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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 06, 2018 5:50 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (11-4) vs. Bowling Green (9-6)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps opened today in sole possession of first place for the first time this season. After sweeping the last-place Great Lakes Loons in a four-game series, Fort Wayne takes a significant step up in competition beginning tonight with the Bowling Green Hot Rods at Parkview Field.

The Hot Rods were the best team in the Midwest League in the first half, winning more than two-thirds of their games and cruising to the Eastern Division title. The TinCaps made a statement early in the second half when they swept Bowling Green in a three-game series at Parkview Field. This weekend's matchup will be a four-game series and it's a chance for Fort Wayne to cement its position at the top of the standings against a talented team.

The TinCaps enter the series with four straight victories, and they'll send right-hander Mason Thompson to the mound to try to make it five in a row. Thompson is pitching as well as he has all season, setting career-highs in strikeouts in each of his last two starts, including a nine-strikeout performance in his most recent outing.

Since June 1, the 6-foot-7 Thompson has a 4.32 ERA and has struck out 27 in 25 innings while walking only six. 

Thompson will look to continue a string of dominant outings by Fort Wayne starting pitchers. TinCaps starters have pitched 23 innings during the current four-game winning streak and have given up one earned run. That includes 17 2/3 scoreless innings over the last three games from Osvaldo Hernandez, MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino. 

The Hot Rods will have a talented pitcher of their own to counter Fort Wayne's run of dominance. Right-hander Tommy Romero, who currently ranks second in the league with a 2.10 ERA, will start for Bowling Green, looking to extend his own run of mastery.

Romero started the season with the Clinton LumberKings of the Seattle Mariners organization, but was traded to the Tampa Bay system in late May. In six starts with the Hot Rods, the 20-year-old has been even better than he was with Clinton, posting a 1.64 ERA and striking out 35 in 33 innings. Romero's weakness is his command, which hasn't improved much in Bowling Green; he's walked 15 in those 33 innings, including four in his most recent outing.

Romero will have to deal with a TinCaps lineup that is hitting with a ton of confidence right now. Robbie Podorsky has been one of the most dangerous hitters in the league over the last few weeks and is hitting No. 2 in the order tonight. The 5-foot-7 left-fielder has six multi-hit games in his last eight and is hitting .361 with the TinCaps. He's also stolen 19 bases and been caught just four times, wreaking havoc every time he gets on base. Tirso Ornelas, the TinCaps' No. 3 hitter tonight as usual, should expect to see a lot of fastballs with Podorsky on base.