Stiven Osuna's return to the starting rotation was just what he and the Fort Wayne TinCaps wanted and needed.
Starting in his first game since May 27, the right-hander pitched five shutout innings to lead the TinCaps to an 11-3 victory over the South Bend Silver Hawks on Friday evening at Parkview Field in front of 6,145 fans.
“I've always been a starter and it's great to get back into the rotation,” said Osuna through teammate and Spanish translator Robert Lara. “I'm trying to make the best of this opportunity and keep it.”
The 6-foot-3 Caracas, Venezuela, native struggled to a 5.40 earned-run average and 2-5 record in nine starts before being relegated to the bullpen after a May 21 start in which he allowed six earned runs and five walks in 1 1/3 innings.
He wasn't much better as a reliever. In five appearances, he compiled an 0-1 record, one save and 6.92 ERA. He was rocked for nine runs and 11 hits in his last five innings of relief.
“It's in there,” TinCaps manager Doug Dascenzo said about Osuna turning around his struggles. “It's a situation where if you try harder, you get less. It happens to all young guys whether you're a hitter or a pitcher. He's just trying to find that comfort level.”
Osuna found a groove against the Silver Hawks. He scattered three hits, walked three and struck out six batters in his longest outing since May 21.
“I was focused this time around,” said Osuna, who lowered his ERA from 5.80 to 5.27. “I was going pitch by pitch and hitter by hitter. I just concentrated on every single pitch I threw and felt like I could control the strike zone.”
Osuna received four runs of support in the third with an RBI single from Daniel Robertson, a sacrifice fly from Allan Dykstra and a two-run single by Justin Baum. The TinCaps plated two more runs in the fifth to hold a 6-0 lead and safely put Osuna in position for his first win since May 21.
Fort Wayne (47-25, 2-0) improved to 13-1 against South Bend (27-43, 0-2) and 16-6 in June.
The TinCaps pounded out 15 hits and every batter in the lineup had at least one hit. Four had two hits: Blake Tekotte, Drew Cumberland, Adam Zornes and Robertson. Justin Baum got three hits.
Fort Wayne added one run in the sixth and two runs each in the seventh and eighth innings.
“The guys swung the bats well, had timely hits and ran the bases aggressive,” Dascenzo said. “That's the kind of game these guys ought to play, and they did a great job of that tonight.”
Notes: Dascenzo said second baseman Jeudy Valdez is expected to miss three more weeks with a left wrist fracture and outfielder Jaff Decker should return in three or four days after suffering back soreness. … Silver Hawks infielder and former Wayne High School standout Justin Parker was activated from the disabled list before the game but did not start. … He hasn't played since June 6. … Outfielder A.J. Pollock, the Arizona Diamondbacks' recent first-round pick, joins the Silver Hawks next week.