Their wincing expressions tell the tale. The TinCaps know they are wasting a chance at something special.
A franchise that had gotten used to qualifying for the postseason again had the playoffs right in its sights.
But after going down meekly 4-1 to Lake County on Sunday afternoon at Parkview Field, those hopes are disintegrating.
The TinCaps were riding a 17-8 stretch – their best run of the year – heading into their game on Aug. 8 and were tied for the second of the two remaining playoff spots in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division.
They are 2-7 in the nine games since.
There are 15 left, and the TinCaps (54-70, 24-31 second half) are mathematically – if perhaps not realistically – still in the wild-card race.
Dayton (27-28 second half) holds the wild-card spot, but the tough part is the TinCaps don’t play Dayton again.
Dayton holds the tiebreaker over Fort Wayne based on run differential since the teams split their season series at six games each.
And with 15 games left, Dayton leads the TinCaps by three games in the standings.
We’ve put ourselves in a tough position, infielder Josh VanMeter said. Anything’s possible, anything can happen in the game of baseball.
That ethos really was all to cling to as the TinCaps head into today’s opener of a three-game series with Great Lakes.
Based on the past 10 days, things have to change quickly if the TinCaps are to have any chance.
It’s definitely do-or-die, manager Michael Collins said. Now, it really becomes time to get over the line here.
Barring a sweep of Lake County (55-69, 28-26) later this week, Fort Wayne basically has no shot of catching the Captains, who strengthened their grip over the weekend on one of those playoff spots.
They played the TinCaps seven times in 11 days and went 5-2. They have 10 wins in 16 meetings, which clinches the tiebreaker.
I think we’re very evenly matched, Lake County manager Mark Budzinski said. All the games were tough.
There are two teams between Fort Wayne and Dayton.
The TinCaps have six games left against Bowling Green (25-30 second half), while the series that begins tonight is their last crack at Great Lakes (26-29).
TinCaps outfielder Ronnie Richardson isn’t thinking about the team needing to sweep the Loons to help push them aside.
We can’t think about a sweep, he said. It’s a new day. We have to flush this. We can’t get ahead of ourselves.
Fort Wayne lost Sunday because of a lack of offense. The TinCaps had no opportunities in the early or middle innings and wasted good ones late.
Things haven’t been clicking, Richardson said. We have all the right tools. Just have to put ’em together.