“We got the big hit, there just happened to be people playing there,” said TinCaps right fielder Dan Robertson, who was 4-for-4 in the game to raise his average to .316.
The LumberKings kicked off the game with their leadoff hitter doubling down the left field line over over the outstretched arm of left fielder Jaff Decker. He was then brought home on first baseman Kris Sanchez’s single, but Sanchez was gunned down by Robertson as he tried to stretch it into a double. Starting pitcher Eduardo Perez struck out the next batter, his second of the inning, to end the threat.
Center fielder Blake Tekotte opened the game for the TinCaps with a hard double down the first base line, but was caught off base when LumberKings center fielder Maximo Mendez made one of his many outstanding defensive plays of the night, snaring shortstop Drew Cumberland’s sinking line drive.
Decker temporarily rectified the situation by hitting a 2-2 fastball over the center field wall to tie the game.
He also showed that he could do more than hit, gunning down a LumberKings runner loafing into second with a bebee from the left field wall and then making a fine running catch on a deep fly to the left-field gap on the next batter.
The LumberKings scored in every inning but the final two, but only scored more than once on Mendez’ towering home run over the right field wall. Mendez who entered the game hitting .210 appeared as the second coming of Mickey Mantle, if only for one night.
In the seventh, the TinCaps broke their offensive slumber with a bit of good luck, benefitting with the wildness of relief pitcher Derrick Saito, who walked two batters, hit another and then launched two wild pitches that allowed Tekotte to advance from second base to home.
He recovered to strike out Padres’ first-round pick Allen Dykstra on a nasty curve with two on before allowing a seeing eye two-out double to second baseman Cole Figueroa to score two runs before Yefri Carvajal ended the inning with his third strikeout of the evening.
In the eighth, LumberKings center fielder Mendez made the play of the game with a spectacular diving catch in left center robbing third baseman Kevin Hansen of a sure triple and two RBI. The LumberKings luck held as both Tekotte and Cumberland hit balls hard only right at Clinton outfielders.
Decker led off the ninth with a double to top off a night that saw him go 3-fo-4 with a home run, double, walk and two very good plays in the outfield.
Dykstra walked, but it wasn’t Fort Wayne’s night as Figueroa hit a hard ball to right-center that caught a little too much air for Clinton’s outstanding center fielder. Carvajal ended the game by hitting into a double play to end an 0-for-5 night.
“We missed some early opportunities, but when you get down early all you want to do is give yourself an opportunity with the tying or winning runs and we did that. It just didn’t happen for us tonight,” said Gary Jones, the Padres minor league coordinator who is filling in for regular manager Doug Dascenzo. “Once you put a good swing on the ball you can’t guide where it goes. If you can get two opportunities to tie or win the game in the eighth or ninth inning, I’ll take my chances anytime.”
Anthony Bass, the TinCaps best pitcher, was promoted after the game to Lake Elsinore.
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