West Michigan Power Surge Sinks TinCaps

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Adolfo Reina crushed a home run off The Harrison, but that wasn’t enough to lead the TinCaps to victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps on Saturday night at Parkview Field. West Michigan won 8-4 in front of 7,327 fans at Parkview Field, which hosted its third consecutive sellout and 12th of the season.

Whitecaps leadoff batter Austin Schotts set the tone Saturday with the first at-bat of the game. The West Michigan (10-6, 51-35) center fielder homered to left-center field for the first of five home runs hit on the night — four of which were launched by the visitors.

Schotts’ home run came off Cody Hebner, who was pitching for the TinCaps for the first time since September 15, 2012. Hebner had spent the 2013 season and the first part of 2014 with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore as a reliever. The 23-year-old right-hander recovered after a rude re-introduction to the Midwest League and retired the next five batters he faced.

Meanwhile, Fort Wayne’s offense showed life in the bottom half of the first. The TinCaps, who entered the day leading the league in runs, had scored only seven runs in their last five games, but “erupted” for three against Austin Kubitza (7-1). Jake Bauers doubled to straightaway-center field to score Rey Bruguera to tie the game. Two batters later, Reina demolished a 2-1 pitch deep beyond the wall in left field. Since The Harrison — a four-story building about 75 feet past Parkview Field’s left-field fence — was constructed before the start of the 2013 season, no TinCap had ever hit a home run off the building during a game. It was Reina’s fourth home run of the year and against West Michigan, where he played in 2013 prior to being acquired by the Padres from the Tigers in the Rule 5 Draft.

However, a 3-1 Fort Wayne (5-11, 35-50) lead evaporated in the fourth following Hebner’s departure after 59 pitches. Erik Cabrera (3-7) entered and put himself in a precarious spot by walking two of the first three batters he faced. It got worse when Cabrera surrendered a three-run homer to 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames that gave the Whitecaps a 4-3 lead. Two batters later, Jose Zambrano also teed off on a Cabrera pitch and sent it over the wall in right to increase West Michigan’s lead to 5-3. Justin Livengood replaced Cabrera in the fifth and yielded two runs before settling in for a scoreless sixth. He then gave up a homer to Wynton Bernard in the seventh.

The Whitecaps now have 42 home runs this season, ranking 11th out of 16 teams in the league. Twelve of their longballs have come in their 12 games against the TinCaps.

After the first, the only other Fort Wayne run scored in the fifth in unearned fashion. Julio Felix worked four perfect innings of relief with five strikeouts, including all three batters he saw in the ninth.

The TinCaps, who have lost eight games in a row for the first time since 2007, conclude their three-game series with the Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 at Parkview Field. The game can be seen on XFINITY Channel 81 and heard on ESPN Radio 1380 and TinCaps.com.

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