FORT WAYNE — The TinCaps dropped their fourth contest in five against the Cincinnati Reds’ affiliate, the Dayton Dragons, 11-5, as a pair of big innings sank Fort Wayne.
Lefty Danny Denz started the game for the TinCaps after a one hour and thirteen-minute rain delay and set down the first six batters he faced, three by strikeout. After giving up a first-pitch leadoff home run in the third, he got the next two batters and seemed poised to escape the inning before four straight Dayton batters reached to push the score to 4-0.
Robert Hassell III got two runs back in the bottom of the third with an opposite-field two-run homer that just cleared the left-field railing. Denz came back after his rough third inning and set the side down in order in the fourth.
While Denz got through innings with only one walk, he struggled with his fastball command throughout the outing.
The Dragons blew open a one-run game in the seventh when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs before adding an insurance run in the top of the ninth.
Despite the rough final score, the game result – as is often the case in the minors – wasn’t the main story.
Hassell, 20, the top Padres’ prospect still in the minor leagues, finished a triple short of the cycle as he accumulated four hits in five plate appearances and all notched four of Fort Wayne’s RBIs. He closes out April with a slash line of .408/.471/.645.
At the end of the month, he is first in the Midwest League in batting average and on-base percentage, and second in slugging percentage and OPS.
“I’ve seen some good young hitters in my day, but the thing that stands out the most about Robert is his ability to barrel the ball with power the other way,” said TinCaps manager Brian Esposito. “For a small-framed guy, you wouldn’t think he would be able to go up in the zone and drive the ball out of the park the other way, it’s the most impressive part about him.
“Oppo power with ease, and that’s hard to do and not easy to come by whatever level you are at.”
On the other end of the spectrum, after winning the Midwest Player of the Week award last week, Joshua Mears punched out three more times to continue his struggle on the homestand against Dayton. In 21 plate appearances against the Dragons, he has 14 strikeouts, one walk and no hits.
“One week, you are the player of the week going out of your mind, driving baseballs off of buildings, then the next week you get humbled,” said Esposito.
“That’s what this sport does, that is what this level does, and what I want to see is recognize that there are going to be peaks and valleys, and the better players are the ones that get out of those valleys a little quicker than the others.
“Right now, he’s not swinging at strikes, and he’s taking pitches that he could be driving and going out of the zone a little bit. He’s a young hitter, and every hitter needs to go through it.”
NOTES: Corey Rosier, one of the players who came over in the Adam Frazier trade with Seattle, seems like he might be starting to come out of a tough first month. He had his second straight day with an extra-base hit, and it’s also important to keep in mind that his “slump” comes with a .393 on-base percentage. … RHP Seth Mayberry delivered an impressive relief outing. He threw two innings, gave up one earned run but struck out four, and consistently sat at 96 MPH. … For the series finale on Sunday, Robert Gasser makes his fifth start of the season for the TinCaps.