Captains bats silenced in 3-1 loss to TinCaps
EASTLAKE- The Lake County Captains (26-29) fell by a score of 3-1 to the Fort Wayne TinCaps (27-29) on Cleveland Sports History Night at Classic Park.
For the second consecutive night, post-game fireworks were cancelled due to windy conditions. However, on Saturday, Lake County failed to provide the in-game fireworks to replace those cancelled after the contest.
The Captains were wearing 1978 Cleveland Indians throwback uniforms and the TinCaps donned Padres throwbacks for the occasion as well. Lake County auctioned off their retro jerseys during the ballgame. However, the lucky fans did not receive the jerseys just yet because the TinCaps and Lake County will participate in another throwback night in Fort Wayne later this season.
“I had no idea we were going to be wearing those jerseys,” said Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin. “But, so far, so good, we’re 1-0 with them.”
Valentin played parts of 16 seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox before finishing his career in 2009 with the New York Mets. It is his first year managing the TinCaps.
“I opened my career with San Diego,” said Valentin, who was signed by the Padres in 1987. “I have been blessed as a first year minor league coach.”
The Captains were held in check by Fort Wayne pitching all night, only managing six hits. The TinCaps also committed four errors on the evening.
Lake County struck for its lone run in the bottom of the seventh inning, aided by a two-base throwing error on a pickoff attempt by reliever James Needy. The error allowed left fielder Zach MacPhee, who led off the inning with a walk, to move to third base. He then scored on an RBI groundout to the second baseman by shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Lindor continues to struggle at the dish of late, going 0-4 on Saturday to make him just 7 for his last 42 for an average of .167. The Indians first overall selection in the 2011 draft is now batting an even .280 on the season, a significant drop from his peak at .325.
Struggling offense seems to be the recent theme for the Captains. However, the hitting woes around the clubhouse have left Jordan Smith unscathed. Lake County’s everyday right fielder had yet another impressive game on Saturday, going 3-4 with two doubles and reaching on an error in his fourth at-bat. Smith continues to roll, pushing his hit streak to eight games with his performance.
On the evening, Lake County hitters struck out an astounding 14 times. Designated hitter Alex Lavisky and center fielder Luigi Rodriguez each finished the night with a “Golden Sombrero,” striking out four times a piece.
“I felt we went outside of the zone a few times,” said skipper Dave Wallace. “They had good arms and when you’re facing guys like that, you can’t help them out. You have to be aggressive, but stay within the strike zone.”
Felix Sterling (2-5, 5.86) dropped his fifth game of the season for Lake County, giving up three runs on five hits, while walking two and striking out four.
“I thought it was a bit of a bounce back game for Sterling,” said Wallace of the pitcher, who had given up 18 earned runs in just three innings of work over his last two outings. “He wasn’t at his best, but it was a step in the right direction.”
Relievers Rob Nixon and Luis DeJesus, who was recently called up from extended spring training, combined to toss four innings of scoreless baseball in relief. Neither reliever gave up a hit.The Lake County pitching staff retired eight TinCap hitters by way of the strikeout.
The big blow for Fort Wayne came in the top of the fourth inning off of Sterling. With one out, first baseman Travis Whitmore singled, bringing Yeison Asencio to the dish. The right fielder blasted a two-run home run to the top row of the bleachers in left field, putting the TinCaps ahead 2-0.
Fort Wayne scored its third run in the next inning, when leadoff hitter Tyler Stubblefield hit an RBI double to left center field for just his second RBI of the year.
Matt Wisler (2-3, 2.66) notched the win for the TinCaps, his second of the season, pitching five innings and striking out eight Captains hitters. He was relieved by James Needy and Johnny Barbato, who each tossed two innings, combining to give up just one hit and strike out six. Barbato missed the previous 20 days due to forearm soreness.
“Pitching has been the reason why we are still in this race,” said Valentin. “We have the best arms in all of the organization at this level.”
After the game, Valentin noted that he will miss the final two games of the three game series. The former major-leaguer will return home to Puerto Rico to be with his son, Jesmuel, who is seeking to begin a major league career of his own. Jesmuel, a middle infielder like his father, is expected to be drafted in the top-three rounds of the 2012 MLB Draft.
For the second consecutive weekend game, the Captains played in front of a near-capacity crowd, as 7,389 took in the contest Saturday evening for Cleveland Sports History Night. The celebrities featured included famed announcer Joe Tait, former Cleveland Cavalier Elmore Smith, former Indian Duke Sims, legendary Browns coach Sam Rutigliano and current Browns receiver Greg Little. All the featured Cleveland greats threw out ceremonial first pitches before the contest.
“It’s a lot of fun for the team to walk out pregame with the place pretty filled up,” said Wallace of the crowd. “It definitely gives our guys a boost of energy.”
The Captains will attempt to even the series on Sunday afternoon when they send left hander Elvis Araujo (2-4, 3.19) to the mound. He will face off against Ruben Mejia (1-1, 4.74) for Fort Wayne. The game will begin at 1:00 pm.