Tonight, the Fort Wayne TinCaps will play to extend their season and continue on to the Midwest League Championship Series. If you haven't been following our Single-A Affiliate in their postseason journey, here's your chance to catch up.
How did they get to this point?
The 'Caps had a great 2013 regular season. They finished with a 72-67 record, tying the fifth highest win total in franchise history. That record earned them a spot in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, which is the longest streak in the Midwest League.
Midwest League Quarterfinals - Game 1
Joe Ross dominated on the mound and got plenty of run support to back him. Facing the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Tampa Bay affiliate and a team the TinCaps struggled against in the regular season, Ross tossed six shutout innings and allowed just one hit and two walks. He collected three strikeouts and retired his last seven batters in order before handing the ball to the bullpen.
But Ross left the game with a 6-0 lead thanks to the TinCaps offense. A leadoff double in the 3rd inning by Rodney Daal, followed by a bunt single by Mallex Smith and back-to-back RBI groundouts by Reynaldo Bruguera and Alberth Martinez, gave Fort Wayne a 2-0 lead against Jeff Ames, who went 3-0 against them in the regular season. In the 5th, Smith hit a two-out infield single and then the regular season stolen base leader stole second base and then came home on a double by Bruguera. Ames left the gamein the top of the 6th after giving up a single to Gabriel Quintana and a sac bunt to Hunter Renfroe (who was called up from the Eugene Emeralds last month), who reached base on an error that also allowed Quintana to get to third. Matthew Spann came in to pitch for Bowling Green and immediately allowed an RBI single to Luis Domoromo to stretch the TinCaps' lead to 4-0. Renfroe and Domoromo scored the fifth and sixth runs of the game when Hot Rods shortstop Brandon Martin failed to hit the catcher with his throw to home plate.
After Ross' departure from the game, the bullpen cruised through the next couple of innings as Ruben Mejia retired six straight batters in the 7th and 8th. Then the 'Caps went to their closer, Roman Madrid, to finish the game. Madrid, who finished the regular season with a league-leading 22 saves, ran into a bit of trouble in the final frame. After issuing a leadoff walk, he got the next two outs. But the next batter reached base on an error charged to the catcher Daal. Madrid proceeded to walk the next three batters and put a run on the board for Bowling Green. At that point, Trevor Gott came in to relieve him and struck out the next batter to end the game.
Midwest League Quarterfinals - Game 2
Zach Eflin started the second game in the quarterfinals against the Hot Rods. He gave up a run in the 1st inning with an RBI single to Patrick Leonard, but cruised through the next few innings, striking out five batters and retiring nine in a row at one point.
Meanwhile his offense was busy racking up the run support. In the bottom of the 2nd, against Bowling Green starter Reinaldo Lopez, Renfroe doubled to drive in the first of many Fort Wayne runs of the night. He later came home on an RBI single by Tyler Stubblefield to give the 'Caps the lead, which they would never relinquish. Fort Wayne added to its lead with two more runs in the 3rd and one in the 4th before completely blowing the game open in the 5th. Luis Tejada hit a two-RBI double and then Daal blasted a two-run homer to pad the lead to 9-1.
Eflin gave up two runs before his departure in the 6th innings and then the bullpen yielded two more. But the Hot Rods couldn't catch up to the TinCaps. With the two-game sweep in hand, Fort Wayne successfully moved on to the East Division Finals.
East Division Finals - Game 1
Max Fried got the start in the first of the best-of-three East Division Finals against Diamondbacks affiliate, the South Bend Silver Hawks. He didn't have the success his teammates had in the quarterfinals and was pulled from the game after giving up five runs (two earned) in four innings of work. After tying the game at 1 in the 3rd, South Bend went off in the fourth inning. First came a leadoff homer from Brandon Drury. It was the second homer and earned run of the night allowed by Fried. The Silver Hawks followed with three unearned runs.
Matthew Shepherd came out of the bullpen and pitched three scoreless innings, keeping South Bend to just one hit and no walks while striking out five batters. Fort Wayne came back from their four run deficit and by the 7th inning it was an all new ballgame. In the 4th, Renfroe hit an RBI groundout and Domoromo hit an RBI single to cut the deficit to two runs. Three innings later, Stubblefield and Mallex both singled and came home on another single by Alberth Martinez to tie the game.
But the tie wouldn't hold for very long. Mejia came in at the beginning of the 8th innings and retired five straight batters. With two outs in the 9th, though, things fell apart. He issued a walk and allowed a single, and then Martinez dropped the ball in his attempt to field and then fell down, allowing both South Bend runners to come home and retake the lead 7-5. Silver Hawks closer Jimmie Sherfy then came in and pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning to earn the save. Fort Wayne would have to take the second game of the series in order to keep their postseason alive.
East Division Finals - Game 2
The TinCaps' season was on the line when they took the field Sunday night. After losing the first game in the best-of-three series, they needed to win in order to force a deciding third game.
It was looking like a nice pitching duel between Fort Wayne's Colin Rea and South Bend's Rob Coe, as each held their opponents scoreless through the first five frames. Renfroe ended the shutout in the top of the 6th with a solo blast, but the Silver Hawks got that run back in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Drury, who had also homered the previous night. That was the only run South Bend would score off Rea, however, as the right-hander ended his night with just three total hits allowed and one walk (intentional) while striking out six batters through a season-high seven innings.
The TinCaps took the lead in the 8th while sending nine batters to the plate. Facing South Bend reliever Henry Garcia, Martinez led off the inning with a single. The next batter, Quintana, knocked a two-run shot to left-center to give the 'Caps a 3-1 edge. Next up was Renfroe, who tripled and then came home on a single by Domoromo. Domoromo scored later on a fielder's choice to make it a 5-1 lead. Madrid gave up a run in the bottom of the 9th, but was able to close the game with the TinCaps on top. The victory allows Fort Wayne another chance to keep their season going as they head into the deciding third game Monday night.
Fort Wayne will take on South Bend tonight at 4:05 to play for a spot in the Midwest League Championships. It would be the TinCaps' second straight trip to the championship series and their third appearance since winning it all in 2009. Joe Ross will get his second start of the 2013 postseason after shutting out the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the quarterfinals. This will be his third overall postseason outing, having pitched five innings in the 2012 MWL Championship series.
You can follow the game online at TheFanFortWayne.com or download their radio app, 106.7 - The Fan. Also read a preview for tonight's win-or-go-home matchup from TinCaps PBP announcer Mike Couzens.
The TinCaps visit South Bend tonight with a chance to play in the championship series on the line. Read more here: http://t.co/T7iw7A7wyA— Fort Wayne TinCaps (@TinCaps) September 9, 2013
GO 'CAPS!! KEEP THE FAITH!!