FORT WAYNE – TinCaps starter Matthew Shepherd went one inning Wednesday. His team trailed 7-1 after the second inning.
Despite the rough start to Fort Wayne’s 10-inning 8-7 loss against Bowling Green at Parkview Field, it might have been the first time in the second half of the season that manager Jose Valentin was pleased after a loss.
I’m happy the way we played today, he said after his team came back from a six-run deficit to force extra innings. I’m really happy with the way we came back. We fight all the way, but we fell short. Except the one inning, I’m pretty happy.
That one inning was the second, when Bowling Green (68-52, 30-22 second half) scored seven runs on six hits.
Shepherd gave up three hits, four walks and five earned runs. Reliever Colin Rea, gave up two earned runs and five hits in his first two innings.
But thanks to nine innings of consistent pressure, the TinCaps (62-58, 19-32) rallied for the 4,304 fans on-hand.
San Diego Padres first-round draft pick Hunter Renfroe got his third RBI in a Fort Wayne uniform off a one-out double in the first inning. That lead was as short-lived as Shepherd’s outing.
Then, after the torrent of Bowling Green runs in the second inning, Fort Wayne started its comeback in the bottom of the frame.
First baseman Luis Tejada led off with a single, and after a strikeout by shortstop Tyler Stubblefield, catcher Rodney Daal singled to put runners on first and second.
Following a flyout by second baseman Reynaldo Bruguera, the TinCaps came across some rare clutch hitting. Designated hitter Mallex Smith got a single through to score Tejada, and a two-out double by center fielder Alberth Martinez brought in two more for Fort Wayne.
We fought hard to get back into the game, Rea said. It was a hard-fought game. It just didn’t turn out well for us in the end.
The offense continued after two quiet innings, and a pair of Fort Wayne runs in the sixth capped three innings of scoreless relief for Rea.
After trailing 7-1, the TinCaps had cut their deficit to one. And in the bottom of the eighth, one of two TinCaps without a hit to that point – left fielder Luis Domoromo – sent a home run over the wall in right-center.
The game headed to extras, with TinCaps closer Roman Madrid on the mound. Madrid gave up a run on a one-out double by left fielder Marty Gantt.
Fort Wayne threatened in the ninth with runners on first and second with two outs but fell short. Still, Valentin saw much-needed progress.
So did Daal, who has a six-game hitting streak. Thanks to a playoff berth that was secured in the first half, the TinCaps’ second-half record doesn’t matter.
Heating up at the right time does. And that’s what Daal said his team is doing.
We’re ready for the playoffs, he said. We’re ready.