The final game of the TinCaps' home schedule has arrived. Fort Wayne enters its last date at Parkview Field in a dead heat with the West Michigan Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. The teams have identical 31-34 records as of Thursday and will play the season's final three games at Fifth Third Ballpark this weekend to decide the race.
Before that, however, the TinCaps have one more game with the Lake County Captains, who beat them handily, 12-4, Thursday night. The Captains pounded 18 hits, including 14 against the Fort Wayne bullpen, and evened the series at a game apiece. All four TinCaps relievers surrendered at least one run and they'll need a much better performance from the bullpen if they're going to secure a victory in the final home series of 2018.
Fort Wayne starter Mason Thompson can do his part by pitching deeper into the game than he has in his last couple of outings. The big right-hander hasn't gone past five innings in his two most recent starts and has given up 13 hits in 9 1/3 innings in those appearances. Those two outings were only the second and third since he came off the disabled list on Aug. 13, but he should be able to at least get into the sixth today if he throws well, even though he'll still likely be under some kind of pitch count.
Thompson had a strange start last time out against South Bend, striking out five and walking one in 4 1/3 innings, but also unleashing a wild pitch, balking once and a giving up six hits and two runs. He can give the depleted bullpen a break with a long start tonight.
The Captains will send 22-year-old right-hander Nick Gallagher to the mound for their final matchup against Fort Wayne this season. Gallagher has been a reliever most of the year and this will be only his sixth start of the campaign. The last time he pitched against the TinCaps – on June 29 – he came out of the bullpen, but he was magnificent, tossing four perfect innings and striking out four. The 2017 16th-round pick is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA this season and has struck out 51 in 50 innings. He hasn't pitched five innings in any game since May 24, so expect Fort Wayne to see plenty of the Lake County bullpen tonight.
For those attending the game in person, the schedule says tonight will be "Best of 2018 Theme Nights", so expect plenty of callbacks to specialty nights from earlier in the season. Of course, it would be a little difficult to focus on the game if the the team played the entirety of Toy Story on the big screen like it did during the rain delay on Pixar Night.