“Always when you win, it’s a great game,” said Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin. “We’re still not getting the hits, with lots of opportunities to score run, but we got some when we had to. Today our bullpen had to do a job.”
Max Fried, the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, struggled to find a rhythm on the night, battling through five innings. He managed to escape with only two runs; one earned, but was behind in counts for most of the evening.
“It was just one of those days when it didn’t feel right,” said Fried. “I just tried to battle through it.”
He finished with five hits allowed, including a rocket of a homer by Bobby Borchering, and five strikeouts. He clearly looked uncomfortable in the extreme heat and humidity that he had to deal with for the night.
“You can’t afford to go out there and get 2-0 counts to every hitter,” said Valentin.” At higher levels, they’re going to make you pay. He’s getting away with it now, but he’s got to be aggressive and get the rhythm.”
At the plate, first baseman Diego Goris again paced the club. Down 2-1 in the third inning, Goris turned on a fastball from River Bandits starter Vincent Velasquez for a two-run homer. He also collected one of the TinCaps’ three sacrifice flies and was hit by a pitch.
“Goris, I think, has been the best hitter we have so far,” said Valentin. “Not only hitting for average, but he’s getting hits when we need them.“
Center fielder Mallex Smith was a sparkplug at the top of the lineup. He led off the game getting hit by a pitch, then stole second and third (though he may have gotten help from the official scorer who could have hung an error on the third baseman on the play) before coming across on Goris’ fly ball to right. He collected a pair of hits later in the game, including a triple to the right-center gap and scored another run. While his routes in the outfield weren’t the best, he did track down a pair of fly balls, one to each side.
With Fried barely getting through five innings, the bullpen really delivered. Righty Matt Chabot gave up only one hit in 2.1 innings before giving way to herky-jerky lefty Chris Nunn. Nunn, who barely reaches 90 MPH with his fastball, continues to find huge success in the Midwest League. Wednesday, he worked 1.2 scoreless frames, striking out three along the way. The Tennessee native pushed his ERA down to 1.96 and has struck out one hitter per inning for the year.