Eight Straight, Middle Riddle, Sounding Off
On a muggy Monday night at Parkview Field, the Fort Wayne TinCaps defeated the Dayton Dragons by a 14-4 final. The only problem was, not everyone was happy with the way things went, at least in the first few innings.
After the first two innings, Jose Valentin had nearly seen enough. The team had failed to pick up a base hit with runners in scoring position against a struggling starter in Dragons righty Drew Sisco. Back-to-back singles in the first, and they only scored one run on an error. In the second, Fort Wayne scored three times, but only one run came because of a base hit. The manager called a meeting with his position players in the dugout.
“I told them, “Enough is enough.” We’ve been working on that situation the last couple days in BP (batting practice): man at third, with less than two out and the infield back. We can’t afford to go up there and swing at every pitch and try to hit a home run. All you have to do is stay on top, hit a ground ball, give yourself an out, but also get an RBI. We’ve been lucky, but at some point we’re going to run out of luck. Sometimes it’s fine to have some help from the other team, but there are times where you’ll face a tough pitcher and we’ll have to capitalize,” Valentin said.
That time will come, but it hasn’t reared its ugly head just yet over this eight-game winning streak, perhaps with the exception of Saturday’s 1-0 win where Robert Stephenson held the TinCaps at bay for seven innings. During this eight-game span, Fort Wayne has outscored the opposition, 98-56, averaging more than 12 runs per game. On top of that, Valentin’s club has won 14 of its last 15 games, with the only loss since May 26 coming in a 3-1 defeat to West Michigan.
Let’s not forget the nice outing that Justin Hancock had, which is easy to lose in the midst of a 14-run evening. The righthander from Defiance, Ohio, extended his scoreless streak to 13 consecutive innings, working six frames, scattering just four hits, walking three and striking out one.
“It’s comfortable to pitch that way,” Valentin said of Hancock’s good fortune of pitching with a double-digit cushion.
Also, unprompted, Jose Valentin’s praise of Hancock turned into a question of where the pitcher might end up after the All-Star break.
“He’s been great. I’m kind of afraid to see if they (the Padres) are going to take him away from me or not. It sounds like he’s one of those guys that might get promoted (at the All-Star break), but I’ve got to enjoy him until they take him away. Hopefully not, but if it happens he deserves it. I will feel proud. That’s what I want to see–guys moving up.”
Hancock lowered his ERA to 1.72 (from 1.91), which keeps him at second place in the league ERA tally, only behind Quad Cities’ Lance McCullers, who holds a 1.57 ERA. Although it’s still a little early to think about anyone being promoted, Hancock is the most likely candidate. Coming into this year, he had 139 1/3 innings of experience under his belt, including a 13-game stint with Fort Wayne last year. He’s shown he can handle this league this season. For reference innings-wise, Zach Eflin, Max Fried and Walker Weickel, the TinCaps’ trio of 19-year-old starters, didn’t have a combined 50 professional innings coming into this year.
As far as the playoffs go, it’s a near-certain lock that the TinCaps will be in the postseason this year. Their magic number to qualify is at one, which means that they could lock up the Eastern Division Wild Card spot as early as tonight with a win. The TinCaps have a six-game lead over the Hot Rods with seven games to go for Fort Wayne and only six to play for Bowling Green. However, there’s also the possibility that the TinCaps, who have seven games left in the first half, could be the first-half champions. They only trail South Bend, which lost last night for the third straight game to the hapless Great Lakes Loons, by three games.
To quote one of my college journalism professors: “I”m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…”
To hear Mike Maahs’ Monday pre-game chat with TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart, listen to the podcast below:
To hear Valentin’s full post-game comments, click the podcast below:
The TinCaps were forced to put shortstop Stephen Carmon, who injured his right hand diving for a ball this weekend, on the disabled list Monday, and in return received infielder Felix Cabrera from the Eugene roster. (That’s just a technicality on Cabrera, though, since Eugene doesn’t start play until the 14th of June.)
This means that Fort Wayne, at least in a conventional sense, is without an everyday shortstop, as Carmon has started there 49 out of a possible 62 times. In his absence, Maxx Tissenbaum started there today, and is the likely candidate to do so for the remainder of the first half. That, of course, leaves a void at Tissenbaum’s usual second base. As of today, it appears Diego Goris will be the fill-in at that spot.
“He’s one of those guys who is not an everyday player,” Valentin said of Goris. “He’s going to get some time to play when guys need a day off. In a situation where you want to win and put the best guy in the lineup, if he continues to swing the bat well I will try to find a way where I can put him in. We might have to find a way to have him play more often. We need his bat. I’m not looking for him to hit 20 home runs, I just want him to drive some runs in to help us win, and I think he’s capable of doing that.”
So far in 35 games, Goris has hit .280 with no home runs and 14 runs batted in. He had a four-hit night last night and score four times. Even without the services of Jeremy Baltz and Gabriel Quintana, the TinCaps have continued to produce and score, and there’s no reason to think they won’t by adding Goris to the every day mix.
Last night on SoundOff with the TinCaps, there was plenty of action to go around. Tommy Schoegler and Kent Hormann detailed the team’s winning streak, enjoyed a food challenge, and TinCaps President Mike Nutter joined the show to show off the Social Media Night (Thursday, June 13) jerseys. Watch the full show below:
Foo Fighters…take it away!