The TinCaps' three-game winning streak came to an end in a 4-3 loss to the Dayton Dragons that featured a rain delay in a key moment in the eighth inning at Parkview Field.
How it Happened
The game-turning play happened on the first pitch of the seventh inning. With Felix Minjarez on the mound and the game even at 1, Dayton's Quin Cotton swung at the first pitch and flew deep to center. TinCaps center-fielder Reinaldo Ilarraza seemed to lose the ball in the lights, looking up at the sky with his palms upraised trying to find it. The ball eventually landed 25 feet behind his head, bouncing on the warning track. Cotton raced all the way around to third for a lead-off triple.
On the second pitch of the inning, the Dragons took the lead as Reniel Ozuna lofted a fly ball to right that was deep enough to score the run easily. After that, however, Minjarez struggled. The next four hitters reached base on a walk and three soft singles, including a two-run knock for Francisco Urbaez that broke the game open and put Dayton in front 4-1.
The TinCaps got a run back in the bottom of the inning. Luis Almanzar opened the frame with a fly ball to left that kept carrying in the warm night air until it hit halfway up the wall for a leadoff double. Almanzar advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground ball from Adam Kerner, but the TinCaps also were unable to come up with a big hit after Ilarraza walked and stole second and third. The score remained 4-2 after seven.
Fort Wayne threatened again in the eighth inning. With two outs and a runner on first, the skies opened up, bringing in some significant rain. As the drops fell, Ethan Skender lined a hit down the right-field line. Skender ended up at second and Tirso Ornelas was on third. Just as Skender was sliding into second, lightning slashed across the sky. So, with the tying run on second and Almanzar due up, the tarp came out on the field and the game went into a delay.
After a 33-minute delay, the game resumed with Almanzar up in a big spot. The first baseman got a hanging curveball and crushed it high and far down the left-field line, but he got just a hair out in front of it and it twisted foul. That pitch might have spooked right-hander Ricky Karcher, however, and two pitches later he buried a slider in the dirt, skipping it past the catcher for a wild pitch that brought Tirso Ornelas home to make it 4-3. Almanzar eventually walked and stole second, but with the go-ahead run in scoring position, Adam Kerner struck out swinging to end the threat.
The TinCaps got somewhat unlucky because before Almanzar stole second, Karcher threw wildly on a pick-off throw to first. Instead of bouncing down the line and giving Skender a chance to score, however, it hit Almanzar in the ribs, leaving him on the ground for a minute.
Fort Wayne rallied again in the ninth. Ilarraza, looking to atone for losing the fly ball, led off with a walk and then stole second base easily. Unfortunately for Fort Wayne, he also tried to steal third with one out and was thrown out, taking the tying run out of scoring position and off the bases. With a runner on first, Agustin Ruiz struck out swinging to end the game.
Dayton starter Jacques Pucheu dominated through the first three innings. He retired the first eight TinCaps he faced, striking out six of them and utilizing a strong changeup to keep Fort Wayne completely off-balance. He whiffed four hitters in a row at one point, but No. 9 hitter Reinaldo Ilarraza finally broke up the perfect game and the no-hitter with a ground-ball double down the third-base line in the third inning.
TinCaps starter Erik Sabrowski matched zeroes with Pucheu through three innings, but Dayton broke through in the fourth. The first three hitters in the inning had hits, going single-double-single. That didn't plate a run, however, because on a Juan Martinez double to left Urbaez tried to score from first. TinCaps outfielder Grant Little retrieved the ball off the wall quickly and started 7-6-2 relay to the plate that nailed Urbaez by a step. The relay throw from Chris Givin was perfect.
The Dragons finally plated a run two hitters later, however, when shortstop Miguel Hernandez lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Martinez and put Dayton up 1-0.
The TinCaps were quick to answer, however. After his fine defensive play to cut down a run, Little started the bottom of the fourth with a walk. He drew several pickoff throws from Pucheu and one of those sailed over everyone's head and down into the TinCaps' bullpen, where it rattled around and gave Little a chance to go all the way to third. Pucheu seemed a little rattled for the first time and served up a fastball over the middle that Agustin Ruiz jumped on and lined off the wall in right for a game-tying RBI double.
Fort Wayne had a chance to jump in front in the sixth when three walks loaded the bases with two out. Skender came up with an opportunity to put his team in front and he grounded slowly in the direction of short. Dayton's Miguel Hernandez charged as Skender sprinted down the line and Hernandez's throw beat a stretching runner by a half-step, ending the rally by a hair.
Player of the Game: Jacques Pucheu
Outside of a two-batter blip in the fourth inning, Pucheu dominated all night. He utilized the changeup to great effect, whiffing nine in five innings, including all three hitters he faced in his fifth and final frame. After walking five in his previous start, he gave out just one free pass tonight and only two hits.
The TinCaps dropped back to fifth place in the High-A Central East Division with the loss, falling seven games out of the final playoff spot in the league. ... Fort Wayne will have to win Sunday to win its first home series since May 4-9, the first series of the season, against West Michigan. ... Sabrowski and Pucheu each pitched five innings, gave up one run and threw exactly 75 pitches. ... Ilarraza's three stolen bases give him 25 this season, good for fifth in the league. He went 1 for 2 with a double and two walks. ... Dayton manager Jose Moreno was ejected in the sixth inning, arguing a check-swing call during Skender's at-bat. ... The TinCaps walked eight times in the game, giving them 17 walks in the last two contests. ... Ruiz went 2 for 5 with an RBI. ... Almanzar was 1 for 3 with a double, run scored and a walk. ... Prior to the game, the TinCaps announced that a trio of players had been released: outfielder Jawuan Harris (.290 OBP, one home run, 22 runs scored), first baseman Seamus Curran (.353 OBP, three home runs, 18 RBI, reached base four times Friday) and catcher Andelson Arias. The Padres had to make room in their farm system for newly-signed draftees with the new MiLB rule that stipulates a limit on the number of players in each franchise's farm system. The TinCaps were also sent 22-year-old infielder Zack Mathis, who was getting on base at a .333 clip with two home runs and 22 runs scored at Low-A Lake Elsinore.
These teams will meet again Sunday for the finale of this six-game series at Parkview Field. First pitch will be at 1:05 p.m. The TinCaps will send 20-year-old right-hander Carlos Guarate (0-1, 3.60 ERA) to the mound. Guarate will be making his second start at High-A after throwing 58 1/3 innings at Low-A Lake Elsinore. He is starting for the second time this week after giving up two runs in five innings in his first appearance. The Dragons will counter with 6-foot-3, 205-pound righty Carson Spiers (4-1, 3.84 ERA). He threw five innings and struck out seven while giving up only two hits in the series-opener Tuesday.