FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Having lost a franchise record 13 games in a row, the TinCaps needed someone to step up. On Saturday night at Parkview Field in front of a standing-room only crowd of 7,481, Kyle Lloyd did just that. And he wasn’t alone.
Lloyd became the first Fort Wayne pitcher in more than a decade to strike out 13 batters in a game, as he led the TinCaps to a 6-1 win over the South Bend Silver Hawks.
“It was a great ballgame,” TinCaps manager Michael Collins said with a smile. “We finally put together a complete performance. The pitching was outstanding.”
Indeed it was. Lloyd lasted six innings with only five hits and one walk allowed on 88 pitches — 61 of which were strikes. South Bend (15-7, 55-36) scored its only run in the top of the first inning when Daniel Palka hit his Midwest League-leading 18th home run of the season over the wall in right field. After that, Lloyd was in control.
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne (6-16, 36-56) took advantage of three Silver Hawks errors in the bottom of the first inning to stake itself to a 3-1 lead. That would prove to be enough run support for Lloyd (3-3), who received credit for a win for the first time since May 25.
“The splitter is my pitch,” the 23-year-old University of Evansville alum said. “It’s always down in the zone. They think it’s a fastball coming out.”
A dominant start was just what the TinCaps needed to snap their skid. Following Palka’s home run, Lloyd went 14 batters before yielding another hit. In that span, from the first through the fifth, he struck out seven. His previous career high for strikeouts in a game was eight. He became the first Fort Wayne starter to go six innings since Payton Baskette did it 18 games ago at West Michigan on June 22.
“Lloydy putting those zeros on the board gave the offense a momentum swing, too,” Collins said.
A mammoth swing is what Henry Charles provided the TinCaps against Silver Hawks starter John Omahen (4-3) in the bottom of the fourth. The left fielder — playing for the first time since July 2 due to a wrist injury — crushed a two-run homer that landed on the roof of the Tuthill 400 Club in straightaway center field. That built a 5-1 Fort Wayne lead which became 6-1 in the sixth thanks to a Ronnie Richardson RBI single.
Charles also made a key defensive play for the TinCaps in the top of the seventh inning when he robbed Palka of a run-scoring extra-base hit. The Silver Hawks had two runners in scoring position as Palka hit a Ryan Butler pitch to left field, where Charles made a leaping catch at the wall. That was the best threat the visitors had all night.
Butler, who was making his Parkview Field debut after being transferred from Short-Season-A Eugene earlier in the day, tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Jason Jester threw 2/3 an inning of no-run ball.
“It was nice to finally shake hands out on the field,” Lloyd said. “It’s a great feeling to get the win. We had great energy. We need that again tomorrow to start a winning streak.”
The last Fort Wayne pitcher to strike out 13 batters in a game was Brian Whitaker on August 8, 2003 at Lansing. Also of note on Saturday, South Bend shortstop Andrew Velazquez collected a hit to reach base for the 71st game in a row. That streak ties the Minor League Baseball record, which is also shared by Kevin Millar (1997) and Kevin Youkilis (2003).
The TinCaps aim to make it two straight against the Silver Hawks back at Parkview Field at 3:05 on Sunday. Ronald Herrera is scheduled to start for Fort Wayne against South Bend’s Blake Perry. The contest can be seen on XFINITY Channel 81 and heard on ESPN Radio 1380, TinCaps.com, and on the TuneIn Radio app.