FORT WAYNE, Ind. — On the first day of the series when the sun came out, the TinCaps got their first clean game, and great pitching, of the Great Lakes’ series as Fort Wayne beat Great Lakes 4-0.
LHP Jerry Keel threw seven strong innings striking out a career high 11 batters against only two walks and a pair of hits. Keel was topping out at around 92 mph with his four-seam fastball, but his ability to throw his sinker for strikes and move the ball at a variety of speeds from the same motion with the same arm speed is what set him apart.
“It’s something that I take pride in, is being able to add and subtract whenever I want,” said Keel who saw his ERA drop down to 2.96 in eight starts this season.
‘I think I’ve gotten better at my mechanics working with Burt [Hooten, the TinCaps’ manager] and Great Lakes likes to load up with lefties to face me, which I like.”
This season left-handed hitter are batting .123/.149/.154 against the six-foot-six left-hander from Cal State-Northridge. Part of the reason may be that his upper three-quarters motion can make the ball appear that it is coming at the batter’s head.
Left Fielder Nate Easley, after having a good professional debut at short-season Tri-City in 2016, had his best day as a TinCap with a walk and a home run, part of which he attributed to learning how to not make too many over adjustments.
“I was talking to one of our guys that helps us with the mental part of the game and he was helping me learn to reset and not try to do too much,’ said Easley who was hitting .111 coming into the game with no extra-base hits.
"I thought about some things and it really helped me to relax and feel more comfortable at the plate.”
CF Rod Boykin opened the scoring with a triple that plated Easley from first base. Boykin may have been able to score on the play but with no outs TinCaps’ manager Anthony Contreras elected to hold him up.
“It’s genetics pretty much, my whole family has speed so I don’t really work on it that much,” said Boykin, who may be the fastest runner in the organization.
The real star of the game was Keel, who with the exception of one bad inning on the road this year in Quad Cities has been very good.
“In my eyes he needs to pitch at a higher level right now,” said Contreras. “I think coming out of Spring Training he deserved to at least make that [Lake] Elsinore team but with prospects and roster size limitations he had to come here; but he has proven to us and the organization that he deserves to move up.”
The TinCaps are still six games under .500 but as the season goes on the talent should start to rise to the surface.
“This team is so talented that no one really knows how good we can be yet, “ said Easley who arrived in Fort Wayne in early May. “I’ve seen a lot of them in Spring Training and it could turn out to be a special bunch as we continue to grow.”
TinCaps Notes: Fernando Tatis’ fifteen game streak came to an end today, but he was hit by a pitch which kept up his seventeen game on-base streak alive…both RHP Mason Thompson and RHP Reggie Lawson are expected to report to the TinCaps’ on Tuesday from Extended Spring Training.
Statistics: DH Jorge Ona 2-3; CF Rod Boykin 2-2, RBI; LF Nate Easley 1-2, RBI, BB; LHP Jerry Keel (3-2), 7.0 IP 2 H 2 BB 11 K; RHP David Bednar (S, 5) 2.0 Ip 2 H 3 K.