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TinCaps

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    Randy Smith, vice president of player development for the San Diego Padres, sat in the office of TinCaps manager Michael Collins before Fort Wayne’s playoff opener and ruminated on the clubs’ 16-year partnership.
  • Breaking down the TinCaps
    The TinCaps went 63-76 in 2014 but won a round in the postseason before bowing out Sunday in the Eastern Divison championship series.
  • Captains eliminate TinCaps
    The long faces said it all.The TinCaps’ chase for a second Midwest League championship came to a halt Sunday night as Lake County sent them home for the winter with a 5-4 loss in Game 2 to wrap up the Eastern Division Championship
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TinCaps
vs. Great Lakes
When: 1:05 p.m. today
TV: Xfinity Channel 81
Radio: 1380 AM
Tickets: $12.50, $10, $9, $8, $5 (lawn)
Information: TinCaps.com or 482-6400
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne’s Tyler Stubblefield tries to tag out Great Lakes’s Robbie Garvey in the fifth inning of Sunday night’s game at Parkview Field.

Vacillating ’Caps overcome mistakes, power past Loons

– With the playoffs waiting just offstage, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin caught fleeting glimpses of momentum Saturday night in the way the baseball came off Luis Tejada’s bat and out of Max Fried’s hand.

Sunday, he got more than just a glimpse.

In front of 6,482 fans at Parkview Field, the TinCaps emphatically halted a six-losses-in-eight-games slide, swatting the Great Lakes Loons 6-1 behind a three-run second inning, a robust and opportunistic offense and starting pitcher Colin Rea’s six shutout innings.

Rea and relievers Ruben Mejia, Trevor Gott and Chris Nunn combined for a five-hitter, while Tyler Stubblefield went 3 for 4 with two doubles to pace a nine-hit TinCaps attack. Mallex Smith stole his 63rd and 64th bases, putting him one away from the TinCaps’ single-season record of 65.

But the TinCaps (71-67, 28-41 second half) also committed three errors, something that lingered in Valentin’s mind with the playoffs so close.

“We got away with it again today,” he said. “But we’ve got to play better baseball, especially defensively. Overall, we’ve got to pull everything together in order to beat a team like Bowling Green.”

To beat the Loons (67-71, 40-28), on the other hand, they pulled enough together.

In stark contrast to Saturday night, it was the TinCaps who jumped out in front early. Smith drew a leadoff walk, stole his 63rd base, took third on a groundout and came home on Alberth Martinez’ sacrifice fly to give the TinCaps a 1-0 lead after one inning.

“The leadoff guy, he sets the tone,” Valentin said. “He put some pressure on their defense, stole a couple bases, and he’s one of those guys that when he’s on base, he makes everybody a better hitter.”

As it turned out, Smith and Co. were just getting started. Stubblefield got the TinCaps’ three-run second going with a two-out single, after which Brian Adams drew a walk. Ryan Miller brought Stubblefield around with a line drive over shortstop, Smith brought Adams home with a single between first and second and Reynaldo Bruguera chased Miller home with yet another single.

That gave Rea a four-run cushion, more than he needed on a night when he gave up just two hits.

“That was a good outing by Colin,” Valentin said. “He gave us six solid innings. He wasn’t that sharp, but he always found a way to get out of innings.”

For the TinCaps, meanwhile, the hits kept coming.

They added two more runs in the fifth when Smith drew another leadoff walk, stole his 64th base and was chased home by Bruguera’s single up the middle. And when the ball eluded Loons center fielder James Baldwin, rolling clear to the warning track, Bruguera steamed all the way around to score as well.

That jumped the lead to 6-0 and pretty much settled things.

bensmith@jg.net

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