FORT WAYNE – The TinCaps closed in on a victory over Beloit, taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning.
Fernando Perez singled leading off and then stole second, with the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters, Franmil Reyes and Jake Bauers, to follow. Instead of sitting back and trying for the big inning, TinCaps manager Michael Collins played the small ball style to tack on another run.
It sure paid off Thursday in Fort Wayne’s 3-2 victory over Beloit in front of 8,658 at Parkview Field.
As Bauers watched from the on-deck circle, he never thought Reyes would play to advance the runner.
But Reyes laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Bauers drove home Perez with a grounder to second.
I was pretty surprised, Bauers said. We had just worked on bunting today. I guess it’s good to show Tubby (Collins) he can get one down.
The insurance run loomed large when Beloit’s B.A. Vollmuth doubled leading off the ninth. He scored on a grounder by Luis Baez, but Ryan Butler retired the next batter for his third save.
Collins said he was confident Reyes could execute.
I felt like that situation in the game was a big point, Collins said. He’s our No. 4 hitter right now. As he moves up through the levels, he’s going to be down at the bottom at some point.
The TinCaps (42-59, 12-20 second half) got an effective performance from their starting pitcher for the second straight day.
This time, they came through in the late innings to make it stand up.
Perez and Luis Tejada each hit solo home runs to back Cody Hebner, who struck out five batters for the second consecutive outing. He gave up one run on two hits and three walks in five innings. Hebner held Quad Cities to one hit and one walk over five shutout innings in his last start.
He couldn’t quite explain the back-to-back stellar efforts.
I wish I could say, the right-hander said. My one mindset is to give my team a chance to win. I’m making pitches when I need to.
Collins cited Hebner’s ability to throw strikes as a reason for his recent surge.
Hebner gave up an RBI double in the fourth to Tyler Marincov, who beat the TinCaps on Wednesday with a two-run, go-ahead homer in the eighth that spoiled a gem thrown by Yimmi Brasoban.
After Tejada went yard in the fifth and Perez’s eighth long ball provided a lead in the sixth, Justin Livengood made sure there wouldn’t be another late-inning slip.
Livengood (5-1) pitched three scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 4.19.
Entering today’s rubber match of this three-game set, the Snappers (40-62, 10-22) can probably assume Livengood won’t be available.
But Fort Wayne, 7-4 in its last 11 contests, is showing an ability to win more low-scoring games, which are decided by good starting pitching and timely defense.
Ideally, I’d like the same pitching and defense mixed in with 15 hits and eight runs, Collins said. But (Thursday) was definitely a great, quality game that shows the importance of the little things. Reyes’ bunt, if we don’t do that, it might be a 2-2 game.
The TinCaps, a diverse offense with some power, patience and speed, used productive outs to seal it.
It got the job done, Bauers said. That’s all that counts.