Fort Wayne, Ind. — Osvaldo Hernandez, a six-foot southpaw signed by the Padres for $2.5 million last spring, continued to roll with his third straight quality outings. The 19-year-old tossed six innings of one-run ball while racking up six strikeouts and walking none. The TinCaps cashed in the strong start for a 3-2 win in extra innings as speedsters Reinaldo Ilarraza and Tre Carter each advanced Jalen Washington, who opened the inning on second base.
“That is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with that [situation],” said Fort Wayne Manager Anthony Contreras. “You can game-plan and say that if this happens, I’m going to do that, but you don’t know who the personnel is going to be…who is running on second. So we had to let it play out the way it was going to, and I had to trust some gut decisions.”
While the late game scenario captured local headlines, Hernandez’s superb start put the team in position to win by keeping the Snappers in check all game. The lone unearned run scored off him came on a fluke play. With runners on the corner and two outs in the third, Hernandez induced a whiff on a breaking ball for what would have been out number three, but an awkward late swing contributed to the pitch getting past catcher Jalen Washington and allowed the runner on third to score.
“It was the control and command of my fastball that really worked,” said Hernandez through a translator. “I tried to change the motion and the approach of the hitter [by mixing pitch speeds] as the game went on.”
Hernandez doesn’t possess overwhelming velocity, though he did sit between a solid 89-93 MPH Thursday and has touched 94. He’s had to excel by utilizing his four-pitch arsenal and giving batters multiple looks of the same offering. And on a night like tonight when Hernandez has pinpoint fastball command, it’s truly been a recipe for success. The only knock on him for the whole night is a bit trivial as he wasn’t as crisp with the curveball as he has reportedly been.
Justin Lopez did the heavy lifting offensively, driving in two runs and swatting two doubles off the wall in right center. Entering the night, Lopez was hitting a paltry .200, but the two doubles today give him four extra base hits in the past two days.
Anthony Contreras shed some light on Lopez’s struggles and success, saying, “[Lopez] battled back tightness [recently], and sometimes an injury like that can be a blessing in disguise. In his first at-bat coming back in at Dayton, he hit a double just like the one today and that kind of built the confidence that he’s been riding. We’ve wanted him to be more aggressive on pitches in the zone and he’s done that the last couple of days.”
The 17-year-old shortstop will try hang onto that momentum as Fort Wayne opens a three game series Friday against Milwaukee Brewers’ Wisconsin affiliate .