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The Journal Gazette

Friday, September 08, 2017 1:10 am

Thoughts on TinCaps' wild clincher

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

You could point to so many interesting moments in the TinCaps' 6-4 walk-off win over Bowling Green on Thursday night, almost all of them proving the Midwest League playoffs bring out emotions like no other part of the season.

As quickly as this first-round series began, it is over. The Hot Rods, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, are headed home. Fort Wayne moves on to the Eastern Division Championship Series, beginning Saturday night against either Dayton or West Michigan.

The Whitecaps fell 2-1 Thursday in Game 2, forcing a winner-take-all Game 3 on Friday night in Comstock Park, Michigan. No matter which club wins, the TinCaps will not have home-field advantage in the next round.

Here are some quick thoughts from Thursday:

* With two outs and a runner on first base in the ninth inning, Marcus Greene Jr. was thinking about getting a pitch to drive. He admitted afterward a home run was "kind of" on his mind. That made it all the more impressive Greene's game-winning two-run shot over the center-field wall came on a slider from the Hot Rods' Joe Serrapica, a right-hander.

"Just trying to hit the ball hard," Greene said. "I wasn't really expecting an (off-speed pitch). I was trying to stay on the fastball, see something I could hit hard, and I just happened to hit it pretty hard."

* It will be overlooked, but Anthony Contreras made a terrific managerial move as Fort Wayne mounted a game-saving rally in the eighth inning. Down 4-2 with runners at first and third and none out, Contreras removed Jorge Ona, who had just singled, in favor of pinch-runner Robbie Podorsky. Not only did Contreras give his team more speed in that situation, but he put Podorsky in motion on a pitch to Gabriel Arias. Arias hit an RBI groundout to score Greene from third. Because Pedorsky was on the move, Bowling Green's infield had no play other than to throw out Arias. Pedorsky, of course, eventually scored from second on Reinaldo Ilarraza's RBI infield single.

* Bowling Green manager Reinaldo Ruiz, who was tossed in the ninth after forcefully arguing a check-swing strike call on one of his batters, had cooled down afterward. Following an emotional, closed-door meeting with his players, I spoke with Ruiz in the visiting manager's office, and he was smiling, pleasant and contrite. He didn't apologize for throwing a trash can onto the field, but saying he might have overreacted and got caught up in the moment was close enough.

* As for the difference in the series, with Fort Wayne winning 2-1 in Game 1 and 6-4 in Game 2, Ruiz pointed to pitching. "In a short series, you have to pitch really well, and they did it," Ruiz said. "That's the difference. The pitching. We did a really good job (Wednesday), the bullpen couldn't hold (Thursday), but it is what it is."

* In Game 2, Bowling Green's starter, Adrian Navas, actually pitched better than counterpart Pedro Avila. In 4 1/3 innings, Avila did OK. Josh Lowe hit an RBI single against him and Rene Pinto an RBI groundout. Avila had six strikeouts, but he allowed seven hits and had too much trouble finishing off hitters with two strikes in key situations. Don't hold the Hot Rods' initial run, in the fourth, against Avila, because it scored on Gabriel Arias' throwing error at shortstop.

* With two shutout innings, Will Headean's relief gave the TinCaps' offense a chance to rally. Andres Munoz, who worked a scoreless ninth, was the winning pitcher, but Headean should unofficially share those honors.

* The TinCaps advance to the Eastern Division Championship Series for the ninth time in franchise history. This trip is made more impressive considering it comes in a year Fort Wayne got off to the worst start in franchise annals at 19-39.