He went to the Parkview Field hill Sunday afternoon as the hottest pitcher in the Midwest League, so it figured that it was a hot-button assignment that awaited Zach Eflin and his TinCaps teammates.
End not one, but two, four-game losing streaks.
One skid was the four straight losses overall the TinCaps were lugging around like a concrete block.
The other was the four straight losses to their opponent, the Dayton Dragons.
Three-plus hours and a walk-off 4-3 win later, both skids were a memory.
Two runs in the bottom of the ninth by a pair of pinch-hitters erased a 3-2 Dayton lead, and ended a back-and-forth game that saw the lead change twice in the last three innings.
Alberth Martinez’s pinch-hit single between first and second drove in Tyler Stubblefield to tie it with one out in the ninth, and then Diego Goris’ two-out, pinch-hit single to left brought home Martinez for the win in front of 7,902 fans.
They knew it was a do-or-die situation, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said, 10 minutes or so after Martinez crossed the plate pumping his fist and was immediately mobbed by his teammates. This is it. You’ve gotta do it. My team’s gonna lose, so I can’t let my team down.
They went up there with a good plan, got pitches to hit, put the ball in play and came through with hits.
Eflin, meanwhile, did his bit, giving up four hits and one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings. But it was the bats that got it done this time for the TinCaps (61-57, 18-31 second half), who shook down three Dayton pitchers for 13 hits, led by Gabriel Quintana, who went 4 for 4 with two doubles. No. 1 draft pick Hunter Renfroe went 2 for 4 – he now has four hits in his first two games in Fort Wayne – and Tyler Stubblefield and Miguel Del Castillo each had two hits.
Renfroe’s leadoff home run in the sixth set the TinCaps up with a 2-1 lead, but a two-run seventh for the Dragons (55-64, 27-23) erased it. Tanner Rahier’s two-run, two-out single was the big blow after Sammy Diaz and Jeff Gelalich blistered one-out singles.
But the Dragons, who six times left baserunners hanging at third base, needed more than that on this day.
We had our chances earlier, Valentin said. We were lucky to have two pinch-hitters who came through in the right situation.
And when Goris drove the ball into left field with Martinez at second, there was no question about sending Martinez home.
In a situation like that, you cannot afford to be scared or be shy, Valentin said. You’ve got the game tied in that situation, you’ve got to put some pressure on the defense. The way we’ve been swinging right now, I can’t afford to just stop (him).
You’ve just to keep putting pressure on the defense and if they execute, that’s part of the job. But I’ve got to be aggressive.