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Grand slam rallies ’Caps over Clinton

Patience at plate wins 4th home series in April

Sean Morrison
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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette

The TinCapsí Mallex Smith fouls off a pitch in the first inning Tuesday in front of Clinton catcher Marcus Littlewood. The TinCaps won 7-5.

A grand slam by Alberth Martinez in the eighth inning turned a two-run deficit into a 7-5 lead, and Fort Wayne held on in the ninth to take down the Clinton LumberKings on Tuesday.

The TinCaps (14-10) won their fourth home series this month and improved to 10-3 at Parkview Field.

The LumberKings (11-12) scored four early runs off Fort Wayne starter Walker Weickel and looked to be cruising toward a series win.

But a run in the fourth inning and two in the fifth kept the game close enough, and Martinez’s homer proved decisive.

It was the second home run in two games for the left fielder, who had a solo shot in a 6-2 loss Monday.

“Sometimes he’ll go up there and take three pitches – too selective – but sometimes he’ll just go out there and swing at everything,” manager Jose Valentin said of Martinez. “I think he went up there in that situation with a good plan. He just went up there and tried to get one pitch to hit.”

A couple other TinCaps took similar approaches in the eighth.

After an out to start the inning, Jeremy Baltz singled to right, and Gabriel Quintana drew a walk. A strikeout by Luis Tejada put Fort Wayne in a poor position, but Corey Adamson drew a walk and Martinez changed the game with one swing.

“A lot of what goes into that that a lot of people don’t realize is the at-bat Adamson had before that,” TinCaps batting coach Morgan Burkhart said. “He’s down I think 0-2 or 1-2, and he battles for a walk just to put us in that situation. … Those at-bats all go into that, and then Marty did the job at the end.”

Burkhart, a former first baseman and designated hitter in the major leagues, has been pleased with the patient approach his players have taken at the plate. The TinCaps were the best in the Midwest League in runs (139) and hits (222) entering Tuesday, night, and they are near the top of the league in batting average (.272, fourth in the league), on-base percentage (.343, fifth) and slugging percentage (.404, third).

Most of it has come from a young team taking a veteran approach offensively.

“It’s just a mindset you have to preach every day,” he said. “That is big for the young guys to have those good at-bats, the battle at-bats. We did that the whole homestand.”

Roman Madrid came on in the top of the ninth to close the game and earn his fifth save.

A month into the season, Valentin likes what he’s seen from a young group of players.

At this point last season, the TinCaps were 10-15. It was Valentin’s first year with the team.

“They like to work hard,” he said. “I’m happy. I see the effort, and that’s what I want to see. When you got some guys that come to the ballpark, try and get better every day, something good is going to happen, you know?”

Fort Wayne begins a six-game road stretch today, starting with a 7:30 p.m. game against the Burlington Bees.

smorrison@jg.net

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