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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 08, 2018 6:20 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (26-32) vs. Lansing Lugnuts (38-22)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are back in Fort Wayne for four games and they'll have their work cut out for them, facing a Lansing Lugnuts team that enters the series tied for the lead in the Eastern Division. Fort Wayne has been eliminated from playoff contention in the first half, so its role this weekend will be that of spoiler as it tries to inch back toward .500.

Fort Wayne has lost four games in a row, including a sweep at the hands of the South Bend Cubs this week. The TinCaps scored one total run in the final two games of that series and were no-hit in the middle game of the set. They'll have to do better than that to beat a Lansing team that is 19-10 on the road.

The TinCaps will send 20-year-old left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez to the mound in the series-opener tonight. Hernandez was not one of the two Fort Wayne starters that was named an All-Star on Wednesday, but he has better ERA than both of them. The 6-foot southpaw has gone 3-2 in nine starts with a 2.20 ERA this season, with the latter figure ranking second in the Midwest League.

Hernandez has been absolutely dominant since a rough first two starts this year. He hasn't given up more than two runs in any of his previous seven outings and he's pitched six shutout innings in two of his last three starts. Simply put, Hernandez has quietly been one of the hottest pitchers in the league for nearly two months.

He'll be opposed on the mound by 23-year-old left-hander Matt Gunter, who made his first two starts this season at high-A Dunedin before moving to Lansing for his most recent two. Gunter was a 33rd-round pick in last year's draft, but has been very good in his pro career, posting a 0.94 ERA in rookie ball last season and a 0.96 mark in his two starts with Lansing this year. Of course, that's a small sample and he's actually walked more than he's struck out in those two starts, so he's not infallible. 

Gunter will face a Fort Wayne lineup that has its three hottest hitters in the 3-4-5 spots. As I wrote today, Tirso Ornelas, batting third, is hitting near .340 with a pair of homers and triples since May 24, while cleanup hitter Luis Campusano hit .304 with a .380 OBP in May. Justin Lopez is the youngest player in the league, but he's earned his place in the No. 5 slot after slugging .465 in May. The TinCaps will count on those three to spark the recently stagnant offense.

There is some rain in the forecast, but hopefully it holds off. If it does not, it will be the third straight game I've covered that was rained out.