(Eastlake, OH) - Luis Jimenez was masterful on the hill and the Lake County Captains (23-41) continued their home run hitting ways, but it was not enough against the Fort Wayne TinCaps (24-41) on Tuesday night. Shaky defense cost the Captains, who committed five errors in the ballgame, and Fort Wayne's Brad Zunica delivered the decisive blow with a go-ahead home run in the eighth. Lake County fell to Fort Wayne at Classic Park, 5-4.
Jimenez was dialed in from start to finish and set a new career with 11 strikeouts in six strong innings of work. The right-hander struck out three batters in the first inning and had two punch-outs each in the third, fourth and fifth. He finished his 11-strikeout performance by fanning the last man he faced in the sixth. Despite Jimenez's strong start, however, the Captains could not pull away.
The Captains and TinCaps battled back-and-forth throughout the night. Fort Wayne struck the first blow in the second when Hudson Potts led off the frame with a solo home run to left. The Captains came right back to tie the game in the third, however. TinCaps starter Adrian De Horta walked Logan Ice with one out and Kevin Bradley doubled to put two in scoring position. Two batters later, with two outs, Miguel Eladio bounced a ground ball up the middle and second baseman Nate Easley made a wild throw to first on a close play. Eladio ended up safe on first with an infield single and Ice scored from third to tie the game.
Lake County pulled ahead with back-to-back blasts in the fourth. Emmanuel Tapia climbed into a tie for the Midwest League home run lead with a leadoff shot to right-centerfield in the fourth. Tapia's 12th home run of the year gave the Captains their first lead at 2-1. One batter later, Conner Capel pulled a line drive home run down the right field line to give the Captains a 3-1 advantage.
Jimenez had a lead and was still dealing when the game reached the fifth. The right-hander had fanned Rod Boykin to tie his previous career high with his ninth strikeout in the fifth and set a new career mark two batters later when he struck out A.J. Kennedy to end the inning. In the sixth, however, the Captains' defense cost Jimenez and Lake County the lead.
Reinaldo Ilaraza singled off of Jimenez with one out and then stole second base. Li-Jen Chu's throw to get Ilaraza sailed into centerfield and Ilaraza ended up on third due to the throwing error. Jimenez then hit Jorge Ona with a pitch to put runners on the corners and the TinCaps had the tying runs on base. G.K. Young came up next and hit a bouncing grounder that ate up Tapia at first, allowing Ilaraza to score from third and cut the Captains' lead to 3-2. Two batters later, Zunica hit a two-out RBI double to score Ona with the tying run.
Though the TinCaps had erased the Captains' lead, Jimenez did well to keep the game tied. After Zunica's double, the TinCaps had runners on second and third with two outs. Jimenez struck out Boykin looking to set a new career high with 11 strikeouts and strand two runners in scoring position.
Fort Wayne took the lead in the seventh against Captains reliever Henry Martinez. Easley started the inning with a single and later moved to second on a slow roller off the bat of Jack Suwinski. The TinCaps' leadoff hitter hit a soft ground ball in front of home plate and Chu made a stellar play, bare-handing the ball, spinning around and firing a strike to first to get Suwinski. Despite the nice defensive play, Easley landed on third and scored on an RBI single to center by Ilaraza to put Fort Wayne ahead, 4-3.
Lake County relied on the long ball to tie the game again. Fort Wayne brought in Hansel Rodriguez to pitch in the seventh and the right-hander retired the first two men he faced on strikeouts. Junior Soto, however, came up third and drove a high and deep solo home run to the back of the bleachers in left. Soto tied the game with his solo shot. The centerfielder has now homered in back-to-back ballgames.
Zunica's eighth-inning home run against Martinez sealed the deal for Fort Wayne. The left-handed hitter deposited a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall to give the TinCaps a 5-4 lead. Rodriguez retired the Captains in order in both the eighth and ninth to finish the job. Rodriguez (3-6) earned the win, allowing one run on one hit over three innings. The only hit he gave up was Soto's homer. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Martinez (1-2) took the loss. He pitched three frames and allowed two runs on three hits. Martinez struck out a pair and did not issue a walk.
Despite the loss, the Captains are on a home run tear. Including the completion of their suspended game against Bowling Green on Sunday, the Captains have homered in each of their last eight games. In those eight games, the Captains have 16 home runs. They are now second in the Midwest League with 62 homers.
Lake County faces Fort Wayne again on Wednesday in a matinee. First pitch at Classic Park is scheduled for noon. Gates at Classic Park open at 11:00 AM.
Individual game tickets for all Captains games are on sale at the Classic Park box office, online at captainsbaseball.com and by phone at 440-954-WINS (9467). 12-, 20-, and 35-game mini ticket plans for the 2017 season are on sale now at great prices complete with several exclusive benefits. Information can be found at the Captains website www.captainsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.