every member of their lineup reach base at least twice. Fort Wayne triumphed 10-4 in the opener of a six-game series against the Dayton Dragons at Parkview Field. The four-game win streak equals a season-best.
How it Happened
The first inning was a sign of things to come for the Fort Wayne offense. The TinCaps went down in order, but Grant Little (line drive to the warning track) and Yorman Rodriguez (line drive stymied by a diving stab at first) hit the ball on the button against Dayton's Carson Spiers.
Spiers, who had been very good against the TinCaps in three previous starts this season, did not fool anyone tonight. He survived the first inning through some batted-ball luck and escaped again in the second inning after Fort Wayne loaded the bases with one out before Adam Kerner grounded into an inning double play.
The TinCaps broke a scoreless tie in the third after putting the first two runners on base when Zack Mathis grounded into a run-scoring double play. Through the first three innings, Fort Wayne had three hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and two more hard-hit balls that had gone for outs, but led only 1-0.
Spiers' good fortune ran out in the fourth, however. He started the inning with back-to-back walks to Tirso Ornelas and Justin Lopez and then Ripken Reyes dropped a gorgeous bunt between the pitcher and third base that went for an easy single to load the bases with nobody out. Kerner hit next and took advantage of a chance to redeem himself after his double play in the second, ripping a double into the left-center gap that drove in two and propelled the TinCaps to a 3-0 lead. It seemed like that was all Fort Wayne would get after Reinaldo Ilarraza and Little failed to advance the runners, but Rodriguez came through with a soft single to shallow center that brought in two more and made it a four-run inning for the TinCaps. Fort Wayne sent 10 hitters to the plate in the inning and four of them walked.
The home team had a five-run lead after four innings, thanks in part to the early offensive flurry, but also because TinCaps starter Carlos Guarate cruised through four frames. Coming off a very difficult start Wednesday against West Michigan, Guarate bounced back with a solid outing against the Dragons. The 20-year-old right-hander, the youngest pitcher in High-A Central, gave up a triple to Michael Siani leading off the game, but worked his way out of that jam – with the help of a strikeout of 2021 No. 17 overall pick Matt McLain – and then faced the minimum nine hitters over the ensuing three innings without giving up a hit. Guarate mixed a fastball that touched 92 mph with a biting slider and a changeup that was very good at times to keep the Dragons off balance.
The young hurler had to sit in the dugout for a long time during Fort Wayne's fourth inning rally, however, and he wasn't the same when the TinCaps took the field again in the fifth. He struck out Mat Nelson to start the inning on a 90 mph heater, but the next four batters hit the ball right on the nose, three of those going for extra bases. A sacrifice fly to deep center followed that flurry and brought in the third run of the inning, slicing Fort Wayne's advantage to 5-3. Guarate got through the fifth, but that was as far as he would go.
The TinCap offense, however, put thoughts of a comeback on hold with another strong inning in the bottom of the fifth, this time with some help from the Dayton defense. After Reyes had walked with one out, Kerner popped up into shallow right-center. The second baseman, right-fielder and center-fielder all converged, but no one took charge. At the last moment, right-fielder Allan Cerda made a desperation lunge for the ball, but it fell just out of his reach. Reyes had alertly been halfway between first and second and raced into second when the ball dropped, beating the throw by a split-second. That became important later when, after Little walked to load the bases, Mathis dumped a single into center, bringing in two more runs to make it 7-3.
The TinCaps weren't done, though and neither was the Dayton defense. Fort Wayne added three runs in the seventh after the Dragons committed back-to-back errors following an Ilarraza bunt single to open the inning. By the time the dust settled, the hosts led 10-3 and the rest of the evening was mostly academic.
Player(s) of the Game: The Fort Wayne Offense
It would be very difficult to choose one star from among an entire lineup that put together one of its best games of the season. The TinCaps totaled 10 hits and 10 walks and also got hit by a pitch twice. Fort Wayne went 5 for 16 with runners in scoring position and loaded the bases in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh.
The TinCaps entered the night in fourth place in the High-A Central East Division. Dayton is in third, four games ahead of Fort Wayne. ... Fort Wayne (47-50) is just three game below .500 for the first time since it was 23-26 on June 30. ... The victory snapped a string in which the TinCaps had alternated strings of three straight wins and three straight losses for 15 games. ... Manager Anthony Contreras will miss the first three games of the series, the TinCaps said. Hitting coach Jonathan Mathews will be the acting manager. ... Guarate gave up eight runs in two innings in his last start. Tonight he pitched five innings, surrendered three runs on five hits while striking out four and walking two. He earned his first win at High-A after going 0-5 in his first six starts with Fort Wayne. ... Rodriguez went 2 for 4 with two RBI and a walk, extending his hitting streak to seven games and his on-base streak to nine. ... Little went 0 for 4 with two walks. He saw a seven-game hit streak come to an end, but his on-base streak sits at 10 games. ... Jonny Homza was in the lineup at Parkview Field for the first time since July 25. He returned against West Michigan from a sore shoulder that had kept him out for a couple of weeks. ... The three runs the Dragons scored in the fifth were more than Fort Wayne had given up in the previous 32 innings combined. ... Ilarraza went 2 for 5 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. His pair of theft gives him 32 this season, tied for fourth in High-A Central. ... Felix Minjarez and Mason Feole pitched a scoreless inning apiece and Sam Keating worked the final two innings for Fort Wayne.
These teams will meet again Wednesday for the second matchup of this six-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 23-year-old left-hander Danny Denz (0-1, 1.82 ERA) to the mound. Denz has given up just two earned runs in his last 23 innings. He saw an 18-inning scoreless streak snapped in his most recent outing. The Dragons will counter with 21-year-old right-hander Lyon Richardson (2-5, 5.16 ERA). Richardson pitched a seven-inning complete game against the TinCaps on June 19, giving up one run on two hits and striking out 10.