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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, August 31, 2019 10:10 pm

TinCaps beat Lansing, 9-2, in series-opener

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

How it Happened

With an 18-year-old pitcher on the mound to start the game for Fort Wayne, the TinCaps went about giving him some runs to work with. In the second inning, they did just that, breaking the game wide open early. After a walk to Dwanya Williams-Sutton opened the inning, Justin Lopez put his team in front with a booming two-run homer on a hanging curveball. He turned on the ball and launched it 384 feet to straightaway right field, clearing the fence by plenty and putting Fort Wayne up 2-0. The ball jumped off his bat at 105 mph and it was just the beginning of the TinCaps' explosion.

An error and a walk put two runners on for catcher Jose Lezama and the young backstop delivered. He went with an outside pitch, slapping it the other way down the line in left field, where kicked around in the corner. Lezama ended up on second with a two-run double and the Fort Wayne lead ballooned to four. A pair of walks then loaded the bases with two outs, chasing Lugnuts starting pitcher Troy Miller after just 1 2/3 innings. Reliever Randy Pondler's first assignment was Williams-Sutton, the 10th batter of the inning. DWS fell behind 0-2, but on the third pitch of the at-bat he crushed a fly ball to left-center that sailed over the fence for a grand slam. The ball traveled 381 feet and propelled Fort Wayne to an 8-0 advantage.

That was plenty for TinCaps pitcher Carlos Guarate, who was in control throughout his start. He worked quickly, getting the ball back and immediately taking the rubber to get in his wind-up again. His fastball sat 88-92 mph and he flashed a nice curveball, as well, with whippy arm action. He struck out two in the second and again in the fourth, all swinging, and the only run he surrendered was on an RBI double from catcher Jesus Lopez that blooped down the line in right and landed inches fair.

The TinCaps got that run back in the fifth when Lezama grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and were never threatened in the late innings as they cruised to a victory.

Player of the Game: Dwanya Williams-Sutton

Williams-Sutton came in leading the Midwest League in OBP at .410 and had another big night, going 1 for 4 with a walk, a home run, two runs scored and four RBI. He has driven in four runs in two of the last three games and has three home runs in that span, as well. Those long balls have pushed his total for the season to nine, five of which have come since July 29.

Facts and Figures

This was the first game of the final series of the season. ... The TinCaps are 17-16 at Parkview Field in the second half after this win and 12-23 on the road. ... Guarate was making his first appearance in the Midwest League. At 18 years old, he is the second-youngest pitcher in the league behind Jesus Gonzalez, who debuted for Fort Wayne on Thursday. Guarate went four innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out five and walking one. ... Harris entered the game on a season-long 14-game on-base streak and went 0 for 3 with two walks to extend the streak to 15. ... Lopez's home run was his team-leading 13th of the season, all of which have come since May 15. ... Lezama's two RBI from his double in the second were his first runs driven in with the TinCaps in five games. ... TinCaps reliever Dylan Coleman pitched a season-long three innings, giving up just one unearned run. He has had five straight appearances without giving up an earned tally. ... The Lugnuts' Lopez went 4 for 4 with a double, his first four-hit game of the season.

What's Next?

These teams meet again Sunday for the second matchup in this three-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch is at 6:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 20-year-old left-hander Omar Cruz (2-1, 2.20 ERA) to the mound. Cruz has given up one earned run in 26 innings over his last five starts, while striking out 30 and walking five. The Lugnuts will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Cobi Johnson (2-9, 5.17 ERA). Johnson has lost three starts in a row. 

dsinn@jg.net