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Late 3-run homer sinks TinCaps

– West Michigan third baseman Jason King’s three-run home run was the difference in a 7-5 loss for Fort Wayne on Tuesday at Parkview Field.

King’s homer was his third of the series and came off reliever Matthew Shepherd in the top of the seventh inning. That inning featured a four-run swing that took the TinCaps from up 4-3 on the Whitecaps (36-37) to a 7-4 deficit.

Fort Wayne (44-31) added a run in the bottom of the eighth but could do no more.

“No hitting right now,” TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. “Our pitching’s been not great either.”

Fort Wayne is on its second four-game losing streak of the season as it was swept at home for the second time this year. The longest losing streak this season for the TinCaps is five games.

Catcher Dane Phillips, who went 0 for 3 Tuesday, said the team’s experience during the five-game losing streak will help the TinCaps out of this one.

After it snapped that last streak, Fort Wayne went 18-4 to close the first half.

“It just lets us know that we’ve been there, and we know how to get out of it and get rolling,” Phillips said. “Kind of all the way around, it hasn’t been good baseball on our part – haven’t scored runners when we need to score runners and haven’t made pitches when we need to make pitches.”

A crowd of 4,519 watched a back-and-forth affair to start.

The Whitecaps got a run in the first inning off a single from first baseman Lance Durham. The TinCaps responded in the bottom of the first with two hits and two runs to take the lead.

The fourth inning was more of the same. West Michigan took the lead thanks to a three-hit frame, but Fort Wayne used a pair of hits and an error by Durham to retake the advantage in the bottom half.

But the TinCaps couldn’t top that four-run seventh and King’s blast to right-center.

Fort Wayne had to go to its bullpen early because of an injury to starter Adys Portillo. Portillo, who is rehabbing with the TinCaps after injuring his right triceps at the start of the season, seemed to re-injure his arm during the fourth.

He was pulled for Matthew Chabot, who made way for Shepherd with two outs in the seventh.

“It’s sad to see a guy that’s been through it and worked himself out to go back and pitch,” Valentin said of Portillo. “But today, unfortunately for him, his pain came back. Hopefully it’s something that’s not serious.”

The three-game sweep by West Michigan took Fort Wayne from 5-5 against the Whitecaps to 5-8. Only South Bend, the Midwest League Eastern Division leader, boasts a better record against the TinCaps.

“Even in the first half, these two teams we played, we didn’t do that great against them,” Phillips said of the second half-opening competition. “Now’s the chance for us to really go take a step forward.”