FORT WAYNE – On Star Wars Night at Parkview Field, awhile after Darth Vader threw out the first pitch, the game produced another villain in the eyes of the fans and TinCaps.
Detracting from a 17-6 romp by Fort Wayne on Friday were the actions of Lansing starter Matt Dermody.
In the third inning, he drilled third baseman Dustin Peterson in the back of the helmet with a fastball. The pitch appeared to be a measure of retaliation, and Dermody was ejected by plate umpire John Mang.
In the top of the third, TinCaps right-hander Erik Cabrera just missed grazing the head of Justin Atkinson, who deflected the pitch with a hand and departed with a thumb injury.
Peterson said he expected someone on the TinCaps to get hit as a form of payback. He tried to turn his head from Dermody’s pitch, which Peterson called completely intentional.
Thank goodness I had a helmet on, said Peterson, who hit a three-run shot to left in the second inning. Pretty messed up. It’s complete bush league. If you’re going to hit somebody, don’t go after his head.
I have an older brother that’s had his jaw broken on a hit by pitch.
Peterson stayed in the game and finished 3 for 5 with four runs scored.
Cabrera’s 89 mph fastball came one pitch after a booming three-run homer by L.B. Dantzler. Cabrera denied throwing at Atkinson intentionally.
It just got away from me, he said through a translator. With the intensity, I tried to overpower it. It’s part of the game. It happens.
When Dermody was tossed, Lansing manager John Tamargo Jr. received an automatic ejection, too, and things flared up as Dermody and Tamargo exited through a tunnel by the TinCaps’ dugout.
Tamargo, who after the game said he would not comment on any of it, stopped at the railing and exchanged words with several people in the home dugout.
Moments later, the dugouts emptied. No punches were thrown. TinCaps center fielder Mallex Smith was separated from Lansing hitting coach Ken Huckaby.
He was calming me down, telling me to go back to second base, Smith said. You don’t want to see a player get hit in the head. That’s dangerous. That goes beyond baseball. You put somebody’s life in danger.
The TinCaps (19-28) held a team meeting with manager Michael Collins after the game.
He told us every action has a reaction, so be careful what you do, Smith said.
Collins said he does not expect any carryover in today’s series finale.
Lansing (23-24) trailed 9-5 when Peterson was hit and unraveled further after the dustup, giving up three more runs in the third – one on a wild pitch and another on an error.
In all, the Lugnuts committed seven errors and had three wild pitches and a passed ball. Four of Fort Wayne’s season-high 17 runs scored on a wild pitch or error.
The heroes at the plate were many in the TinCaps’ fifth straight home win. Backup catcher Adolfo Reina’s two-run single made it 3-0 in the first, and Luis Tejada is 6 for 9 with three RBI in the series.
Great game, really, Collins said.
Cabrera (1-3) lasted six innings, his longest outing in three starts, and gave up five runs on five hits.
Dermody (2-1) was shelled for nine runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 . He may face a suspension.
Collins declined to say whether he thought Cabrera was throwing at Atkinson.
It doesn’t matter, Collins said. I’m not going to sit here and say, I don’t think he did.’ It looked the way it looked. The other team is going to react.
The TinCaps perceived Lansing’s reaction as out of bounds.
Whether he did intentionally or not is irrelevant, Collins said. Umpires had issued a warning. Sure enough, our guy gets hit. I’m sure tomorrow level heads will prevail.
Note: The TinCaps’ hat finished eighth among all caps in the minors in an online popularity contest. Over three weeks, nearly 2 million fans voted in the Clash of the Caps competition, and Fort Wayne’s cap received 16,218 votes. The cap is dark green with an apple logo.
We certainly take pride in any recognition we can bring to Fort Wayne – even if it’s competition to determine who has the best-looking hat, TinCaps President Mike Nutter said.