TinCaps manager Michael Collins had no idea it was Erik Cabrera’s birthday.
The way Friday’s game went, though, was no different than if Collins and Cabrera had scripted the whole thing.
Collins showed tremendous faith in Cabrera, who lost his rotation spot in July, by bringing him into a tie game in the eighth inning.
The right-hander worked around a one-out walk and wound up with his fourth victory when Fernando Perez hit a game-winning RBI double in the bottom half.
The TinCaps’ 5-4 win over Lake County allowed them to keep pace in the Eastern Division wild-card race.
Collins was all smiles when informed that Cabrera, born in the Dominican Republic, had turned 24.
Nice, Collins said. Awesome. I may have to go make sure everyone else knows.
Cabrera (4-7) had struggled in his conversion to relief recently, giving up seven runs in his past 10 1/3 innings coming into the game.
But in a tense, late-inning situation, Cabrera induced a lazy fly to left and a comebacker to the mound, then froze the Captains’ Grant Fink on a called third strike.
That was a big positive step forward for him, Collins said. Big spot right there. We needed him. To put up a zero was outstanding. Hopefully, he continues to roll with it.
Cabrera, speaking through a translator, said it was a special moment.
Those are things you don’t see every day, he said. I feel happy. That was my gift.
Perez wrapped Cabrera’s gift. His liner to center scored Ronnie Richardson, who had walked leading off the eighth.
It was a close game, Perez said. I thought we deserved that game.
Perez, who hit his 12th home run in the first, is batting .285 and has driven in a team-high 77 runs.
He’s had times where he’s been hotter than others, Collins said. Overall, throughout the year, he’s done an outstanding job of giving us some big hits in big moments.
The TinCaps (54-68, 24-29 second half) are in a seesaw battle with five other teams for one of the division’s two remaining playoff berths.
Lake County (53-69, 26-26) leads the pack, while Dayton and Great Lakes (both 26-27 since the All-Star break) are tied for the other spot.
We need every single game at this point of the year, Collins said. So far as momentum, a six-game homestand, you come home and win the first one, it is a turning point for us.
A slumping Fort Wayne lineup had produced four runs in its past 24 innings before Henry Charles blasted a three-run shot to tie it at 4 in the seventh.
With runners at the corners, Ryan Butler fanned Nellie Rodriguez on a 99 mph fastball to end the game.
Butler was like many of his teammates Friday in that he performed under pressure.
I didn’t feel that pressure, Cabrera said. Those are the things a baseball player has to do: just trust in himself.