How it Happened
The TinCaps got off to a quick start, as Tucupita Marcano waited back on a curveball and slapped a double the other way down the left-field line for a leadoff double in the first. A pair of ground balls brought him around to score and Fort Wayne took an early 1-0 lead.
That lead held through the early innings as Fort Wayne starter Ryan Weathers brought his good stuff to the ballpark. The 19-year-old left-hander cruised through the first 2 2/3 innings, giving up just one baserunner (a soft single in the second) and flashing a nice slider. His fastball was hitting 93 mph on a regular basis and he looked strong on the mound.
With two outs in the third, however, Weathers' hit a string of bad luck. A couple of bloop singles put runners on first and second and another soft single to left threatened to bring home the tying run. Darius Hill tried to score from second, but left-fielder Michael Curry came up throwing and his throw was perfect on one bounce. Catcher Chandler Seagle gloved it and applied the tag to cut down Hill and keep Fort Wayne in front.
In the fourth, the Cubs broke through. Another pair of weakly-hit singles opened the inning as Weathers' bad luck continued. A ground ball brought in the tying run, bringing TinCaps killer Nelson Velazquez to the plate in a 1-1 game. Velazquez lined to right-center and the ball barely eluded the reach of a diving Agustin Ruiz, rolling all the way to the ball. Velazquez reached third with an RBI triple and then scored on another soft single to make it 3-1. Weathers gave up eight hits in nine batters before getting a double play to end the inning.
Weathers finished five innings, hitting 93 mph in the fifth, which is a testament to how much strength he's regained late in the season. He left trailing 3-1, but in the bottom of the fifth, the TinCaps closed the gap. With the bases loaded and one out, Michael Curry chopped a slow ground ball toward short. He was out by a step at first, but a run scored to cut the deficit in half. Dwanya Williams-Sutton then batted with the tying run on third and hit a blistering line drive to left, but directly at Hill for the third out.
The Cubs broke the game open in the seventh inning after another bad break went against the TinCaps. With the bases loaded and one out, Nelson Maldonado was at the plate. On a 1-2 offering from TinCaps pitcher Ramon Perez, Maldonado swung and barely got a piece of the ball on a diving curveball. It ended up in catcher Chandler Seagle's glove and the TinCaps argued that it was a foul tip for strike three. The umpires instead ruled that the ball had hit the ground (it appeared to do so on replay) and Maldonado got another chance. On the next pitch, the designated hitter ripped a line drive down the right-field line. It got all the way to the wall and the bases cleared as Maldonado cruised into third with a three-run triple, pushing South Bend's advantage to 6-2.
The TinCaps got a run back in the bottom half when Marcano and Ripken Reyes singled to open the inning and Justin Lopez drove in the former with a line drive to center for a hit. Ruiz hit next and popped a dangerous blooper to right-center, but Velazquez made a nice running catch to keep the lead at three runs.
Player of the Game: Nelson Maldonado
The Cubs designated hitter went 3 for 4 with a triple and three RBI, all coming on his big hit in the seventh inning. It was his third three-hit game in August and fourth of the season. He has three triples and 36 RBI this season.
Facts and Figures
The TinCaps lost a home series for the first time since July 4-5. They had gone undefeated in six straight sets at Parkview Field. ... Fort Wayne finishes 9-9 against the in-state rival Cubs this season. ... The Cubs' magic number to clinch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division drops to one with three games remaining. They can clinch with a win or a Lansing loss. ... Williams-Sutton came in leading the Midwest League in OBP at .411 and went 0 for 4 with a walk. ... Weathers went five innings, giving up three runs on 10 hits and striking out four while walking none. It was the final start of the season for the 2018 No. 7 overall pick, who spent all year with Fort Wayne. He finishes the season 3-7 with a 3.84 ERA. ... Cubs starter Cam Sanders pitched five innings, the ninth straight start in which he has pitched exactly five. He has not given up more than two runs in any of those starts, including tonight, when he gave up two. ... Marcano went 4 for 4 with a double, a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored. It was his third four-hit game of the season and second in August.
The TinCaps begin their final series of the season Saturday, a three-game set against the Lugnuts at Parkview Field. The series-opener will start at 7:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 20-year-old right-hander Edwuin Bencomo (1-1, 3.69 ERA) to the mound. Bencomo is coming off a start in which he gave up one run in four innings while striking out five. The Lugnuts, who are trying to stay alive in the playoff race, will counter with 22-year-old right-hander Troy Miller (6-7, 4.62 ERA).