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vs. South Bend
When: 7:05 p.m. today
TV: Xfinity Channel 81
Radio: 1380 AM
Tickets: $12.50, $10, $9, $8, $5 (lawn)
Information: or 482-6400
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
TinCaps pitcher Joe Ross believes the team will be ready for the playoffs, despite a losing second half of the season.

TinCaps gearing up for long playoff run

– The TinCaps’ second-half struggles have been well documented.

But by the finish of a tumultuous second half of the season, Fort Wayne’s record won’t matter.

The TinCaps are playoff-bound thanks to their first-half record.

So the focus, manager Jose Valentin said, is on getting into a position to win come Sept. 4.

“Put everything together, and it’ll continue to be that way so by the time we get to the playoffs, hopefully, everybody will just get in the same groove, and then we’ll play better baseball,” Valentin said after an 8-7 loss to Bowling Green on Aug. 14.

“That’s when it counts. That’s what I’m hoping. I’m hoping we can go into the playoffs playing better baseball, not only hitting but playing defense, pitching, just executing.”

The TinCaps are 65-61 overall, with a 22-35 second-half record. As the losses piled up, Fort Wayne sought answers, and statistically there were few to come by.

The reason for that is simple. Batting numbers, ERA and most of the usual metrics aren’t all that different.

But the TinCaps won close games in the first half. In the second, the well of clutch victories dried up.

Fort Wayne went 31-16 in games decided by three or fewer runs in the first half of the season, when they finished 17 games above .500 and one game out of first place in the Midwest League Eastern Division.

But in the second stanza of the season, the TinCaps are 17-27 in those close-fought games.

Fort Wayne isn’t drastically different from how it looked in the first half. The results are.

And that’s what Valentin hopes to fix with the playoffs approaching.

“Second half, yeah, we lost a lot of games, but we’ve pretty much been into every game – one hit away or one play made behind our pitchers,” he said after a 4-0 loss to Bowling Green on Friday. “I’m kind of happy to see lately, I think we’re playing better. We’re not quite there, but I think we’re playing better. The only difference is being consistent. We have to be able to put everything together.”

The TinCaps haven’t been able to put much together in the second half. But the MWL playoffs could be different. Fort Wayne has the pitching – sometimes. It has the offense – sometimes. And it has the defense behind it – sometimes.

If sometimes happens to be at the end of the regular season, starting pitcher Joe Ross will take it.

“The coaches do a good job of keeping us up,” he said. “It definitely helps knowing that we got playoffs coming up, but that also means we’ve kind of got to pick it up going into playoffs to get some momentum. But you know, once it gets here, I think we’ll do a good job. We have a lot of competitors that hate to lose, so I think when the time comes, we’ll show up.”