SOUTH BEND, Ind. — South Bend right fielder Yasiel Balaguert crushed a three-run, go-ahead double in the eighth inning to push South Bend past Fort Wayne, 5-4, on Saturday night in front of 7,324 fans at Four Winds Field.
“I feel good to help my teammates and my team and to win the game,” Balaguert said. “I was looking for a good pitch right in the zone and taking a good swing and putting the ball in play.”
The TinCaps (6-14) scored three runs in the fourth inning off of one hit, two Cubs errors and two walks, as well, and led 4-2 heading to the eighth. But Balaguert’s timely one-out hit put South Bend (13-10) in front, and right-hander James Farris earned the save in the ninth by striking out the side.
“We’re excited when we come across with a win like that,” Cubs manager Jimmy Gonzalez said. “Balaguert was the right man at the right time. He’s feeling good after yesterday’s game, getting his pitch and drove it the other way, bases loaded.”
Farris had not been warming up in the bullpen before Balaguert’s double and only threw eight to 12 warm-up tosses in the bullpen after pitching coach Brian Lawrence told him to get ready.
“There was a lot of adrenaline right there,” Farris said, smiling. “Honestly, I just wanted to pound the strike zone. I didn’t want to walk anybody obviously.”
South Bend has now won four consecutive games and eight of its last 10.
“It’s really just not giving up,” Farris said. “As you can see tonight, we just don’t give up. If we get a lead early in the game, we just keep hammering at it. The pitching staff as well, we’ve kind of gotten after it as well.”
South Bend starting pitcher Trevor Clifton (1-2, 2.70 ERA) worked five innings and allowed three hits and three runs (one earned), while walking two and fanning three. Fort Wayne starter Taylor Cox scattered six hits over 4.1 innings and worked around three walks. The Cubs stranded two runners (three in scoring position) in each of the first and second innings. Right-handed reliever Colby Blueberg worked 2.2 perfect innings with five strikeouts.
South Bend capitalized on a Fort Wayne error in the bottom of the first inning, as second baseman Chesny Young shot a 2-2 pitch back up the middle to score shortstop Gleyber Torres from second. The Cubs have scored first in 21 of 23 games this season.
Clifton worked around danger in the third inning, stranding runners at second and third by inducing a pair of flyouts. But TinCaps third baseman Duanel Jones led off the fourth inning by clubbing a solo home run to left field to knot the score, 1-1. Fort Wayne then grabbed a 3-1 lead when two TinCaps scored on a hard-hit ball by Trae Santos that snuck by Cubs first baseman Gioskar Amaya into right field.
The Cubs trimmed the margin to 3-2 when Young cracked an RBI single through the hole on the left side to score Torres again from second.
Fort Wayne added a run right back in the sixth off of Cubs reliever Tyler Ihrig off an infield single, a single from a hit-and-run and an RBI groundout.
The Cubs loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Balaguert then sliced a bases-clearing, three-run double to the fence in right-center field to propel the Cubs ahead 5-4. Balaguert ripped a three-run triple to the same location in Friday’s win. Farris fanned the three TinCaps in order in the ninth to pick up the save, the first of his professional career.
“We’re confident,” Gonzalez said. “We know we have a ball club that can win games. And we’re going out there knowing we can win and compete.”
South Bend and Fort Wayne meet for the rubber game Sunday at 2:05 p.m. ET at Four Winds Field. Cubs right-hander Ryan Williams (2-0, 0.46 ERA) is set to toe the rubber opposite TinCaps righty Dinelson Lamet (0-1, 3.00 ERA).