The Journal Gazette
Saturday, July 24, 2021 6:10 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (33-37) vs. Dayton (37-32)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are on a roll. After Friday night's 7-3 win over Dayton at Parkview Field, Fort Wayne has won three in a row, five of its last six and 10 of 15, one of its best stretches of the season. The two-week string of good baseball following a season-long seven-game losing streak has propelled the TinCaps from sixth to fourth in the High-A Central East Division standings. 

With a win tonight against the Dragons, the TinCaps can win their first series at Parkview Field since the opening week of the season against the West Michigan Whitecaps. A victory would also make it the first time Fort Wayne has won four games in a home series in 2021, and a fourth straight victory would tie a season-high.

With all of that on the line, the TinCaps will have their ace on the mound: left-hander Erik Sabrowski. Sabrowski, who made his pro debut in mid-June after recovering from the Tommy John surgery he underwent shortly following his selection in the 2018 draft, has been sublime in his limited time with Fort Wayne, going 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 24 innings. Opponents are batting just .169 against him and they haven't had much more success since he moved from the bullpen into a starting role. In his first two starts with the TinCaps, Sabrowski has fanned 11 in 10 innings while giving up three runs (a 2.70 ERA) and only five hits. His combination of a low-90s fastball (it touches 93 mph on occasion), one of the best curveballs in the Padres farm system and at least average command is enough to get plenty of outs at this level.

Sabrowski has thrown five innings in each of his starts, but the TinCaps would probably like it if he could go a little deeper tonight. The Fort Wayne bullpen has been taxed, pitching 16 1/3 innings in the last three games, with several pitchers working twice in that span. The relievers have been very good, giving up only three runs in all of those innings, but there are still two games to get through before an off day and the bullpen could use a little bit of a break.

The Dragons will counter Sabrowski with 24-year-old lefty Jacques Pucheu, who moved into the starting rotation in late June after making 11 appearances as a reliever. Pucheu had been going through a very difficult stretch in the bullpen, but has oddly been better as a starter, giving up no more than one earned run in four of his five starts. However, the one issue that plagued him the most as a reliever has carried over to his starting role: he walks a lot of hitters. He's done a good job of pitching around those bases on balls (opponents are batting only .209 against him), but eventually they seem likely to catch up to him. In his most recent start, he walked five in four innings and somehow only gave up one one run. Unfortunately for him, the TinCaps are one of the most patient teams in the league and are coming off a game in which they walked nine times. If he's not throwing strikes, Fort Wayne could have a big night against Pucheu.

The lineup tonight features league doubles leader Tirso Ornelas, who had two more two-baggers Friday, while team OPS leader Jonny Homza gets the night off. Red-hot Agustin Ruiz will be the designated hitter. That group will have a chance to do damage against Pucheu as long as the weather holds up. There are grey clouds hanging over Parkview Field less than an hour before first pitch.

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