FORT WAYNE – The ball rolled and rolled, brushing the grass and dirt along the third base line.
The spin was true. It stayed fair. Mallex Smith grinned wide from his perch on first.
Smith’s swinging bunt leading off the bottom of the first inning set a positive tone in the TinCaps’ 8-4 win over Dayton on Sunday before 6,633 at Parkview Field.
I’ve seen a few that have done that, TinCaps manager Michael Collins said. Fortunately for him, it stayed right there. That put some pressure on them.
The TinCaps (20-29) knocked off one of the better teams in the Midwest League with a patient approach in support of their emerging ace.
Kyle Lloyd (2-1) went six innings and gave up two runs on seven hits, his latest in a string of successful starts since transitioning from the bullpen.
Lloyd fielded his position, too, diving in the second to catch a bunt that was popped up on the infield. From his knees, Lloyd threw to first to double off Avain Rachal.
I’ve always been able to field my position, but not to that extent, Lloyd said. That was fun. I knew I needed to catch it.
Dayton (27-21) wasn’t as pleased with its starting pitcher. Amir Garrett (0-4) lost to Fort Wayne for the second time this month.
Ryan Miller took him deep with a man on in the second, and the TinCaps added two more that inning. Dustin Peterson had an RBI single and the fourth run scored on an error by the Dragons.
After Rachal’s second RBI single made it 4-2, the TinCaps grinded out a rally in the fourth.
Smith and Fernando Perez drew bases-loaded walks before Franmil Reyes delivered a sacrifice fly.
It’s something we always talk about is taking what they give us, Collins said. It comes back to that good team approach we’ve had for the last week or so.
The TinCaps have won three of four on a six-game homestand following their seven-game losing streak.
For a team with the worst ERA in the league at 4.87, Lloyd’s continued effectiveness is big.
In four starts, he’s only given up four runs in 19 innings and reached the 90-pitch plateau on Sunday.
He’s a big, strong guy with the ability to mix three pitches, Collins said. Every staff needs and wants a guy who will give you a chance.
The bats backed Lloyd up.
Our team is coming together like we should, Miller said. We have the talent.