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The Journal Gazette

Monday, June 11, 2018 11:50 pm

TinCaps rally late, but fall to Lansing

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps' youth was on display in this series against Lansing, as was their talent. Their run totals in the four games were, in order: 9, 3, 15, 2. That's the mark of a bunch of very good players who are still going through growing pains. They rallied late Monday in the series finale, scoring two runs in the ninth inning, but came up short and fell 4-2. 

Despite the loss, Fort Wayne split the series against a team that came in tied for first place in the Eastern Division. Manager Anthony Contreras saw plenty of positives to take away.

"Overall I thought we competed well," Contreras said. "Obviously today, very slow until that end of the game, but it was encouraging to see them put together good (at-bats) and put us in a position to possibly win that game (the TinCaps sent the winning run to the plate in the ninth). 

"If we'd gotten one more hit or something fell our way, it could change the dynamic of the game, but overall I was pleased with the way they responded from the second game (a 6-3 loss) into the third one (a 15-0 win) and then to come back today, Mason (Thompson) pitched extremely well, kept it close and they competed, that's all you can ask for."

Thompson did pitch extremely well. In fact, it was one of his best starts of the season until the sixth inning. The 20-year-old right-hander retired 11 hitters in a row to begin the game and cruised through five innings before giving up a single and a walk in the sixth that both ended up scoring with reliever Ben Sheckler on the mound later in the inning.

Those runs made Thompson (4-4) a tough-luck loser, but his stuff was the best I've seen it all season. He painted fastballs 93-95 mph on the corners, showing both better command and greater velocity than he has most of the year. He said after the game he feels like his arm is getting stronger as the season goes on and he feels healthy. If he can pitch this way on a consistent basis, he'll be a very important piece for the TinCaps in the second half.

"He's learned a lot from last year to this year, just in terms of the way he prepares his body and takes care of his body," Contreras said of Thompson. "That all plays a big part in what you look and feel like out there (on the mound). It looks like a different player than what I've seen in the past. You see the ball jumping out of his hand."

Thompson's effort wasn't enough to get the TinCaps a win. Not only did the big right-hander pitch a good game, but lefty MacKenzie Gore showed no ill effects one day after his first start in nearly a month Sunday, according to Contreras.

"He's good to go," Contreras said of the Padres' top pitching prospect. "I think we'll take it day by day in terms of just his progression still. Obviously he only had two innings his last outing, but we'll see if the Padres say he can make the next (start). As of right now, he's still on course to start his next one."

Before the season, it seemed Thompson and Gore had the ability to be leaders on this pitching staff. Others, such as All-Stars Aaron Leasher and Nick Margevicius, have stepped up, but it seems as though Thompson and Gore could be ready to take their place as workhorses every sixth day. If so, this TinCaps rotation will be formidable going forward.