The TinCaps have lost eight of their last nine games. It's a tough stretch for a young team still finding its way early in the second month of the season. The losses aren't really the problem, actually. It's the manner of the losses: Fort Wayne has dropped games because of mistakes on simple plays frequently during this stretch and today was one of those days.
The winning run for the Quad Cities River Bandits came across in the 11th inning thanks to back-to-back errors, including a bad pickoff throw and a dropped fly ball in the sun. Both of those could have been avoided, although the sun ball was a difficult play. Center-fielder Jawuan Harris probably should have been there to back up Dwanya Williams-Sutton when the latter lost the ball in the sun. Instead, he was a touch late, the ball dropped and the TinCaps had been swept at home for the first time this season. Harris, who has been generally solid defensively, made another mental mistake earlier in the game, missing the cutoff man on a throw home and letting the runner move up a base. That led to one of the River Bandits' two runs in the first nine innings and kept the TinCaps from winning without the extra baseball.
Fort Wayne fell 4-3 in 11 innings and are a season-high five games below .500. Manager Anthony Contreras knows these are partially the growing pains of a young team, but the TinCaps keep making the same mistakes repeatedly.
"When you're one for your last (nine) I think there's definitely adjustments that need to be made," the manager said. "Right now we're playing some good teams (Quad Cities has the best record in the Midwest League) that can do a lot of good things and it's exposing us in little areas. We need to regroup before the game and talk about that stuff and get in there and be able to execute and perform."
The TinCaps are hoping the upcoming nine-game road trip will serve as a kind of reset after the tough last couple of weeks. It's one of the longest trips of the season by distance, with series against both Wisconsin teams (the Timber Rattlers and the Beloit Snappers) and another against Lake County. Contreras said he liked being on the road as a player because it's a different experience than the same old routine at home. The hope is that being on the road will provide a fresh perspective for this team and help it climb out of the rut it's currently in.
"We're going to have to put more effort in, definitely on the field," Williams-Sutton said. "We can't just go into the locker room (after a loss) and just say, 'We've got a game tomorrow, play 'em tomorrow, get 'em tomorrow.' We've gotta learn from our mistakes. Everybody has to take accountability and responsibility for their errors and mistakes."
The TinCaps will have to climb out of that rut without their best pitcher, as left-hander Ryan Weathers went on the 7-day injured list today. Contreras said the 19-year-old was dealing with arm fatigue and I'm hearing that Weathers has some biceps tendinitis. It's unclear how long he'll be out, but it seems unlikely he'll start on the road trip. The better news is that leadoff man Xavier Edwards, the league's leading hitter at .368, seems like he'll be back in the lineup soon. He left Saturday's game early and did not play Sunday.
"(Saturday)'s game was a little cold, he was feeling tight and everything like that," Contreras said of Edwards. "(Taking him out) was more precautionary than anything. He woke up (Sunday) feeling really good and he probably could have went (Sunday), but it was a scheduled off-day for him anyway so it kind of timed out perfectly."
The TinCaps are a more formidable group with Edwards back in the lineup, but it will take more than one player to turn this team back around. It will take every player focusing every game and ending these mental lapses that have been too common lately.