TinCaps bats still blazing
Fort Wayne (9-6) put together 45 hits this weekend, including season highs in hits (15, then 21) and runs (17) in a sweep of Lansing.
Designated hitter Mallex Smith, who was 3 for 5 Sunday and had one RBI, said the team has been taking advantage of an aggressive approach at the plate, but also learned to be patient and know what to expect from the opposition.
"We're taking advantage of hitter's counts," Smith said. "We're taking advantage of hard-throwing pitchers. We've seen a few live arms early on, you know, guys that throw hard so they think they can blow it by you, so we jump on the fast ball a lot. And then, if you jump on the baseball, you're going to expect the breaking ball, so we're waiting on that, also."
It's a credit to the work of hitting coach Morgan Burkhart, who has a group of young players swinging like seasoned veterans at the plate. Some players have made mistakes in scoring situations with one or fewer outs, but for the most part, the TinCaps are doing a good job of putting the ball in play and taking advantage of hung balls.
"I've been working my (butt) off with Burkhart, and it finally came out," said Rodney Daal, who had a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning for Fort Wayne. "We've been working a lot about hitting. Everybody's just seeing the ball really good and putting a good swing on it."
And confidence breeds confidence, Smith said. It could also help the club as it heads to Kentucky to face a 12-4 Bowling Green squad that has posed problems for plenty of other teams early in the season.
"It helps a lot," Smith said. "It makes you feel like, 'Ah, OK. Next at-bat, I don't really care what he throws to me. I got my one, you know? I'm good for the rest of the day. I can beat this guy. I've already done it once, I can do it again.'"
Madrid shuts the door again
Roman Madrid picked up his third save of the season Sunday and shut the door on the Lugnuts. After the game, manager Jose Valentin gave the three-out pitcher the best compliment possible.
"He's a closer," Valentin said. "Every time we have an opportunity when you have to go out there and save the game, I mean, he's going to have the call."
On a relief staff that has been spotty at times this season, Madrid is the one constant. He dominates the final inning and still has a blank slate in the closing spot for the TinCaps. The only run scored on him was unearned, and he has five strikeouts and and allowed only four hits so far on the year.
Valentin just wishes he could use Madrid more. In the minors, a pitcher requires a day of rest if he throws two consecutive days.
"So far, he's been doing his job," Valentin said. "Hopefully, he just continues to be successful in that situation. He's our man. When we need three outs in the ninth, he's the guy that's going to be there in a save situation, and he has to be ready.
"So far, he's been doing a great job."