The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, July 21, 2021 6:10 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (30-37) vs. Dayton (37-29)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps opened their series against the Dayton Dragons on Tuesday at Parkview Field with another difficult night at the plate, totaling just four hits and losing 4-1 despite a solid start from newly-arrived prospect Carlos Guarate. It was the first of 18 games Fort Wayne will play against Dayton before the end of the season, 12 of which will be at Parkview Field. In other words, the TinCaps will get plenty more shots against the first-place Dragons, who are now 7 1/2 games clear of Fort Wayne in the standings. 

The teams meet again tonight in what will be mostly a bullpen game for the TinCaps. Left-hander Danny Denz will get the start, but he hasn't pitched more than 2 2/3 in a game yet across his four appearances, so it's unlikely he goes more than three frames this time, or four if he's really cruising. That leaves at least 15-18 outs for the Fort Wayne bullpen to handle. It's likely that some of those will go to right-hander Edwuin Bencomo, who has tossed six consecutive scoreless innings over his previous three outings, returning to the form that made him Fort Wayne's best long reliever early in the season. Michell Miliano and his hammer of a curveball could get some work for the first time since Saturday and Wen-Hua Sung hasn't pitched since then, either.

It's also likely we see the return of left-hander Fred Schlichtholz, newly-arrived from Double-A San Antonio. Schlichtholz was solid in Low-A Fort Wayne in 2018 and even better at High-A Lake Elsinore in 2019 and he's coming back to that level after a rough showing in San Antonio, trying to recapture the form that helped him strike out nearly 12 hitters per nine innings in '19. The only pitchers unlikely to be used are Mason Feole (though he only worked an inning Tuesday and could almost certainly throw in a pinch) and Sam Keating. 

The Dragons will counter with 21-year-old right-hander Lyon Richardson, the No. 6 prospect in the Reds farm system, per Fangraphs. Richardson has struggled mightily over the last six weeks, posting a 9.35 ERA in his seven starts since June 8. One of his few good outings in that stretch was a start at Parkview Field on June 19 in which he went seven innings, gave up one run on two hits and struck out 10. He did walk three, however, and has walked at least two in all seven of those starts since early June. Overall, he has a 5.83 ERA and he's given up at least four earned runs in each of his last three starts. Richardson can touch 95 mph, but his fastball has been in the low-90s most of the year. He's got a very good curveball, though his command remains a work-in-progress.

The TinCaps send out a lineup tonight that includes Luis Almanzar at first base. Almanzar has struggled recently, with just three hits in his last 44 at-bats since June 23. He does have nine walks in that span and Fort Wayne is hoping the talented hitter can get going as it starts to make a stretch run late in the season. Cleanup hitter Jonny Homza, who had been Fort Wayne's most consistent hitter all season is similarly 3 for his last 30 without an extra-base hit or a walk. Leadoff hitter Chris Givin has been on base seven times in the last four games.

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