FORT WAYNE – Mark Haley has seen just about everything in his 10 seasons as manager of the South Bend Silver Hawks.
On Friday, observing from the press box as he served the first of a three-game suspension, Haley watched his South Bend club cruise to a 9-2 rout at Parkview Field.
The TinCaps (35-55, 5-16 second half) have lost 13 games in a row, two short of matching a Midwest League record.
It was enough to remind Haley of just how hard the sport can be at times.
It’s not easy, he said. I can remember when we lost 12, 13 in a row. It’s happened.
At the moment, South Bend (55-35, 15-6) might be the hottest team in the league.
Fort Wayne is on the opposite end of the spectrum, struggling for answers with Randy Smith, the San Diego Padres’ vice president of player development, in town for this four-game series.
TinCaps manager Michael Collins said he was not displeased with the recent effort of his players.
What’s funny is, the last few days I felt our attitude before the game in the dugout has been positive, Collins said. Guys have been upbeat. The results haven’t shown.
They weren’t there Friday, either, as the TinCaps struggled in every phase.
There were errors – notably, a two-run gaffe by first baseman Jake Bauers.
There was ineffective pitching – starter Cody Hebner (0-1) gave up three earned runs in three innings, and South Bend scored four runs in four innings against Payton Baskette.
And the offense stayed cold, with only five hits and one walk.
The numbers illustrate the players’ obvious frustration.
Fort Wayne has been outscored 90-36 during the skid, which equates to an average score of 6.9 to 2.8.
We’ve worked hard, Collins said. The last series at Great Lakes, almost every single hitter put in extra work in the cage.
Collins, 29, said he never went through a stretch this bad during his 10-year career as a player in the minors.
In his first year as TinCaps skipper, though, he admitted to feeling helpless regarding the team’s lagging execution.
Mike’s a young manager, Haley said. He’s a good manager. You go, What can you do to change it?’
There’s really nothing. Some really good teams have fallen into these ruts.
The TinCaps scored twice in the first inning on a double-play grounder and then an RBI double by Bauers.
Sean Furney (5-4) gave up nothing else over his seven innings, and the Silver Hawks got four RBI from Breland Almadova, their No. 9 batter.
South Bend went ahead 3-2 in the second on back-to-back RBI singles by Almadova and Andrew Velazquez, who has reached base in 70 consecutive games.
The longest streak in minor league history is 71. Kevin Millar did it in 1997 and Kevin Youkilis in 2003.
While South Bend’s All-Star shortstop pursues history, the TinCaps are two losses from tying the wrong kind.
Everyone’s frustrated, Collins said. We’ve come in with the right approach. In the end, it’s all a learning experience. You hopefully will be better for it.