FORT WAYNE – South Bend: The TinCaps’ Kryptonite.
Fort Wayne has looked beatable throughout the second half of the season. But in the first half, the TinCaps (46-36 overall, 3-10 second half, after Wednesday) were able to beat every Midwest League Eastern Division opponent they faced at least once.
All but the Silver Hawks (53-30, 9-5).
After Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss in South Bend, the TinCaps are 1-10 against the Silver Hawks this season. It took 11 innings for the TinCaps to record their first win against South Bend at Parkview Field on June 21.
And the numbers don’t betray the fact: Fort Wayne is usually at its worst when it plays South Bend, and the Silver Hawks play some of their best against the TinCaps.
Before Wednesday’s game , Fort Wayne batted .150 in 10 games against the Silver Hawks. That’s 45 hits in 280 at-bats.
That’s a stark contrast from the TinCaps’ overall average, which was .262 entering Wednesday’s matchup – or 721 hits in 2,756 at-bats.
Excluding South Bend, Fort Wayne’s batting average rises to .273 – a big gain given a 10-game sample size.
TinCaps pitcher Zach Eflin said the victory against South Bend in June felt like a playoff win because of how tough a hurdle it had become. Reliever Matthew Shepherd said it proved the team was beatable – an important step, since the Silver Hawks could play the TinCaps in the postseason.
And TinCaps manager Jose Valentin recognized that his team and South Bend were the class of the Midwest League Eastern Division during the first half.
But the Silver Hawks always seemed to come out on top.
That’s the reason those guys finished first in the first half – they got a great team, Valentin said after his team’s win over the Silver Hawks in June.
They probably got our number in the regular season, but we might face them in the playoffs and it’s going to be our time.
There have been plenty of close games between the two that suggest it could be the case.
Going into Wednesday, there have been seven games decided by two runs or fewer. And although they were 1-6 in those games, the TinCaps seemed to be a couple of hits away from a win in each contest.
But South Bend has done Fort Wayne in, time and time again, with better-than-usual pitching.
The Silver Hawks’ 3.52 ERA plummets to 1.18 in games against Fort Wayne, one of the best offensive teams in the Midwest League. Valentin suggested that could be because of South Bend’s lefty-loaded roster. The TinCaps don’t usually do well against southpaws.
Either way, the trend will need to change, either now or in the postseason. After Wednesday, Fort Wayne has eight more matchups with South Bend, including today’s 7 p.m. game at Parkview Field.
You can’t afford to make some mistakes, Valentin said June 22, after a 9-1 loss to South Bend. They make you pay.