The TinCaps clinched a split of their six-game series against the Dayton Dragons at Parkview Field with an 8-2 victory on another warm, muggy night at Parkview Field. Fort Wayne can win the series with a victory Sunday.
How it Happened
The TinCaps trailed 1-0 into the third inning, unable to get anything going against flamethrowing Dragons started Bryce Bonnin, who struck out three in the first two innings without surrendering a hit while touching 98 mph with his fastball. In the third, however, the wheels fell off for Bonnin. The No. 19 prospect in the Reds farm system, according to Fangraphs, completely lost his release point, walking the bases loaded to start the inning, throwing the 12 balls necessary for the three walks on just 13 pitches.
Thing went from bad to worse for Bonnin when he unleashed a 98 mph fastball in the dirt that got past catcher Mat Nelson for a passed ball that brought in Chris Givin with the tying run. Bonnin then walked Zack Mathis to load the bases again, his fourth consecutive free pass. The Dragons got a momentary reprieve when Tirso Ornelas hit a hot shot up the middle that shortstop Matt McLain, playing directly behind the second-base bag, corraled and turned into a run-scoring 6-4-3 double play that put Fort Wayne in front 2-1.
That would have been a slightly disappointing inning for the TinCaps after such a promising start, but they weren't done yet. Justin Lopez picked up Ornelas, driving a ball to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway center. The shot landed at the base of the wall and Lopez cruised into second with an RBI double that would have been a homer had he pulled it all. That was all for Bonnin, but Luis Almanzar gave reliever JC Keys a rude greeting when he smashed a towering drive to left-center that slammed high off the wall and bounded away from center-fielder Michael Siani. Almanzar sprinted to third and had thoughts of trying for an inside-the-park home run, but pulled up, much to the disappointment of the Parkview Field crowd, which let out a disappointed groan. Still, the three-bagger, Almanzar's new career-high second of the season, put Fort Wayne ahead 4-1 after three innings.
That was plenty of support for the Fort Wayne pitching staff. TinCaps starter Noel Vela put together a fourth consecutive outstanding start, though it didn't begin that way. The lefty gave up a single to Siani leading off the game and then a throwing error from Almanzar after it looked like Siani had been picked off moved the speedster to third. A wild pitch brought him home to give the Dragons an early lead and it seemed as though Vela might be on the ropes.
Instead, he settled down, striking out the side in the first with a pair of sharp-breaking curves and a 93 mph fastball painted on the outside corner to get Nelson. Vela really turned on the juice in the second inning, striking out the side in order to give him five consecutive whiffs. His strikeout of Quin Cotton was particularly impressive: after missing with his first pitch, Vela got three straight swings and misses with change-ups to get the K. The left-hander also hit 94 mph with his fastball, the hardest he has thrown during his time with the TinCaps.
Fort Wayne gave Vela and the rest of the staff some extra insurance in the fourth, thanks in large part to some more wildness from Dayton pitchers. With two outs, Reinaldo Ilarraza and Jonny Homza walked to put two on. Zack Mathis made those free passes hurt again with a sharp ground ball down the third-base line that skipped into the Dayton bullpen for a ground-rule double, scoring Ilarraza to make it 5-1. The two-bagger left Homza on third, but he quickly came across, as well, on a wild pitch that also knocked Nelson out of the game when it caught him on the thumb.
The TinCaps put the game away for good in the bottom of the seventh when Lopez crushed a fly ball to the stone benches beyond the wall in right-center for a two-run blast that put Fort Wayne in front 8-2. It was Lopez's eighth home run of the season and he knew he had hit it out as soon as it left his bat.
Although it did not affect the final score of the game, it's worth noting a situation that occurred prior to the fifth inning. Vela was pulled after four good innings and the TinCaps brought in right-hander Connor Lehmann, a member of their starting rotation who had worked only one inning Thursday before his start was rained out. Lehmann warmed up and was ready to pitch when Dayton manager Jose Moreno came out of the dugout and pointed out that Lehmann, while on the Fort Wayne roster, was not on the "available players" list presented to the opposing manager along with the lineup card at home plate prior to the game. The umpires agreed that meant Lehmann was ineligible and he left the game, a bemused look on his face, without throwing a pitch. Reliever Fred Schlichtholz quickly sprinted on to the diamond completely cold and warmed up quickly before taking the mound. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
Player of the Game: Justin Lopez
Lopez went 2 for 4 with a home run, a double, three RBI and two runs scored. He has 54 RBI, three shy of his career-high, and 20 doubles this season. The home run left Lopez's bat at 99 mph and traveled 404 feet; it was his first long ball since July 13.
The TinCaps entered the game in fourth place in the High-A Central East Division, four games back of third-place Dayton. ... Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras is getting some time off and hitting coach Jonathan Mathews was the acting manager for the fourth straight game. ... Catcher Adam Kerner was a late scratch. Fort Wayne's other three catchers, Tyler Malone (sent to Low-A), Yorman Rodriguez (sent to Triple-A) and Jonny Homza (ailing shoulder) were unavailable to catch, so emergency catcher Zack Mathis started behind the plate, his first start at catcher as a pro or college player. Homza played first after pinch-hitting for Little in the third. ... Little had been on base in seven of his last eight plate appearances after walking in the first. He is on a 13-game on-base streak. He left the game after walking in the first and appearing to injure his wrist sliding into second on a stolen-base attempt. After coming out of the game, Little coached first base. ... Vela pitched gave up one hit in four innings, striking out seven (his most with the TinCaps and most overall since June 29 at Low-A) and walking four. ... Mathis doubled, walked, drove in a run and was hit by a pitch. ... Almanzar went 2 for 4 with a triple and an RBI. ... Schlichtholz, who was activated off the Injured List on Friday, made his first appearance since July 30. ... Bonnin was making his High-A debut. He threw 58 pitches, 28 strikes and 30 balls, walking five in 2 2/3 innings. ... Padres reliever Trey Wingenter, who is on rehab assignment with the TinCaps, did not pitch in the game. He was scheduled to pitch in Thursday's rained-out game, but did not pitch in Friday's doubleheader or tonight. ... Ilarraza stole a base in the fourth inning, his 33rd theft of the season, tying him for fourth in the league. He walked twice. ... Prior to the game, the TinCaps announced the addition of three top 25 prospects in the San Diego organization to their roster: outfielder and No. 4 prospect Robert Hassell III, the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft, catcher and 12th-ranked prospect Brandon Valenzuela and infielder and No. 23 prospect Euribiel Angeles. None of the three was in the lineup tonight as they did not arrive at the ballpark from Lake Elsinore, California, where they'd been playing at the Low-A level, in time for the game. In addition, Fort Wayne announced that Rodriguez, owner of a 12-game on-base streak and 10-game hit streak, had been promoted to Triple-A, where he spent time earlier this season and Malone had been sent to Lake Elsinore. Reliever Mason Feole, who was removed from the game Friday after throwing only two pitches, was placed on the 7-day IL. ...
These teams will meet again Sunday for the finale of this six-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 1:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 20-year-old right-hander Carlos Guarate (1-5, 7.76 ERA) to the mound for his second start of the week. Guarate got his first High-A win Tuesday after going five innings and giving up three runs with four strikeouts. All three runs came in the fifth after he'd cruised through four. The Dragons will counter with right-hander Carson Spiers (4-3, 4.04 ERA), who faced Guarate on Tuesday and gave up five runs in 3 1/3 frames.