FORT WAYNE – A day after its longest game of the season, Fort Wayne put together one of its sharpest.
The TinCaps clinched their first series win of the season against South Bend with a 5-2 victory Thursday at Parkview Field.
The TinCaps (67-61, 24-35 second half) improved to 4-14 against South Bend, with all of those wins in the second half and two in the past two days.
We’re close, manager Jose Valentin said. It’s refreshing to me, because I’m getting tired of getting beat by that team. Late in the year, to be able to win a series against them, that is something that I think is a big plus because that’s a team that got our numbers.
Fort Wayne starter Joe Ross breezed through his outing.
Ross gave up one earned run on a home run in the top of the fourth inning by first baseman Rudy Flores and gave up five hits in seven innings and struck out three.
His game was good enough to give the TinCaps a chance despite a similarly strong performance from South Bend starter Jesse Darrah.
Darrah gave up one earned run on six hits in his first six innings, but in the seventh, the TinCaps earned the lead.
Valentin brought in Mallex Smith to pinch run for second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum, who had singled.
Smith stole second, his 59th of the season, and advanced to third on a wild throw from Darrah on a pickoff attempt.
The speedster scored on a sacrifice fly from catcher Rodney Daal to give Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead.
That opened up the game.
I feel like we got a lot of confidence, Smith said.
Even when we were losing, I didn’t feel like we had bad confidence. I just thought we were going through a little tough patch. But right now, I feel like we’re just as confident as ever.
A RBI double from center fielder Alberth Martinez and single from designated hitter Reynaldo Bruguera made it 4-1 and woke up a crowd of 6,034.
We just kept adding on it, Valentin said. Everything was on in our way today. We were playing well.
Right fielder Hunter Renfroe scored after his leadoff double in the eighth inning, and that helped reliever Matthew Shepherd cruise to the finish.
Shepherd gave up Flores’ second home run of the game in the ninth, but that solo shot wasn’t enough to get South Bend (77-52, 33-27) back in it.
Fort Wayne has won five of its last six matchups and is on a three-game winning streak.
Today, it wants the sweep.
We got to do it, Valentin said.
We got to go for it. We cannot just be able to be happy because we win two games in a row. We got to sweep.
Note: The TinCaps reinstated starter Shepherd from the disabled list and put starter Bryan Rodriguez on the disabled list before Thursday’s game.