It's a rare TinCaps game at Parkview Field: the Sunday night game. Fort Wayne will meet the Lansing Lugnuts tonight in the penultimate game of the season for one of the few Sunday night games all year. It's cloudy and cool again in downtown Fort Wayne on the first day of September, with fall clearly in the air. Once again, there has been some rain this afternoon, but it's supposed to clear up by the 6 p.m. first pitch and there should be baseball at Parkview Field tonight.
The TinCaps won the opener Saturday, easily dispatching the Lugnuts 9-2 behind an eight-run second inning. They can clinch a victory in the final series of the season with another win tonight, while a loss will set up a Monday rubber match in the season finale. A win tonight for Fort Wayne would also clinch a winning record at home in the second half, all the more impressive considering the TinCaps went 12-23 on the road after the All-Star Break. Parkview Field has provided a real home-field advantage this season and the TinCaps are trying to end the season here on a high note.
Fort Wayne starting pitcher Omar Cruz, who gets the ball tonight for the final time this season, has already ensured his 2019 ends on a high note. Cruz has been lights-out over his last five starts, so good that even a subpar effort tonight wouldn't be enough to ruin the positive impression he's made in late July and August. Over his last five starts since July 26, the 20-year-old left-hander has given up a grand total of one earned run in 26 innings of work. That's an 0.35 ERA for those of you who are math whizzes, a number that's in Joey Cantillo range. In those five starts, Cruz has struck out 30 and walked five, and he made a strong case for Midwest League Pitcher of the Month in August. He gets one more chance tonight to make an impression on the Padres' brass, many of whom are in Fort Wayne this week.
The Lugnuts will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Cobi Johnson as they try to get back above .500 in the second half. Johson has been with Lansing all season, splitting his time between starting and relieving, and his numbers haven't been particularly strong. He's 2-9 with a 5.17 ERA in 24 appearances (15 starts) and he's struggled even more lately, going 0-3 with a 11.70 ERA in his last three starts. He's striking out a batter per inning this season, but his walk rate is nearly five per nine innings and the TinCaps should be able to do some damage early for the second straight night. They chased Saturday's starter, Troy Miller, after just 1 2/3 innings, meaning the Lansing bullpen should be a little thin today. It could be another big day at the plate for Fort Wayne.
The season is nearly over in the Summit City and fall is closing in. The TinCaps are trying to end their season with a series victory and a win tonight can ensure that happens. It's Hispanic Celebration Night at Parkview Field tonight, as well. The TinCaps have 13 players from Latin America on their roster, from Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.