Fort Wayne TinCaps shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. spent several minutes before his game-winning hit talking with hitting coach Doug Banks.
The conversation appeared light for the most part, keeping Tatis relaxed while the game was delayed in the bottom of the eighth after plate umpire Matt Cowan left the game with an injury. At one point, Tatis danced to loudspeakers playing “Y-M-C-A.”
When the big moment came, he was loose.
Hudson Potts (2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI) singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Tatis then hit a sharp single to drive in Potts and put the TinCaps ahead by the final 3-2 margin over the West Michigan Whitecaps on Wednesday at Parkview Field. A crowd of 7,071 attended the game, although many of the schoolchildren had left before Tatis' big hit.
After the first two West Michigan hitters reached base in the top of the ninth, Tatis made a strong defensive play to start a double play. TinCaps first basemen G.K. Young finished the game with a nice snare of a hard hit ground ball.
“Everybody knows how good (Tatis) is,” TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras said. “It's getting around the league how much talent is there.”
Tatis' hitting has yet to catch up to his hype, as evidenced by his .163 batting average. He also struck out three times Wednesday. But he has shown bursts, both with a monstrous home run earlier this season, and with his game-winning hit against West Michigan.
“For him, it's just controlling his aggressiveness,” Contreras said. “You'll see him make those plays on the field all year. He can do that type of thing. At the plate, he needs to stay within himself. He knows how talented he is, and he feels he has to do everything sometimes. I told the guys, 'You just have to get on for the next guy. Do what you have to do. Your home runs and extra-base hits will come if you stay patient and swing at pitches that are in your zone.' ”
The pitch Tatis hit to drive in the winning run was a fastball in his zone.
“I went with it and tried to hit the ball and not do too much, and I got the hit,” Tatis said. “I've been working all the way around trying to be an elite player and be good in all parts of the game.”
The win marked the first back-to-back wins for the TinCaps (5-8) this season. Fort Wayne plays on the road for the next seven days with four games at Great Lakes and three at West Michigan
TinCaps pitcher Jesse Scholtens earned a no-decision Wednesday, but he pitched seven innings, allowing only five hits and two runs and striking out five hitters. Relief pitcher Ben Sheckler threw the final two innings for the win.
— Fort Wayne TinCaps (@TinCaps) April 19, 2017
Former Fort Wayne Mastodons pitcher returns
Evan Miller, who pitched for the Fort Wayne Mastodons before being drafted by the San Diego Padres, was assigned to the TinCaps on Wednesday. He warmed up but was not called to enter the game.
“It feels good to be back,” Miller said. “I love this city, I went to school here and I have a lot of connections and friends and family real close. The goal is to move up as quick as possible.
“The nerves definitely won't be there as much as they were last year. My first outing I was super nervous.”
Miller spent two weeks with the TinCaps at the end of last season. Since last season, he has altered his style to throw out of the stretch at all times and he said it has helped his control.
“We want to see if he can build on last year's performance,” Contreras said. “I saw him in spring training a little bit. He has a good fastball and an-above average curveball. I was planning on bringing him in if Scholtens didn't get out of the sixth. He'll probably be in there tomorrow (in relief).”