FORT WAYNE – It was a night of firsts, and oddities, for the TinCaps.
A nine-inning no-hitter for the pitching staff, the first ever for the club. A walk-off walk after eight innings of shutout ball by Great Lakes.
The 1-0 win for Fort Wayne (18-13) over Great Lakes (12-20) was unlike any ending starting pitcher Max Fried has seen.
A win’s a win any way you can take it, said Fried, who went 5 2/3 innings with four walks and eight strikeouts. The combined no-hitter and also a walk-off walk, that’s sort of one that I haven’t really seen before.
Catcher Dane Phillips had never seen one, either. And as the first player to reach base in the ninth, he got to watch the sequence unfold and cross the plate for the win.
Phillips walked on four pitches, which drew Loons pitching coach Bill Simas out of his dugout. Simas was ejected for arguing, and Gabriel Quintana was hit by the first pitch of his at-bat.
Then, Great Lakes pitcher Scott Griggs threw his first strike of the inning as Luis Tejada tried to advance the runners on a bunt. The catcher had a foul-tip pop just above his head and hit his glove before falling to the dirt.
The next pitch sounded as if it hit wood and zipped into the protective fence as Tejada ducked out of the way on another bunt attempt. But home plate umpire Sean Allen signaled Tejada was hit.
Phillips watched the count to Brian Adams unfold from third, with the bases loaded.
Ball one. Ball two. Ball three.
It was crazy, Phillips said. You’re thinking, He’s gotta throw at least one strike.’
It was the TinCaps’ fourth walk-off win of the season and the oddest victory in recent memory for most of the players.
Manager Jose Valentin, a former major leaguer, said he has seen a bunch of walk-off walks in his baseball career. This was his first as a manager.
It was a great played game by both teams, Valentin said. That’s how the game of baseball goes sometimes. This game, it’s about inches, and it’s crazy. You never know what’s going to happen.
The TinCaps’ offense didn’t show up for much of the game. But the pitching did.
Matthew Shepherd replaced Fried and went 1 1/3 innings. Leonel Campos then stepped in and struck out the side in the eighth.
Closer Roman Madrid came on in the ninth and kept the no-hitter going.
The staff’s gem gave the TinCaps a chance, and the team took advantage in the bizarre bottom of the ninth.
Loons starter Jharel Cotton gave up four hits with three strikeouts in seven innings.
His replacement, Scott Griggs, allowed runners to reach second and third with two outs in the eighth but ended the inning unharmed.
Note: Tejada was named the San Diego Padres minor league defensive player of the month after finishing April with a .991 fielding percentage.