EASTLAKE, Ohio — The TinCaps dropped a fifth straight to the Cleveland Guardians’ High-A affiliate Saturday as the offense struggled to come through with a timely hit and the host Lake County Captains clubbed four homers to cruise to a 9-1 victory.
The TinCaps, who had been held to just 15 runs in the six previous games, had early chances to score. With one out in the first, Lucas Dunn singled on a soft line drive to center, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. However, Albert Fabian hit a fly ball to center that was too shallow to advance, and Brandon Valenzuela struck out.
In the second, the club got back-to-back two-out hits, but again couldn’t convert.
“It’s been a tough series so far,” said Padres assistant farm director Mike Daly, who is serving as manager for the squad this week. “I give these guys a lot of credit for having a lot of fight. We put some pressure on them early, but unfortunately we weren’t able to come up with the big hit.”
After weathering those challenges, the Captains took a lead they’d never relinquish in the bottom of the second when Petey Halpin led off with a homer pulled deep to right-center. In the third, a leadoff error by Jarryd Dale and a grounder that got just under the dive of second baseman Olivier Basabe set up Lake County, and Jonathan Rodriguez made the TinCaps pay when he crushed an opposite-field three-run homer.
Both those blasts came off starter Jose Espada, who entered the game with a 3.44 ERA in eight outings since signing with the Padres out of the American Association. The 25-year-old righty, who was originally a fifth-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico by the Blue Jays in 2015, works off a fastball that sits around 90 with a solid change and curve.
After getting charged with three unearned runs, Espada came back in the fourth inning to strike out a pair and get a lazy pop fly.
“He’s been great for us,” said Daly. “He’s really solidified our rotation in terms of being able to take the ball and make starts and get us innings. Jose’s been a nice addition here.”
Staked to the lead, Lake County starter Tommy Mace got waylaid by a blister on his pitching hand. The trainer had to make a pair of visits in the fourth, and then was summoned again during Mace’s warm-up for the fifth inning. The former Florida Gator ultimately gave way to Brian Eichhorn, who Basabe greeted with a booming homer to left-center.
While Basabe got the club on the board, they couldn’t secure any more runs all night. Fort Wayne had just one more hit – a two-out double to the left-center gap by Anthony Vilar – over the final four frames.
Meanwhile, Keegan Collett and Seth Mayberry settled in on the mound and were cruising through the Guardians lineup. Collett, 24, got through 1.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and a walk. Mayberry followed, flashing a strong curveball to strike out four of the first six hitters he faced.
However, after issuing a four-pitch walk with two outs, the righty from Virginia hung one to the number nine hitter, Connor Kokx, who jumped on it for a homer to cap the scoring.
“We’ve talked multiple times each day about trying to get to a point where we can use him to protect a lead, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened,” said Daly. “So having him go out there tonight, it was good to get multiple innings. Seth has pitched really, really well and I’m sure he’ll shake it off and be ready to go early next week.”
NOTES: Joshua Mears had two strong at-bats early in the game, including rifling a double into the left field corner. The big outfielder showed off his wheels on the play, posting an above-average turn time. However, in his final two at-bats, he struck out on seven total pitches, swinging through or fouling off fastballs in the zone. The big man has a 1.049 OPS in 10 games this month. … Righty Garrett Hawkins and lefty Bodi Rascon, who were both promoted from Lake Elsinore earlier in the week, are expected to piggyback for the TinCaps Sunday.