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TinCaps lose drawn-out matchup with West Michigan

At the end of it all, TinCaps scorekeeper Bill Salyer leaned back in his seat and exhaled.

"There is a god."

Four hundred and twenty six pitches. Thirteen innings. Four hours and 51 minutes from first pitch to last out, with a 38-minute rain delay.

Twelve pitchers between both teams. Forty players left on base, too. And 29 strikeouts, and 13 walks, and a combined 8-for-26 line with runners in scoring position.

It was a long game with an anticlimactic ending: three runs in the top of the 13th to give the West Michigan a 9-6 win against the Fort Wayne on Monday at Parkview Field. The Whitecaps (36-39) were four minutes from beating the TinCaps (44-30) on Tuesday instead.

Fort Wayne drew 6,073 fans to the park for a 7:05 p.m. start. By game's end, each clap and shout came with an echo. Understandably, Parkview Field was mostly barren.

And the TinCaps?

"Tired," manager Jose Valentin said. It was one of the few times he has been short-spoken this season.

"They battled for 13 innings – that's something that you gotta give credit," Valentin said of his team. "The only problem was our approach. We could not get the hits with men in scoring position. We got a lot of chances to win, but never get a hit in the clutch."

It was a back-and-forth game early, with the teams trading runs in the first inning. West Michigan got three home runs off starting pitcher Joe Ross, who gave up nine hits and six earned runs in six innings.

But Fort Wayne kept finding ways to respond, right up until it tied the game at 6 in the seventh inning. Then, both teams went quiet, and some dark clouds rolled in from the northwest.

A harsh wind whipped through Parkview Field, followed by a hard rain that drove fans out of their seats and onto the concourse. Most eventually went home, regardless of the promise of fireworks at game's end.

The TinCaps were ready to call it a night, too. Their bodies were tired, their eyes glossy. It was a game that sapped both body and mind, and in the way it ended for Fort Wayne, a little bit of the soul, as well.

Yes, it was a regular-season matchup, insignificant in the grand scheme of a 140-game slate. But this one sucked something out of the players, like designated hitter Mallex Smith, whose typical charisma was nowhere to be found after an 0-for-6 day at the plate.

"Long night," he said, eyes glued to the ground. "Frustrating. It's tough. Long game, then you come out with a loss. A lot of players didn't do as good as they wanted to, so we're very frustrated."

There isn't much time for rest, either. The TinCaps have first pitch of their game today against West Michigan at 12:05 p.m.

The players have to be to Parkview Field by 10 a.m. and will try to fight fatigue and break their fourth three-game losing streak of the season.

"Come out ready to play," Smith said. "Come out ready to give 'em a whooping. Jump on 'em early."

Early, so the next game doesn't feel as long, or hurt as badly.

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