The TinCaps dropped their series finale to the Dayton Dragons this afternoon at Parkview Field, falling 5-3. After winning three of the first four games in the set, Fort Wayne split the six-game series.
How it Happened
The Dragons got nearly all the runs they would need in the first inning. Dayton got a rally started Saturday night when a TinCaps outfielder Reinaldo Ilarraza lost a fly ball in the lights that turned into a triple. In the first inning this afternoon, the visitors got another break. With two on and two out, Victor Ruiz hit a sharp line drive just to the right of straightaway center. Agustin Ruiz, usually a corner outfielder but playing center today, took a step in before realizing the slicing line drive was over his head. By the time he recovered, the ball had rocketed past him and rolled to the wall for a two-run double. Alex McGarry followed with another ringing double off the right-field wall, bringing in Victor Ruiz to extend Dayton's lead to 3-0 after a half-inning.
The TinCaps answered in the bottom of the inning. Jonny Homza and Ilarraza struck out to start the frame, extending right-hander Carson Spiers' string of consecutive retired Fort Wayne hitters to 12 dating back to his start Tuesday, but Agustin Ruiz broke that streak with a soft single. Tirso Ornelas then worked a very good at-bat, laying off some close pitches to work a walk and put two on for Justin Lopez. Lopez also worked a full count and then muscled a broken-bat line drive down the right-field line. Lopez seemed to think it would go foul and stopped running halfway up the first-base line to look back at home-plate umpire Ben Engstrand, but Engstrand called the ball fair and Ruiz raced around to score and make it 3-1. Lopez ended up on first with a single after turning back around and sprinting to the base.
After getting hit hard in the first inning, Fort Wayne starter Carlos Guarate settled in and kept the TinCaps in the game. The right-hander, making his second start in High-A, got strikeouts with all three of his pitches: a 90 mph fastball, an 81 mph slider and an 80 mph changeup with late downward movement. When Guarate exited, it was still a 3-1 game.
Unfortunately for the TinCaps, their two best relievers (at least recently) were unable to keep the Dragons down. First Edwuin Bencomo served up an RBI double to Victor Ruiz with two outs in the fifth. After getting through the sixth, right-hander Austin Smith gave up a leadoff double in the seventh and then, after getting within a strike of escaping the jam, surrendered a run-scoring single to Dayton newcomer Garrett Wolforth that pushed the Fort Wayne deficit to 5-1. Bencomo and Smith saw scoreless streaks of nine and 12 innings, respectively, come to an end.
Those runs hurt, especially after the TinCaps rallied in the seventh. With one out, it was Fort Wayne's turn to get a break. Justin Lopez got jammed on an inside pitch and grounded slowly toward third. The ball had some side-spin on it and third baseman Juan Martinez was unable to get a handle on it, allowing Lopez to reach first. That became important one batter later, when Fort Wayne third baseman Zack Mathis, standing just 5-foot-8, lifted a fly ball deep to right. The ball kept carrying, helped by the wind and the warm summer air, and eventually banged off the yellow line on the very top of the 15-foot wall in that part of the ballpark for a two-run homer that cut the Dayton lead in half at 5-3.
The TinCaps weren't done in the inning, either, as Kelvin Alarcon singled and Tyler Malone walked to put the tying run on base, but struggling Jonny Homza struck out to end the threat.
Mathis had a chance to be the hero again in the bottom of the eighth with two on – Ilarraza and Ornelas walked in the inning – and two out. He took a mighty rip on a 1-1 count, trying to hit a second home run, but fouled it off. Later in the at-bat, he took a fastball he thought was off the outside corner, but was wrung up by Engstrand, ending the inning.
Player of the Game: Victor Ruiz
Ruiz went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, three RBI and a run scored. He had not had an extra-base hit since July 10, but he did have hits in each of the last five games of this series. He drove in five runs in the last three games against Fort Wayne.
The TinCaps came into the game in fifth place in the High-A Central East Division, seven games out of the final playoff spot in the HAC. ... Fort Wayne has not won a series at Parkview Field since the opening series of the year, May 4-9 against West Michigan (the May 9 game was rained out). ... Spiers pitched twice against the TinCaps this week, giving up one run on five hits in 10 innings while striking out 15 and walking one. He got the win in both starts. ... Guarate is the youngest pitcher in the league this season at 20 years old. ... Mathis was playing in his first game with the TinCaps and first career game at High-A Central. His home run was his third of the season. It traveled 357 feet and left his bat at 95 mph. ... Mason Feole pitched a scoreless eighth for Fort Wayne, his fourth consecutive scoreless appearance, covering four innings. His ERA was 27.00 before the current streak, but it is now down to 14.54. ... Homza, who was once in the top five in the league in OPS, came into the game batting just .146 in his last 11 games with only one extra-base hit. He went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts today, including a grounder back to the pitcher while representing the tying run in the ninth.
The TinCaps open a 12-game road trip Tuesday when they travel to Lansing to face the Lugnuts for six games. After that series, Fort Wayne will travel to Great Lakes to face the first-place Loons for six more games. Both of those teams are in front of Fort Wayne in the High-A Central East Division standings. The TinCaps will return to Parkview Field on Sept. 10 to face in-state rival South Bend.