What a way to go.
On the Monday night before leaving town for a six-game road trip – first to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for three games beginning Wednesday, then to the Quad Cities – the TinCaps put together an evening blended with the right amount of power, base-running aggression and pitching (for the most part) to defeat the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 7-4 at Parkview Field.
Hindered by the inability to score runs recently, the seven runs Monday were the most since an 8-3 victory over Bowling Green nearly two weeks ago. In the nine games previous to Monday, the TinCaps were averaging 2.77 runs.
We’ve been joking around the last couple days, saying we wanted to have a hit parade and as a team, put up 20 hits, said shortstop Tyler Stubblefield, whose one-out solo home run in the first inning put the TinCaps ahead 1-0. We haven’t had many crooked numbers on runs (in innings). It’s good for the pitching staff and as a team to go out there and put up 10, 12 hits and score a bunch of runs.
There were the 10 hits, six of which were for extra bases. And there were a couple of crooked-numbered innings, when the TinCaps (13-11, 44-50) got three in the third and two in the seventh. And there was the offensive aggression, with four stolen bases.
And there was the drama.
Three TinCaps pitchers, led by starter and winner Frank Garces (6-4), limited Wisconsin (12-12, 56-37) to four hits, all of which came in the first three innings, for a 7-2 lead after eight innings. Johnny Barbato threw perfect sixth and seventh innings, and Dan Cropper threw a perfect eighth.
The ninth? Not so perfect.
The last inning could have been easier than what it was, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said.
Intended closer James Jones gave up a double. Then threw a wild pitch. Then gave up a single to make it 7-3. After an error and a walk loaded the bases, Valentin brought in Matt Stites, who allowed a fielder’s choice ground ball score another Wisconsin run, to finish the game.
For some reason probably he took it too easy, Valentin said of Jones, who managed to get one out. He thought there was a big lead, so he started working behind counts and got hit.
Until the eventful ninth, the TinCaps did everything right.
They battled back from a 2-1 deficit with the three-run third inning, which was highlighted by a solo home run from No. 9 hitter Felix Cabrera, the second baseman with a .167 average. It Cabrera’s the first home run and first RBI of the season.
Besides the last inning, as a team, we were making good pitches, making good plays, and guys were stepping up at the plate, Stubblefield said. A hit here, a hit there, and everybody was jumping on the bandwagon and were getting some timely hits.