Fort Wayne TinCaps @ West Michigan Whitecaps
Eastern Division Semifinals (Best-of-Three Series, Game 1)
RHP Dinelson Lamet vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull
Wednesday, September 9, 2015 — Fifth Third Ballpark (Comstock Park, Mich.) — First Pitch 6:35 p.m.
ABOUT LAST GAME: The TinCaps ended the regular season with an exclamation point, clobbering the Bowling Green Hot Rods, 17-0. Fort Wayne set a season high for runs as all nine hitters in the lineup had at least 1 hit, including Franmil Reyes, who went 5-for-5 with 5 RBIs. On the mound, Pete Kelich threw 6 scoreless innings followed by Aaron Cressley, who struck out 5 in 3 innings of relief.
CLASH OF THE CAPS: This is the second season in a row in which the TinCaps and Whitecaps are meeting in the Eastern Division Semifinals. In 2014, Fort Wayne, as the second half wild card, beat West Michigan, first half champs, in 3 games. The TinCaps won Game 1 at Parkview Field, 7-5. After the Whitecaps took Game 2 in West Michigan, 2-1, Fort Wayne won the decisive Game 3, 6-2.
BACK AGAIN: The following TinCaps appeared in last year’s playoff series against the Whitecaps: Colby Blueberg (2 IP, 1 ER, 3 K), Yimmi Brasoban (1 GS, 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 2 K), Rey Bruguera (1-for-3), Franmil Reyes (2-for-12, R, RBI, 5 K), Josh VanMeter (4-for-11, 2B, R, 3 RBI, 4 K), and Bryan Verbitsky (1 IP, 1 K). Here are the current Whitecaps who participated in last year’s series: Francisco Contreras (1-for-6, 3 K), Nate Fury (2.1 IP, 0 R), Mike Gerber (1-for-10, R, BB, 2 K), Ross Kivett (1-for-3, R, K), Arvicent Perez (1-for-4, R), and manager Andrew Graham. Most notably, VanMeter had the game-winning hit — a 2-run single to break a 5-5 tie — in the eighth inning of Game 1 against rehabbing Detroit Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen.
EVENLY MATCHED: Of the 16 regular season meetings between the TinCaps and Whitecaps (see results on right), 6 were decided by a single run, including an extra-inning game on May 29. Fort Wayne had 4 walk-off wins against West Michigan this year.
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: During the regular season meetings between the TinCaps and Whitecaps, the home team went 12-4. Fort Wayne had the best home record in the MWL this season (46-25). Meanwhile, West Michigan went 43-27 at Fifth Third Ballpark.
LONGEST ACTIVE PLAYOFF STREAKS IN MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Of the 160 teams in Minor League Baseball, the TinCaps are the only organization to have reached the playoffs in their league in 7 consecutive seasons, going back to 2009. The next longest streak in the Midwest League belongs to Cedar Rapids, which has been in the postseason 3 years in a row.
1. TinCaps — 7
2. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Class A Advanced, Carolina League) — 5
T3. Lancaster JetHawks (Class A Advanced, California League) — 4
Lynchburg Hillcats (Class A Advanced, Carolina League) — 4
Tri-City ValleyCats (Short-Season A, New York-Penn League) — 4
TURNING IT AROUND: Both the TinCaps and Whitecaps overcame slow starts to the season with big finishes. Fort Wayne’s low-water mark came after a loss on May 20 put the team’s record at 12-25. A turning point in the year came on May 21 in a Thursday afternoon game at Lake County. The TinCaps trailed the Captains by a pair of runs entering the ninth inning. Duanel Jones (who was promoted to Double-A San Antonio on May 27) hit a pinch-hit 2-run homer off J.P. Feyereisen (who in 16.2 IP in the MWL this year, allowed only those 2 runs) to tie the game. Fort Wayne went on to win in its longest game of the year, 9-5, in 14 innings.
