FORT WAYNE – They came to Parkview Field with the TinCaps’ number in their hip pocket, having won nine of 14 meetings this summer, including seven in a row at one point.
Saturday night however, the South Bend Silver Hawks produced an entirely new number: Two.
Two, as in the number of runs the Silver Hawks scored in their half of the ninth to win Game 1 of the best-of-three Eastern Division championship series, 7-5. Two, as in the number of errors committed by the TinCaps, both of which proved decisive.
The game drew 2,486 fans, pushing the season attendance to a record 410,459, eclipsing the 408,044 of 2012.
And what they saw was a stirring comeback by the TinCaps – down 5-1 midway through, they tied it on Alberth Martinez’ two-run, two-out single in the seventh – spoiled when the Silver Hawks scored two runs in the ninth on a walk, a single, and then another single that turned into two runs when Martinez slipped and fell trying to field it.
I think Martinez was trying to charge the ball, trying to make a throw, and I think he caught his spike or something, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. I don’t know what happened. It was just something that was just weird. You could see everything went bad in that inning.
To make matters worse, it all happened with two outs, and after the Fort Wayne bullpen had struck out eight and allowed one baserunner from the fourth inning to that point.
We fought hard, Valentin said. But, again, we didn’t play good defense.
We have to compete smart and not give outs away. Again, 27 outs, we can’t afford to go out there and give 31 or 29.
That’s exactly what they did in the South Bend fourth, after South Bend’s Fidel Pena and the TinCaps’ Tyler Stubblefield traded solo homers in the second, and third, respectively, to make it a 1-1 game. Brandon Drury led off the inning with another solo homer, this one to right – and then the floodgates opened.
Rudy Flores followed with a walk, Pena followed with a single, and, after Roidany Aguila bounced out to short, Stubblefield muffed the relay on a ground ball to second base, allowing Flores to score and keeping all hands safe.
Thus reprieved, the Silver Hawks added three more runs, and by the time the TinCaps wobbled out of the inning it was 5-1 and TinCaps starter Max Fried was done for the night.
The TinCaps got two back in their half, and then, in the seventh, tied it when a bad-hop single between first and second opened the door for Martinez’s hit.
Today’s over, Valentin said. There’s nothing you can do except go out there tomorrow and take care of business.