FORT WAYNE, Ind.— The TinCaps pounded out 19 hits, scored 15 runs and held Lansing to just four singles as Fort Wayne won their second game in three days after being swept by South Bend in the previous series.
But the real story was the return of Padres’ top prospect MacKenzie Gore, who had only pitched eight innings coming into the game and hadn’t been in a game since May 14 because of blister issues.
“After all that happened today that is the first thing you want to ask me,” laughed TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras in the post-game press conference. “It’s good to have him back in there. He’s been anxious to return to the rotation and get past this blister thing.
“He’s happy with the way things went and the blister wasn’t there at the end today.”
Gore threw two innings and didn’t allow any runs or hits while striking out three against a walk. His command seemed better than in his previous three outings and his fastball sat between 92 and 95 mph.
“I still have a lot of work to do, but it was good to get back out there,” Gore said about his fourth start in the Midwest League. “I felt comfortable in all my starts but I think I threw my best today.”
He spoke about pitching more with “an edge” that he didn’t have in his previous three outings and his demeanor on the mound backed it up. In the second inning, he nearly ran down the third baseman and catcher in going for a pop-up in foul territory.
“I’m going to go after those balls until I get called off,” laughed the former star centerfielder.
The TinCaps’ offense was paced by designated hitter Esteury Ruiz, who scored five times and was 3-for-5 on the day with a double, home run with four RBI. Ruiz had been in a slump, but as his manager noted yesterday, his at-bats had been turning around.
“Everybody goes through these slumps, but you have to be able to continue to put in your work in the cages and stick with your routine,” said Contreras. “He’s a very advanced hitter for someone his age (19) and I’m sure it had to be eating at him not to have the type of success that he is capable off.”
Every position player in the Fort Wayne lineup had a hit, and catcher Juan Fernandez also stood out with a 3-for-5 day and most impressively a GIF-worthy shimmy after both doubles.
Left-hander Aaron Leasher was somewhat lost in all of the attention surrounding Gore, but he threw six solid innings with right-hander Jordan Guerrero coming in for the last inning and throwing a few 97 mph fastballs.
Leasher, 22, was the Padres’ sixth-round – and first college – pick last year out of Morehouse State. The lefty has posted a 2.76 ERA, good for sixth in the league, with 60 strikeouts in 58.2 innings of work. He’s allowed only six earned runs over his last 33 innings.