Kyle Lloyd threw a gem, Henry Charles homered and made a key catch, and the TinCaps steered clear of an unwanted milestone.
More importantly, they were able to shake hands before walking off the field for the first time in 15 days.
Fort Wayne jumped in front with three runs in the first inning, then rode Lloyd’s right arm to claim a 6-1 victory over South Bend Saturday night, snapping their 13-game losing streak.
You like seeing everybody happy, Lloyd said. It’s nice to finally shake hands.
They hadn’t done so since June 27 against these same Silver Hawks and were just two losses shy of matching the longest skid in Midwest League history.
Instead, Lloyd (3-3) overwhelmed South Bend, allowing one run and five hits with 13 strikeouts in six dominant innings.
The 23-year-old won for the first time in eight starts, dropping his ERA from 5.07 to 4.77 in the victory.
He used a plunging splitter to fan one batter after another.
That’s my pitch, he said. It was really working tonight. It’s always down in the zone. It looks like a fastball.
It was the most punchouts by any Fort Wayne pitcher since Brian Whitaker had 13 at Wisconsin on Aug. 8, 2003.
The franchise record is 15, set by LaTroy Hawkins on June 25, 1993 against Cedar Rapids.
Striking people out – it takes a lot of pitches to do it, said Lloyd, who counted 39 of his 90 pitches as splitters.
Charles, a part-time outfielder, shared the postgame spotlight after a night of making the highlight reel.
Playing for the first time since July 2, the lefty batter displayed no ill effects from a left wrist injury.
He crushed a mammoth, two-run shot off South Bend starter John Omahen in the fourth, surely one of the longest in franchise history.
Charles pulled his hands back and sent a changeup soaring over the 400 Club restaurant in center field. The ball clanked off the roof, giving the TinCaps (36-55, 6-16 second half) a 5-1 edge.
That was awesome, TinCaps manager Michael Collins said. We’ll all remember it.
With two outs and runners at second and third in the seventh, Daniel Palka had just driven a ball that seemed destined to get the Silver Hawks (55-36, 15-7) back within striking distance.
But left fielder Charles raced to the wall, leaped up and snared the ball to rob Palka of an extra-base hit.
Great play, Collins said. That was a big play.
Fort Wayne got RBI singles from Franmil Reyes and Jake Bauers, and Ronnie Richardson’s RBI knock closed the scoring in the sixth inning.
Players said the win brought a sigh of relief.
We wanted it bad, Fernando Perez said. (Lloyd) did his job. We’re glad we put it all together.
Note: South Bend’s Andrew Velazquez tied a minor league record by reaching base in 71 straight games.