It’s amazing enough to think that the TinCaps could make the Midwest League playoffs, considering they lost 13 straight games between June 28 and July 11.
But even more impressive is that they are actually trending toward making that postseason berth happen with 27 games remaining in the regular season.
Their 4-3 victory Monday over the Lansing Lugnuts – propelled by Nick Schulz’s two home runs and a fantastic late-game defensive play – made for nine wins over 12 games for Fort Wayne.
Since the losing skid was halted with a 6-1 victory over South Bend, the TinCaps have gon 15-7.
Fort Wayne (50-62, 20-23 second half) came into the night one game behind the Great Lakes Loons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division, though the Lake County Captains were sandwiched in the middle.
In bottom of the second, Dustin Peterson had a one-out double after the ball caromed off the mitt of diving centerfielder D.J. Davis. But the TinCaps squandered it. Adolfo Reina had a 3-0 count and swung at an apparent ball, sending the foul tip into the stands behind home plate, and then flew out to right field. And Henry Charles followed that with a strikeout.
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne’s starting pitcher, Kyle Lloyd struck out six of the first eight batters he faced, giving up only a hit to Derrick Loveless on the opening at-bat in front of 6,017 fans at Parkview Field.
In the third inning, the Lugnuts (51-61, 19-24) got to Lloyd, starting with Dickie Joe Thon’s double into center field. Thon scored off an error when the next batter, Dawel Lugo, hit a ground ball that went between the mitt and the leg of shortstop Trea Turner.
It didn’t take long for the TinCaps to answer, though. Schulz, who was batting .351 with two home runs and eight RBI in his previous 10 games, homered to left field in the bottom of the third.
The Lugnuts returned the favor in the fourth. David Harris’ one-out triple scored Jason Leblebijian, who later came home during a Derrick Loveless groundout for a 3-1 lead.
The TinCaps cut into the deficit in the bottom of the inning, when Dustin Peterson homered with low shot to right-center that just cleared the wall. It broke a string of 17 straight games without a home run for Peterson, who has 10 this season, tied for the most on the team with Franmil Reyes and Ryan Miller.
Lloyd went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and six hits, while striking out 10 and walking two.
Fernando Perez’s line-drive single into center field with no outs in the sixth for the TinCaps brought home Turner to tie it at 3, but Fort Wayne stranded two runners thanks to strikeouts by Jake Bauers and Peterson, then a groundout by Reina.
Lansing’s starting pitcher, Brad Allen, lasted six innings and allowed seven hits with eight strikeouts and no walks..
Schulz put the TinCaps up 4-3 with a high flyball that sailed just over the left-field wall in the seventh, but his teammates stranded two runners after that. The Lugnuts threatened to tie it in the eighth, but a fantastic catch and throw by Schulz from right field set up the catcher, Reina, for his tag on Lansing’s Davis at the plate for a third out.
Reina was injured on the play, though, and didn’t return.
Notes: Mike Couzens, who had been a broadcaster with the TinCaps since 2012, left to pursue opportunities as a national TV play-by-play broadcaster. He has called games for ESPN and the Big Ten Network. Snider graduate David Hentz, the assistant video production manager since 2012, has moved to Mobile TV Group, where he’ll be an engineer for TV broadcasts of NFL, NHL, MLB and other sports. “My time here has been one of the best stretches of my life, and I'll always fondly remember the city, the team, and its fans,” Couzens said. “I thank everyone who has helped me grow here, and I look forward to my next step.”