The TinCaps saw their four-game winning streak come to an end with a 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the visiting Dayton Dragons tonight at Parkview Field. Fort Wayne has won four straight games three times this season, but has not reached five.
How it Happened
The TinCaps trailed 3-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, their winning streak seemingly on life support. The inning got a little bit interesting when Dayton pitcher Pedro Garcia drilled Zack Mathis in the back with a fastball to lead off the inning, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Yorman Rodriguez, one of the league's hottest hitters. Rodriguez didn't tie the game, but he did put the tying run on base when he rapped a single, his third straight hit, back through the middle.
That brought up slugger Tirso Ornelas and he delivered, bringing the crowd to its feet with a line drive the other into the left-field corner. The outstanding piece of hitting on a fastball over the outer third brought in both runners and knotted the score at 3.
Fort Wayne had a chance to go in front after Justin Lopez moved Ornelas to third with a sacrifice bunt, but Garcia settled down and fanned Luis Almanzar and Adam Kerner to get out of trouble and send the game to the ninth tied.
The TinCaps got a scoreless top of the ninth from 2021 Golden Spikes Award (the college baseball version of the Heisman Trophy) winner Kevin Kopps, who pitched a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts in his Parkview Field debut. In the bottom half of the frame, however, Fort Wayne was unable to keep the game from going to extra innings, going down in order.
In the 10th, the Dragons held serve, pushing across the free runner on second base when reliever Wen-Hua Sung gave up an RBI double to Allan Cerda, the center-fielder's third hit of the game and fourth time on base. That left Fort Wayne trailing 4-3 entering the bottom of the inning, with Chris Givin the free runner in scoring position to start.
The TinCaps were not able to do much with their last at-bat, going down in order, with Givin never moving off of second. After Ornelas's big game-tying hit, the final nine TinCaps hitters in a row were retired. Ornelas himself made the final out, swinging and missing on a full count.
Fort Wayne's first opportunity to get back into the game came in the bottom of the fourth, when it trailed 2-0. The rally started when the blistering-hot Rodriguez roped a single back through the middle to lead off the frame. Ornelas then hit the ball hard, as well, in the direction of second base. It could have been a double play ball, but second baseman Ivan Johnson had to go a step to his left to reach it and got caught in between; the ball slammed off the heel of his glove and got through, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
The adage in baseball is that luck evens out over the course of a season, but it's not often that a bad break immediately follows a good one. Unfortunately for the TinCaps, that's exactly what happened in the fourth. After Ornelas reached, Justin Lopez followed with a screaming line drive back through the middle that was right at shortstop Jacob Hurtubise, playing behind the bag at second. Hurtubise caught the ball without moving and then sprinted to second, doubling off a scrambling Rodriguez to turn what could have been a run-scoring hit into twin killing.
That play hurt even more when the next three TinCaps reached on a single and two walks, including a bases-loaded free pass to Kelvin Alarcon that brought in the first Fort Wayne run and made it 2-1. Reinaldo Ilarraza had a chance with the bases loaded and two out, but he swung through a 3-2 fastball to end the threat.
The Dragons had a chance to break the game open in the fifth and did get an insurance run to make it 3-1, but with the bases loaded and nobody out, reliever Edwuin Bencomo struck out three hitters in a row, all swinging, all on off-speed pitches, to keep the deficit manageable. After the first four batters of the inning reached against Bencomo, it took some mental fortitude to respond in that way, but he did it and it gave the TinCaps a chance in the late innings.
Player of the Game: Yorman Rodriguez
Rodriguez, who has spent time at Double-A and Triple-A this season, has made Dayton pitching look like batting practice in this series. The first baseman went 3 for 5 tonight with a double and a run scored, extending his hitting streak to eight games and his on-base streak to 10. In the first two games of the series, Rodriguez is 5 for 9 with a walk. Three of his outs have been a hard line drive to third, a hard line drive to first and a line drive in the gap that needed a diving catch to prevent a double.
The TinCaps entered the night in fourth place in the High-A Central East Division, three games back of third-place Dayton. ... Fort Wayne has won four games in a row three times this season, but has not yet won five straight. ... Hitting coach Jonathan Mathews filled in for TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras for the second straight night. Contreras is slated to be back Friday. ... The TinCaps had 10 hits and 10 walks in Tuesday's 10-4 win. Tonight, the first seven Fort Wayne hitters were retired. ... Chase Walter, the No. 31 prospect in the Padres farm system, made his Parkview Field debut, pitching two scoreless innings and striking out the side in the seventh. He touched 97 mph with his fastball and got all three strikeouts with a biting slider. ... The TinCaps got hit by a pitch twice in the game. They've been hit four times in the series. ... Dayton pitched a "bullpen game," pulling starter Lyon Richardson after one inning (nine pitches) and using six pitchers in the game. Richardson pitched a seven-inning complete game against Fort Wayne on June 19. ... Almanzar made back-to-back sprawling catches in left to save extra-base hits in the third inning. He was moved to the outfield last week after starting most of the season at first. ... The TinCaps are 3-2 in extra innings this season. ... Fort Wayne starter Danny Denz gave up two runs in four innings, equaling a season-high with six strikeouts. He has a 1.33 ERA in his last six starts. ... Prior to the game, the TinCaps announced that MLB reliever Trey Wingenter, who pitched for the TinCaps in 2016, will have a rehab assignment with the TinCaps on Thursday. Wingenter, who pitched for the Padres in 2018 and 2019 before having Tommy John surgery, will pitch one inning against Dayton.
These teams will meet against Thursday for the third matchup in this six-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 6-foot-7, 25-year-old right-hander Connor Lehmann (3-2, 5.24 ERA) to the mound. Lehmann had a bumpy start with the TinCaps, but his last two starts have been terrific: 10 innings combined, one run on seven hits with six strikeouts and four walks. He's been the winner in both games. The Dragons have not yet announced their starter.