From that point, the TinCaps went 65-36 (.644). It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, though. Fort Wayne lost 5 consecutive games during a 2-7 road trip from July 18-26 at Dayton, Lake County, and Bowling Green. That put the TinCaps at 48-51. On July 28, they were trailing Dayton 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning with 2 outs and no one on base before rallying for a 3-run inning (Luis Tejada hit a bases-clearing triple thanks to Narciso Crook tripping near the warning track and failing to catch the ball). Fort Wayne held on to win 6-5 on that Tuesday night at Parkview Field to begin a 7-game winning streak. Since and including July 28, the TinCaps are 29-10 (.744) over their last 39 games.
As for the Whitecaps, they were 10-16 on May 6 before going 65-48 (.575) to close out. West Michigan never won more than 4 in a row, but did that 4 times. On the morning of July 22, the Whitecaps were 3 1/2 games in front of the TinCaps for first place in the second half. West Michigan led Fort Wayne by a 1/2-game entering a 3-game series at Parkview Field from July 31-Aug. 2. The TinCaps came from behind and walked off in all 3 for a sweep and never let go of first after that. The Whitecaps responded well, however, and won their next 4 and finished the regular season with wins in 23 of their last 34 (.676).
The TinCaps finished 3 games in front of the Whitecaps for the Eastern Division second half title and 2 1/2 games in front for the best overall record in the Eastern Division.
TINCAPS’ 2015 SUCCESS IN CONTEXT: This wasn’t simply an impressive season for the TinCaps because of how they overcame a slow start, it was one of the winningest years in Fort Wayne history since the franchise was founded in 1993.
Most wins in a half in Fort Wayne franchise history…
· 2009 Second Half — 49
· 2009 First Half / 2015 Second Half — 45
· 2013 First Half — 43
· 1998 First Half / 2010 Second Half — 41
Best season winning percentages for an entire season…
· 2009 — 94-46 (.671)
· 1998 — 79-61 (.564)
· 2015 — 77-61 (.558)
· 2010 — 77-63 (.550)
Largest increase in wins from first half to second half…
· 2015: +13 (32 —> 45)
· 2006: +9 (31 —> 40) / 2011: +9 (30 —> 39)
· 2012: +7 (31 —> 38)
· 2004: +6 (33 —> 39)
FORT WAYNE FRANCHISE RECORDS IN 2015: This year’s TinCaps team tied or set the following franchise records…
· Most consecutive home wins: 17 — July 17-Aug. 27
· Most walk-off wins: 11 (See list on Page 12)
· Most fans per game: 5,971
· Longest winning streak: 10 — Aug. 8-19 (Matched April 9-19, 2009 and July 1-10, 2009)
· Most hits in an inning: 9 — June 14 vs. Clinton, Game 2 of a Doubleheader (Matched Sept. 2, 2011 vs. South Bend, 2 others)
· Most hits by an individual: 6 — Ruddy Giron @ Lake County, May 18 (Matched Rene Lopez, May 29, 1993 vs. Beloit)
IN THE RECORD BOOK: With 8 triples this season, Edwin Moreno is now tied with 5 others for the 5th most triples in a season in franchise history. (Jeremy Owens set the record of 12 in 1999.)
2015 HONORS: The TinCaps received the following recognition during the 2015 season…
· Ruddy Giron — Midwest League Player of the Week (May 18-24)
· Franmil Reyes — Midwest League Player of the Week (Aug. 31-Sept. 7)
· Thomas Dorminy — Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star
· Nick Torres — Midwest League Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star
· Taylor Cox — First active player to receive the Minor League Baseball Stars of Tomorrow Scholarship
· Grounds Crew — Voted by managers and umpires the best in the MWL for an unprecedented 6th consecutive season
· Parkview Field — Rated a Top 5 Minor League Ballpark by Baseball America
· Fort Wayne — Rated a Top 3 U.S. Market for Minor League Sports by SportsBusiness Journal
PITCHING RENAISSANCE: During the first half, the TinCaps spent 59 days in last place. For most of April and May, Fort Wayne led the Midwest League in errors, had the highest ERA, and issued the most walks while striking out the fewest batters. By season’s end, the TinCaps led the Eastern Division in ERA (3.35) and WHIP (1.28). The team’s second half ERA was 2.56, compared to a 4.19 ERA in the first half.
