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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 12:40 am

TinCaps fall despite Hernandez's solid outing

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps were done in by the No. 9 hitter in the West Michigan order tonight. Left fielder Garrett McCain twice jumped on pitches early in at-bats and drove them hard up the middle for run-scoring base hits, collecting three RBI in all and putting his team in front on both occasions in a 4-1 victory.

"That's always kind of the game plan is to be aggressive on pitches to hit," McCain said. "Obviously you don't want to be just swinging at anything, but if a pitch shows up, something that you feel like you can drive, we feel like that we should be able to do damage. ... I was just looking for something to drive and it happened to show up in the right place."

McCain's hits were enough because the the TinCaps offense couldn't get much going against a Whitecaps pitching staff that came into this series third in the league with a 3.52 ERA. The TinCaps might have had a few more scoring chances, but they ran themselves off the bases several times. In the fourth, Tirso Ornelas hit a leadoff double in a one-run game, but got thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. The next inning, with the score still 1-0, Tre Carter got caught too far off first base with two on and two out, depriving Jeisson Rosario a chance to even the score. Fort Wayne is an aggressive team on the bases, but teams need every chance they can get against the Whitecaps and the TinCaps cost themselves too many outs on the bases tonight.

On a more positive note, the starting pitching was excellent for a second straight night. Osvaldo Hernandez is not one of the two TinCaps starting pitchers among the Top 30 Padres prospects, but he has been consistently better than the two who are – Mason Thompson and MacKenzie Gore. After another solid outing, in which he gave up one run in five innings and surrendered just two hits, Hernandez's ERA is an even 3.00. He's been the most consistent pitcher on the staff; none of his outings this season could be called "bad." Even more encouragingly, he found a couple extra ticks of velocity tonight, hitting 94 mph on the radar gun once and 93 several times. That's beyond the 88-91 he's been sitting consistently this season and if he can throw that hard regularly, his ceiling will climb significantly.

On the other hand, Adrian Martinez continues to struggle out of the bullpen. The right-hander has given up at least one run in each of his eight appearances this season and gave up two tonight, immediately after the TinCaps tied the game 1-1 in the sixth inning. The Fort Wayne bullpen has been excellent recently, but Martinez can't seem to get out of appearances unscathed.

The TinCaps will get a chance to clinch at least a series split in less than 12 hours as the two teams will meet for an 11:05 a.m. start on Wednesday. The Whitecaps will have right-hander Matt Manning on the mound, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2016 draft who has struck out nearly 15 hitters per nine innings this season. It would be wise to limit outs on the bases against him.

The TinCaps have not announced their starter yet, meaning a roster move could be announced tomorrow with a pitcher coming up from extended spring or down from Lake Elsinore to get the spot start.

dsinn@jg.net