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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
South Bend’s Breland Almadova reaches safely on a bunt during the first inning as TinCaps first baseman Luis Tejada reaches to catch a late throw Friday night at Parkview Field.

Slumping TinCaps get swept at home

– The TinCaps suffered their first four-game home series sweep since 2006, and the team now has its longest losing streak of the year after a 7-3 loss to South Bend on Friday at Parkview Field.

Fort Wayne (25-21) dropped 4 1/2 games behind the Silver Hawks (29-16) in the Midwest League Eastern Division. It was a crucial series for the TinCaps, who had a chance to move into one of the top two spots in the division with the first-half break looming.

A first- or second-place finish would put the TinCaps into the playoffs. But they squandered the opportunity and face an uphill climb.

“We just come in here, put the uniform on,” manager Jose Valentin said. “Play nine innings, get your paycheck every 15 days, and that’s it. As a coach, it’s frustrating when you want to win, when you feel so much for this game of baseball.”

Valentin has been critical of his team throughout the series against South Bend. He gave his harshest critique after the loss in front of 6,106 fans Friday.

“They got some skills, they’re young, yeah – but when are they gonna grow up?” Valentin said. “If you cannot do it at this level, you cannot do it at any level higher than this one. The way we’re playing right now, I don’t think we have any guy that can get a chance to play in the big leagues.”

There are no adjustments, in mechanics or attitude, Valentin said.

The numbers back that up.

The TinCaps got eight hits Friday, which surpassed their total in a two-game doubleheader sweep Thursday. The three runs Friday were better than Fort Wayne’s total in the three previous contests.

But with runners in scoring position, Fort Wayne was 2 for 12. And while the TinCaps got more run production, their approach was staggeringly similar to Valentin.

“We’re slumping at the dish right now,” designated hitter Jeremy Baltz said. “Everybody’s struggling right now, and we can’t seem to string together hits. We’ve got to figure it out soon.”

Soon means 8:05 p.m. today.

The TinCaps head to Kentucky to take on Bowling Green, which is 2 1/2 games back from South Bend and two games ahead of Fort Wayne in the Eastern Division.

The three-game series could help the TinCaps recoup their losses from the stretch against the Silver Hawks.

A sweep of the Hot Rods would put the TinCaps back in the wild-card slot for the first half of the season.

The way his team is playing lately, Valentin said he doesn’t see that happening. But his players – some of them, anyway – remain positive.

“We’ve just got to realize we got 100 more games to go,” left fielder Corey Adamson said. “We can make that up in one series, and that’s what we got to go out there believing. Every day, we come to play. It’s just, we got beat by what was a better team this series.

“Next series, we’re gonna be the better team. We’re gonna beat them after we beat Bowling Green and everyone in between.”