BULLPEN BRILLIANCE: Fort Wayne’s bullpen, in particular, was a major reason for this season’s turnaround. Through the first 37 games of the season (12-25), the TinCaps had a 4.65 bullpen ERA. Over the final 101 games of the year (65-36), the bullpen posted a 2.20 ERA.
TOP PERFORMERS: The following TinCaps finished among the top 5 players in the MWL in these respective categories…
· Trae Santos — Home Runs (14) — Tied 4th
· Trae Santos — Doubles (33) — 3rd
· Trae Santos — Slugging Percentage (.455) — 4th
· Trae Santos — Extra-Base Hits (51) — 3rd
· Colby Blueberg — Saves (21) — 3rd
· Colby Blueberg — Fewest Baserunners/9 IP Ratio (7.36) — 1st
· Colby Blueberg — Lowest Batting Average – Among Relievers (.163) — 1st
· Kyle McGrath — Holds (11) — Tied 3rd
· Kyle McGrath — Lowest BB-IBB/9 IP Ratio (0.92) — 2nd
· Kyle McGrath — Fewest Baserunners/9 IP Ratio (8.65) — 2nd
· Yimmi Brasoban — Lowest Batting Average – Among Relievers (.184) — 4th
· Yimmi Brasoban — Fewest Baserunners/9 IP Ratio (8.95) — 5th
· Thomas Dorminy — Lowest Batting Average – Among Starters (.238) — 3rd
· Ernesto Montas — Lowest BB-IBB/9 IP Ratio (1.58) — 5th
· Jose Ruiz — Runners Caught Stealing (58) — 1st
· Michael Gettys — Outfield Assists (21) — Tied 1st
EASTERN DIVISION CHAMPS: Fort Wayne has now won five division title in franchise history…
· 1995 Second Half
· 2003 First Half
· 2009 First Half
· 2009 Second Half
· 2015 Second Half
FROM FORT WAYNE TO FRUITION: Including LaTroy Hawkins, who was the first in 1995, 141 former Fort Wayne Wizards and TinCaps have gone on to reach the big leagues. As of Sept. 8, 53 former Fort Wayne players had appeared in The Show this season. Among them, 11 made their MLB debut. That list includes Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, who was with the TinCaps in the second half of the 2014 season and led off Game 3 of the Eastern Division Semifinals at West Michigan with a triple.
PADRES AFFILIATES IN THE POSTSEASON: In addition to the TinCaps, a pair of other San Diego affiliates are in the postseason. The Padres’ Triple-A club, the El Paso Chihuahuas, won their division in the Pacific Coast League and begin a series tonight against the Fresno Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the Short-Season A Tri-City Dust Devils swept their first round series against the Everett AquaSox to advance to the Northwest League Championship Series. Tri-City has 6 players who spent time with the TinCaps this season, including outfielder Henry Charles, who drove in what proved to be the game-winning run in the eighth inning on Tuesday night.
EXPERIENCE FACTOR: Experience is a relative term in Class A, but keep this in mind… All 13 pitchers on Fort Wayne’s staff are 21 or older. Among position players, though, the TinCaps have the league’s youngest players in 18-year-old infielders Ruddy Giron and Luis Urias, as well as 19-year-old center fielder Michael Gettys, 20-year-old catcher Jose Ruiz, and 20-year-old right fielder Franmil Reyes. Among regular position players, only Trae Santos (Troy) has attended college and only Kyle McGrath (Louisville) went to a “Power 5” school. Fort Wayne doesn’t have a single member of the Padres’ 2015 draft class on its active roster. Meanwhile, every Whitecaps player is 21 with the exception of 20-year-old reliever Joe Jimenez and reliever Gerson Moreno, who turns 20 on Thursday. West Michigan has 6 players who were just drafted by the Tigers in June. The Whitecaps have 8 players out of the SEC, 2 from the Big 12, and 2 out of the ACC.