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The Journal Gazette

Monday, May 14, 2018 6:40 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (14-21) vs. West Michigan (19-16)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are back at Parkview Field after a five-game road trip that ended with four straight losses and a rain-out. Combined with a sweep at the hands of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at home last weekend, Fort Wayne has now lost seven of its last eight, its worst stretch since a six-game losing streak to open the season.

The team will try to get back on track starting tonight against the first Eastern Division opponent it's faced in May. The West Michigan Whitecaps, a Detroit Tigers affiliate, are 5-7 in May, but rank third in the Midwest League with a 3.52 team ERA. That mark has been bolstered by a bullpen that features several dominant arms.

Right-handers Wladimir Pinto and Burris Warner has been particularly effective in the late innings. Pinto leads the team with seven saves and has struck out 20 in 11 1/3 innings, while Warner boasts a 1.37 ERA and 30 strikeouts with only five walks. Those two await the TinCaps if the home team can't make some noise against tonight's starter, Garett King.

King is in his first season of pro ball after the Tigers drafted him in the 11th round last year out of Division II Cal Baptist. The 6-foot-4 right-hander owns a plus curveball and commands his fastball with precision, meaning the TinCaps' offense will be put to the test tonight. He's posted a 3.76 ERA so far this season and struck out more than a hitter per inning with few walks.

Fort Wayne will counter with a pair of "starters" after a day off Sunday. Left-hander MacKenzie Gore will start the game, but he'll be limited in just his second start off of the disabled list. He'll probably throw 50-60 pitches before giving way to right-hander Mason Thompson, who will be first out of the bullpen.

Neither Gore nor Thompson has been particularly effective so far this season, but both have the ability to be difference-makers on this staff. Gore has shown flashes in both of his starts this season of the pitcher the Padres made the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft; he struck out the side in the first inning of his most recent start before surrendering four runs on four hits in the second. 

Thompson, meanwhile, has been the definition of up-and-down so far. He's had three dominant starts and three very poor ones, all of which add up to a 7.30 ERA in six appearances. His last two starts have both been very good, as he's pitched 11 innings, given up just two runs and struck out eight. 

The TinCaps play the next 21 days in a row, so it'll be imperative that their starters pitch deep into games and save the bullpen from wear and tear early in this stretch. The ideal scenario would be for Gore and Thompson to pitch nearly a complete game between them.

In former TinCaps news, 22-year-old outfielder Franmil Reyes got a big-league call-up this afternoon. Reyes played for Fort Wayne in 2014 and 2015 and this season laid waste to Triple-A for 36 games before getting the call to play for the Padres. Reyes has hit an MiLB-best 14 home runs in those 36 games and driven in 38, while posting a .442 OBP. He becomes the 162nd former TinCap to get an MLB call-up.

dsinn@jg.net