FORT WAYNE— On a somewhat balmy 64-degree in northeastern Indiana, the bats for both the TinCaps and the visiting Dayton Dragons went very cold.
A one-out double by the visitors in the top of the ninth that Fort Wayne center fielder Robert Hassell III just missed making a spectacular grab on, followed by an RBI single, was the difference in the 1-0 victory by the Dragons. It was the third time in four games the TinCaps were shut out.
Fort Wayne was held to four hits on the night, two of them by leadoff hitter Corey Rosier, whose double was the lone extra-base hit. The club struck out 12 times, as Joshua Mears went down on strikes four times and Hassell posted a rare two-strikeout night.
Even though catcher Brandon Valenzuela failed to register a hit, he made his presence known with a stellar defensive performance as he threw out three baserunners in three stolen base attempts and got starter Noel Vela out of a jam in the fourth inning with a nifty back-pick play to catch the baserunner at first too far off of the bag.
Offensively he has had some bad luck early in the season, but his strength has always been his ability to manage a game, which he demonstrated tonight.
Vela, 23, went 4 1/3 innings on 73 pitches. The 6-foot-1 left-hander from South Texas has a big fastball that he throws in the mid-90s, a decent curve and changeup – the challenge is to be more consistent with them. Through four starts, he has a 0.59 ERA, but his lack of command has meant that he’s worked only 15.1 innings total. Tonight was his longest outing and he walked a season-high five batters to push his total to 13 against 17 strikeouts.
Still, a lefty who can throw in the mid-90s has some spin will be worth taking time with.
Notes: After coming off of a monster series on the road against Lansing, Joshua Mears has struggled in the four home games against Dayton with 11 strikeouts. Although he has 33 strikeouts in 19 games, he also has 12 extra-base hits and 19 RBI. As with Vela, it’s about developing and getting better. .. Robert Hassell striking out twice tonight was the first time that has happened all year. On the season, he still has only 11 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances for a .380/.451/.577 slash line. .. Lefty Danny Denz takes the mound Saturday for Fort Wayne at 1 PM.