Fort Wayne, IN -- The TinCaps beat the Lake County Captains, 7-4, Tuesday night at Parkview Field to claim their ninth win in a row. In the process, the TinCaps also clinched a spot in the Midwest League Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
"It's nice to be around players who want to get better everyday," said TinCaps manager José Valentín, after he was doused with a Gatorade shower in the Fort Wayne clubhouse. "I'm not satifised yet because we haven't accomplished our goal of winning a championship, but I'm glad for these guys and want them to celebrate this for tonight."
In only his second game as a TinCap, left fielder Wynton Bernard was the offensive star for Fort Wayne (40-23) early on Tuesday night. After Lake County (20-41) scored twice in the top of the second inning to take a 2-0 lead, Bernard tied the game with a two-run standup triple that scored Luis Tejada and Chris Burke. Brian Adams followed with an RBI-sacrifice fly to score Bernard and give the TinCaps a 3-2 lead.
The Captains tied the game, 3-3, with a run in the top of the third, but the TinCaps once again had a better answer in the ensuing half inning. Maxx Tissenbaum (4-for-5, 2 doubles, RBI, run) started the bottom of the third with a double and came home on a Diego Goris single. Two batters later with two outs and Goris at second base, Bernard came through with another clutch hit to drive in Goris and give Fort Wayne a 5-3 advantage.
The TinCaps kept their foot on the gas in the fourth, as Alberth Martinez doubled home Brian Adams to extend their lead to 6-3. In the sixth, Tissenbaum doubled to score Mallex Smith, who also doubled. Fort Wayne, which hasn't hit a home run since May 31, collected five doubles along with Bernard's triple in the contest.
Zach Eflin (3-4) started and earned the win for the TinCaps. The 19-year old right-hander tossed six innings, allowing three runs, but only one earned. Eflin struck out five to help pick up his second victory in his last three outings. Matthew Shepherd came on in the seventh to throw 1.2 innings of relief. Shepherd surrendered one run in the eighth before handing the ball to Midwest League All-Star closer Roman Madrid, who saved his 12th game of the year.
Lake County starter Ryan Merritt (3-6) received the loss after he was touched for six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in five frames. Benny Suarez gave up one run in two innings out of the bullpen, while Felix Sterling twirled one scoreless inning.
With six games remaining in the first half of the season, Fort Wayne trails first-place South Bend by 2.5 games for first place in the Eastern Division.
"Don't change anything," Tissenbaum said of the team's approach to the finish of the first half. "Keep on doing exactly what we're doing. Go out and pitch well, play good defense, keep getting a lot of hits, and we're going to continue to win."
The TinCaps have now made the playoffs in each year of their existence since moving into Parkview Field and boast the longest postseason streak of any team in the Midwest League.
Fort Wayne and Lake County continue their three-game series at Parkview Field on Wednesday night -- Military Appreciation Night -- at 7:05. Bryan Rodriguez (1-0, 1.04) is set to start for the TinCaps against the Captains' Jake Sisco (2-5, 3.42). The game can be seen on XFINITY Channel 81 and heard on The Fan 1380, as well as TheFanFortWayne.com.