The TinCaps’ six-game series against the Cedar Rapids Kernels at Parkview Field ended with a thud from the home side.
Fort Wayne’s beleaguered bullpen surrendered 10 unanswered runs after the TinCaps briefly took the lead in the fifth inning and the hosts fell 11-3 Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 2,781, ending the series with a six-game split after winning three of the first four games.
The TinCaps (13-16) won three in a row in the middle of the week but lost the weekend games by a combined score of 22-8 to drop back into last place in the High-A Central East Division.
“We were rolling through those three games, we were swinging it, throwing strikes, pitching,” designated hitter Jonny Homza said after Sunday’s defeat. “That’s who we are. The last two days, we just haven’t done that. We’ll pick it up next week.”
Next week brings a six-game series against the Lake County Captains, a team that beat the TinCaps in five out of six matchups in Eastlake, Ohio, in mid-May. The upcoming series, starting Tuesday after an off day today, is the back half of the longest homestand in TinCaps history, which features 12 games in 13 days.
The TinCaps broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth Sunday when right fielder Agustin Ruiz launched a towering two-run home run 377 feet to right-center. The ball left his bat at 102 mph for his second long ball in as many days and eighth of the season. The blast tied him for the league lead in RBI with 24.
Ruiz’s home run drove in Homza, who doubled to start the inning. Homza’s hit extended the designated hitter’s hitting streak to 12 games, the longest streak by a TinCap this season.
Fort Wayne reliever Austin Smith had pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning, but after being staked to a lead he was unable to record an out in the sixth.
The 24-year-old right-hander gave up six consecutive hits to open the inning, none of them soft. Second baseman Spencer Steer capped the flurry with a long two-run homer that landed on the concourse beyond the seats in left field to put the Kernels ahead 7-3 and end Smith’s day.
Steer homered twice in the game, also going long on the second pitch of the contest against Fort Wayne starter Moises Lugo.
That was the only run Lugo surrendered in his four innings, and he struck out a season-high eight while touching 96 mph with his fastball.
The Fort Wayne bullpen gave up 10 runs in five innings, completing a series in which Cedar Rapids piled up 28 runs in 261/3 innings against TinCaps relievers, a 9.56 ERA. Twelve of the 15 Kernels hits Sunday were against relievers.
“It’s frustrating,” Homza said of the weekend losses. “Now, all we can do is learn from it and get ready for the next series. You just try to do the best you can each day.”
The TinCaps have split three series in a row.
vs. Lake County
When: 7:05 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Parkview Field
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM