FORT WAYNE – An 8-5 loss for the TinCaps didn’t look so bad Friday night, not after they battled back from a seven-run first-inning deficit at Parkview Field against the Lake County Captains.
It was a further show of resiliency from the TinCaps, who have won 17 of their last 26 after losing 13 in a row, and who had a thrilling come-from-behind 12-11 victory on Thursday night, when they were down eight runs to the Captains.
Obviously, going down 7-0 in the top of the first is tough, said Fort Wayne’s Josh VanMeter, who was 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI. But I think what people learned, even from (Thursday) night, is we never give up and are going to try and battle our way back into games. That’s kind of what we did in the bottom of the seventh tonight (with three runs) and just came up a little short.
We’ve just got to be proud of the way we’re fighting back in games. Hopefully we can learn from that and start a little bit earlier in the game to give our pitching some support there. We’re swinging the bats well. We lost, but we played a good game.
On Thursday, Fernando Perez keyed the comeback with a grand slam, before Trea Turner had the winning single in the 10th.
Perez’s bat remained hot Friday; he was 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBI in front of 7,701 fans on Muppets Night.
He’s not swinging at bad pitches and mainly staying in the middle of the field, hitting fastballs into the left-center and right-center gaps, and he’s also hitting home runs, said VanMeter, a native of Ossian. Whenever you stay in the middle of the field, that’s when you give yourself the best chance to succeed.
Perez’s batting average increased to .285 as the TinCaps (52-64, 22-25 in second half) were leapfrogged by Great Lakes for the final playoff spot in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division.
He’s just putting himself into a better position more often and allowing his natural ability to come through for him, TinCaps manager Michael Collins said. I think when he’s in a good position to execute his swing, for the most part, he doesn’t miss it. When that timing is a little off, things can turn out differently. But that timing has been better for him lately and the results are showing.
The top of the first inning took more than 20 minutes and saw Fort Wayne’s starter, Cody Hebner (1-2), give up seven runs on four hits. Grant Fink highlighted the surge for Lake County with a grand slam.
Hebner struck out the next batter, Ivan Castillo, for the third out and was then replaced by Justin Livengood.
Perez answered with his home run to right field in the bottom of the first.
In the fifth, the Captains (49-67, 22-24) regained their seven-run lead when Eric Haase’s RBI single scored Mike Papi, who was the Cleveland Indians’ first-round pick (38th overall) in this year’s draft.
The TinCaps answered in the bottom of the inning when Ronnie Richardson scored on a balk by Caleb Hamrick with Perez at the plate, but Fort Wayne stranded two runners when Perez grounded out to first base.
In the seventh, VanMeter’s RBI single off Hamrick got another rally going and, after the Captains put in pitcher Justin Brantley (4-0), Perez’s two-run single cut the lead to 8-5.
Livengood went four innings, giving up one run and four hits, while striking out two and walking one. Fort Wayne also used pitchers Jason Jester and Nick Mutz.
Lake County’s starter, Anderson Polanco, went four innings, giving up one run and two hits, while striking out two and walking.
Notes: TinCaps catcher Adolfo Reina, who injured his elbow making a tag at home plate in Monday’s 4-3 victory over Lansing, was placed on the disabled list. Taking his spot was catcher John Nester, who was transferred from Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, where he batted .211 with one home run and nine RBI in 36 games.