The first half of the Midwest League season hasn't often been kind to Fort Wayne, but the TinCaps continued their recent power surge Sunday with a 9-3 belting of Dayton in front of 5,358 fans.
Fort Wayne (26-44) won for the second straight game to close the opening half of the season and it did so in impressive fashion.
The TinCaps connected for four home runs against Dragon pitching and the club has hit 20 homers in its past nine games.
The Fort Wayne offense totaled 15 hits and scored in each of the opening five innings, but the TinCap pitching was just as impressive.
Starter Pedro Avila (1-0, 5.68 ERA) struck out a career-best 12 Dayton hitters. The outing was the most productive by a Fort Wayne thrower in nearly three years.
The Dragons (41-29) got a run on Avila in the opening inning, as they took advantage of a pair of hits and a throwing error by Avila for a 1-0 lead. However, that margin was short-lived.
Fort Wayne opened the bottom of that inning with a blast from Midwest League All-Star Fernando Tatis Jr., who drove a pitch from Dragon thrower Ty Boyles (2-2, 5.46 ERA) over the left-center field wall to tie the game at one.
The homer was the ninth of the year for Tatis Jr., who will participate in the Midwest League All-Star Home Run Derby tonight in Midland, Mich.
Following that homer, Brad Zunica reached on a single to right field and eventually scored on a two-run homer from Hudson Potts for a 3-1 TinCap advantage.
The offensive onslaught continued for Fort Wayne in the second inning, where once again the TinCaps got a lead-off homer, this time from Marcus Greene Jr. for a 4-1 lead. Rod Boykin singled a line drive into left field and advanced to second on a single from Nate Easley.
Tatis Jr. hit into a double play, but Boykin raced to third base and then came hoe for a 5-1 score on a wild pitch from Boyles.
In the third inning, Jorge Ona singled off Dayton reliever Joel Kuhnel and then stole second. He moved to third on a sacrifice fly from Zunica and scored on a two-run shot over the right-center field wall from Jack Suwinski for a 7-1 score.
Easley scored in the fourth inning to stretch the TinCap advantage to 8-1 after hitting a single into center field off of Kuhnel.
Tatis Jr. singled to move Easley up a base and then Ilarraza did so, as well before Dayton brought in reliever Patrick Riehl.
Ona hit into a double play to score Easley.
Boykin made it a 9-1 game in the fifth inning after hitting into a fielder's choice and later scoring on a double by Easley.
The Dragons got to Avila a bit after Michael Beltre reached on a fielder's choice and later scored on a homer by Tyler Stephenson to trim the Fort Wayne lead to 9-3.
Will Headean closed the game for Fort Wayne by working the final two innings and giving up just one hit and no runs. He struck out two batters and walked none.
Avila allowed six hits and three earned runs over seven innings and didn't walk a batter.
Easley paced the TinCaps' offense with three hits, while Tatis Jr., Ilarrazza, Greene Jr., and Boykin had a couple of connections each.
Ona, Zunica, Potts, and Suwinski added one hit each, as every Fort Wayne batter got at least one hit.
The Dragons worked five pitchers through the rotation Sunday.
Tatis Jr. will join teammates Ona, and pitcher Logan Allen at the All-Star Game Tuesday.
What: Midwest League All-Star Game, Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.
Where: Dow Stadium, Midland, Mich.