The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 01, 2019 10:00 pm

TinCaps fall to Lansing, 7-5, to set up rubber match

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

How it Happened

TinCaps pitcher Omar Cruz came in one of the hottest pitchers in the league, but the Lugnuts got to him early. In the top of the first, shortstop Otto Lopez led off the game with a blistering line drive to left field that had a 106 mph exit velocity. Dwanya Williams-Sutton seemed to have a bead on it, but lost it in the sun and it zipped past him as Lopez ended up on second. Yorman Rodriguez then singled to left to bring Lopez in with the game's first run. Right-fielder Griffin Conine hit next and used an emergency swing on a fastball to slice a line drive down the left-field line for a double, bringing in Rodriguez to make it 2-0. 

Cruz settled down after that early flurry, striking out four of the next five hitters and then catching a line drive bearing down on his face to end the second inning. In the third, however, the top of the Lugnut order struck again as Lopez singled, stole second and reached third on an errant pickoff throw from Cruz. Rodriguez then lofted a double to the gap in left-center to bring in another tally and make it a three-run cushion for Lansing.

The TinCaps got a couple of those back in the bottom of that third inning, thanks to leadoff man Jawuan Harris. After Chandler Seagle singled to open the inning, Harris came up with nobody out and took a ball before unloading a center-cut fastball, launching it to left field. He stood at the plate for a few moments, watching it sail well over the fence for one of the longest homers by a TinCap this season. The ball eventually traveled 418 feet after leaving Harris's bat at 106 mph to bring Fort Wayne within 3-2.

The Lugnuts broke the game open with multi-run innings in the fourth and fifth, once again helped along by Lopez and Rodriguez. In the fourth, it was Lopez getting to Cruz for a third time, fighting off a 3-2 pitch and blooping it down the right-field line for a two-run double with two out. He tried to stretch it to a triple, but was out at third (though he thought he was safe and replay seemed to indicate he was). The next inning, an error on third baseman Ethan Skender let Rodriguez reach to lead off the inning and although he was later out at the plate on a ground ball to a drawn-in Skender, the error extended the inning and two two-out RBI singles ballooned the margin to 7-2.

The TinCaps' comeback began in the fifth. Seagle got the inning started with a line-drive double to right-center and Harris walked to put two on, with the fourth ball a wild pitch that pushed Seagle to third. A soft groundball to short brought in Seagle and left Ripken Reyes on first with two outs. Williams-Sutton followed with a fly ball to left-center. Two Lugnuts converged and it looked like center-fielder Hunter Steinmetz would take charge, but he pulled up short and had to stab at the ball. It went in his glove, but he fell and as he hit the ground the ball popped out, allowing Reyes to score and DWS to end up at second base. 

In the sixth, the TinCaps crept closer and had a chance to tie the score. Agustin Ruiz got the inning started with a ringing double off the wall in right-center on the fly. A fly ball moved him to third and another fly ball, from Seagle, gave him a chance to score. The ball was deep enough, but Ruiz didn't get a good jump off third and the ball beat him easily. He dove out of the way of the catcher, ending up behind the plate, and then engaged in a mad crawl to touch it before the catcher could apply the tag, winning the race by a split-second and scoring to make it 7-5. Later in the inning, Fort Wayne loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch and two walks. With two outs, Michael Curry had a chance to even the score or put the TinCaps in front. He worked a full count – despite taking a first-pitch strike that he clearly thought was inside – but then bounced out to third for the final out.

Player of the Game: Jawuan Harris

Harris came in riding a season-long 15-game on-base streak and went 2 for 3 with a home run, two RBI, a run scored and a two walks to extend the streak to 16. The home run was his eighth of the season. He has scored a run in four straight games. He also got caught stealing for just the sixth time this season (against 29 successful attempts).

Facts and Figures

This was the second-to-last game of the season. ... The TinCaps are 17-17 at Parkview Field in the second half despite the loss, compared to 12-23 on the road. ... In his last start of the season, Cruz went four innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits, while striking out six and walking one. Over his previous five starts, he'd given up one earned run in 26 innings, a 0.35 ERA. Cruz gave up as many earned runs before he got an out today as he had in his previous five starts combined. ... Williams-Sutton came in leading the league in OBP at .410 and went 0 for 3 with two walks. ... Conine is the son of two-time MLB All-Star Jeff Conine. ... The TinCaps committed five errors, tying a season-high. ... Fort Wayne reliever Jose Quezada made his league-leading 48th and likely final appearance of the season, striking out the side in a scoreless seventh inning. ... All-Star Henry Henry made his 43rd appearance, which ranks third in the league. He pitched two scoreless innings, giving up a lone single. ... Seagle played eight games with the TinCaps in 2018 and had one hit in 24 at-bats. This season, he has two multi-hit games in five contests with Fort Wayne, including tonight, when he went 3 for 3 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. It was his first three-hit game since July 3 and second of the season. ... The TinCaps went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. 

What's Next?

These teams meet again Monday at Parkview Field for the final game of the 2019 season. The TinCaps will send 19-year-old right-hander Efrain Contreras (6-5, 3.65 ERA) to the mound for his final start of the year. Since giving up six runs in without recording an out on July 27, Contreras has been terrific, going 2-0 with a 2.02 ERA in five starts. He pitched five shutout innings his last time out. The Lugnuts will counter with 22-year-old right-hander Sean Wymer (8-11, 5.74 ERA), the No. 33 prospect in the Blue Jays' system, per Fangraphs.

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