EASTLAKE, Ohio — The division-leading Lake County Captains handed Fort Wayne their sixth straight loss Sunday afternoon in a slugfest that featured nine home runs.
The home team jumped Garrett Hawkins, making his Midwest League debut, for two runs in the first when, after a two-out walk, they came through with three straight hits.
The TinCaps had a chance to answer back immediately, loading the bases to open the second, but couldn’t push across a run, continuing a trend that plagued the club all series.
The Captains came back and extended the lead with back-to-back homers on fastballs up in the zone that were tracking below the velocity Hawkins has shown much of the season. In the third, another solo shot pushed the lead to 5-0.
“Clearly it’s a different surrounding, he was on a little more rest than he normally is, he flew across the country – and I’m sure Garrett would not agree with any of that stuff [being the issue],” said acting manager Mike Daly. “But I think when you get into a new situation, there’s just different things. I’m confident that Garrett will be ready to go next week.”
The TinCaps offense started to climb back out of the hole in the fourth when Joshua Mears, who had a huge week, served an 0-2 breaking ball into left field for a solid single and reserve catcher Adam Kerner launched a two-run shot to get on the board.
After a strong inning of relief from Alan Mundo, the TinCaps got back to even on a three-run blast by Olivier Basabe. The 25-year-old from Venezuela, who came into the series having last homered on June 4, went deep again in the eighth inning and has three long-balls over his last six at-bats.
“Given the past couple of days, guys had a chance to maybe pack it in and they didn’t, and that’s a credit to them,” said Daly. “We weren’t able to take it past that, but we had a lot of good at-bats.
“There are some guys that are really jumping in there and taking advantage of the opportunities they’re having now. … Basabe, with a good game today and yesterday, continues to take advantage of them.”
The tie game was short-lived however as Lake County continued the offensive assault against newly-promoted Bodi Rascon. The Guardians affiliate put up eight runs on nine hits across 2.2 innings against the lefty from Texas, putting the game well out of reach.
Rascon, who strung together some high quality outings in Lake Elsinore last month, including a stretch of 21 innings with just one earned run, also saw a drop in velocity Sunday, and didn’t have enough other weapons to keep a deep Captains lineup off his fastball.
After Basabe’s second homer of the game, Mears finished off the scoring with an opposite-field homer of his own to cap a stellar series. The powerful outfielder finished the week 7-for-16 with three doubles and three home runs, showing an ability to hit the ball the other way with more consistency.
“He’s had really good at-bats. You see the ball he hit to right field and recognize that there are very, very few humans who are able to do that – and I’m not totally sure he got all of it,” said Daly. “Being able to play a premium center field, hit breaking balls, use the whole field, it just shows the stuff the organization has always seen in Joshua. It’s been a big, positive week.”
TinCaps Notes: In addition to the loud contact, Mears also drew an impressive walk, laying off several pitches just out of the zone. He’s now pushed his OPS for the month to 1.169. … Mundo’s scoreless frame was his third since joining the club from Lake Elsinore. The righty from Mexico has struck out six relying on a mid-90s fastball and a slider with impressive late bite. … Kerner hasn’t appeared in more than six games in any month of the season, but he’s already made five starts in the first two weeks of the month.