Through seven innings Monday night, Nick Schulz had done much of the heavy lifting to put Class A Fort Wayne in a position to win. In the eighth inning, he did the heavy throwing too.
The Padres outfield prospect posted his first professional multi-homer game and nailed the potential tying run at the plate in the eighth as the TinCaps held off the Lansing Lugnuts, 4-3.
Schulz hammered a game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the third inning and snapped a deadlock in the seventh with his second blast of the game. Entering Monday night, the San Jose State product had just two homers through his first 26 games with Fort Wayne.
"I've been working with 'Burky' (hitting coach Morgan Burkhart) a lot," Schulz said. "He's been telling me to slow everything down, get a good pitch to hit, stick with my approach and I should be good to go."
Signed out of independent ball in May, Schulz is nearing the end of his first full month in the Midwest League and he's capping it with strong performances at the plate. Monday's 2-for-4 performance was his third straight multi-hit game and the fourth out of his last five contests.
Though the homers gave Fort Wayne the lead, it was the play in the eighth that spelled the difference. With one out and runners at the corners, Lansing's David Harris lifted a fly ball to right field.
"I caught the ball and tried to get it in as quick as possible," Schulz said. "Our catcher, [Adolfo] Reina, just made one heck of a play because I kind of short-hopped him. I tried to throw it in as hard as I could, trying to get it in, and he made one heck of a play and sacrificed his body."
Reina deftly tagged No. 9 Blue Jays prospect D.J. Davis to end the threat and preserve the lead.
"It's definitely a special feeling," Schulz said. "Before every pitch, you're visualizing what can happen. You're preparing yourself for that moment, so that when that opportunity comes, you're most likely going to succeed rather than fail. It's a lot of visualization for sure, preparing for what's going to happen."
TinCaps starter Kyle Lloyd didn't factor into the decision, but moved into the Midwest League lead with a 10-strikeout night, giving him 120 on the season. Justin Livengood extended his streak of innings pitched without allowing an earned run to 15 2/3 with three scoreless frames behind Lloyd. Livengood (7-1) allowed two hits, striking out two and walking two.
Nick Mutz closed the door on the Lugnuts with a perfect ninth to earn his ninth save.
"They're doing great," Schulz noted of his bullpen. "They're throwing strikes, and our defense has been doing great as well. Our pitchers are throwing strikes, and that's what happens. Your defense makes plays and when pitchers have a good tempo, our defense is always on their toes ready for something to happen. If we keep throwing strikes, keep doing our thing at the plate, everything's going to fall into place."
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.