FORT WAYNE – A day after manager Jose Valentin criticized his starters for short outings, Bryan Rodriguez responded.
The TinCaps’ starter threw seven shutout innings in Fort Wayne’s 1-0 win over Cedar Rapids on Saturday at Parkview Field.
It was the longest start of the season for Rodriguez, and his first shutout appearance. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five.
He broke out a pitch he hadn’t used this year yet, too – his slider.
I lengthened my step out and tried to finish the pitches, Rodriguez, a native of the Dominican Republic, said through a translator. When I threw my curveball, I couldn’t throw it for a strike. When I started to throw that slider, I noticed that I could throw it for a strike and attack hitters with that.
Fort Wayne (54-43, 11-17 second half) needed that kind of outing from the right-hander.
The relief staff was depleted after a pair of early exits by Max Fried and Matthew Shepherd in the past two games.
He was aggressive, Valentin said of Rodriguez. He was working fast. When you get ahead of a count, attacking hitters, the defense is always going to be on their feet, and they’re going to be ready to play.
Rodriguez’s performance also helped offset Kernels starter Tim Atherton’s strong outing. The curveball specialist put his 67 mph pitch on display Saturday, getting nine strikeouts and giving up five hits for Cedar Rapids (59-37, 19-9).
But a pair of singles in the bottom of the sixth, followed by a wild pitch, put the TinCaps in position to take the advantage.
To Valentin’s relief, they did.
First baseman Diego Goris hit a ground ball to third baseman Travis Harrison, who couldn’t handle it to make the throw to home. Goris was out at first, but center fielder Mallex Smith scored.
I didn’t really try to do too much, said Smith, the only TinCap with more than one hit Saturday with two. You try to just let it come to you, let it do its damage and all its movement, and then hit it when it’s done with all the dropping and whatnot.
Chris Nunn came on for the hold, and Roman Madrid created some drama in the top of the ninth. He got the first out but loaded the bases on a base hit, a walk and another single.
Madrid got a pop-out and was pulled in favor of Trevor Gott. The 2013 sixth-round draft pick sealed the game and picked up his first save as a professional.
His fastball is pretty good, he’s also got a good curve Valentin said. You got to go with the guy that’s been more aggressive – it’s do or die.
I went with Gott in that situation.
It was the second shutout of the month for the TinCaps and third in the second half of the season.