Early Lead Crumbles
Pacifics Strand 11, Fall Three Games Back of Sonoma
By Vinnie Longo
August 23, 2016
Pittsburg, CA -
The 2016 San Rafael Pacifics have found many creative ways to win in 2016. Brent Gillespie was pegged by an 0-2 pitch in Vallejo a few weeks ago, Ricky Gingras and Garrett Gemgnani hit walkoff home runs in early August, Aaron Brill missed a ground ball right at him off the bat of Johnny Bekakis, and the go-ahead run has scored on a wild pitch.
But over the last two weeks, the Pacifics have found creative ways to lose, putting them in a must-win game in Pittsburg on Tuesday night. Through three innings, San Rafael appeared to be in control of the game. They held a 3-1 lead and Celson Polanco, who was one start removed from tossing eight shutout innings against Pittsburg last week, was dealing.
And then the wheels fell off in the fourth. With two outs, one run in, and the tying run at third, Jordan Yallen hit a soft grounder down the third base line that took a trick hop on Jake Taylor at third and squirted its way through his legs. The ball trickled into short left, scoring Ian Hagenmiller from second to tie the game at three. Polanco was able to to retire Jose Garcia two pitches later to end the inning, but the damage was already done.
Pittsburg added three more runs in the fifth inning by starting the inning with three consecutive singles by Jordan Hinshaw, Tyler Nordgren, and Nick Oddo. Thomas Shull brought a run home with a fielder’s choice and Hagenmiller scored another with a sac fly. Polanco retired Yallen on a fly ball to right, but Pittsburg had sent eight men to the plate and taken a 6-3 lead.
The Pacifics entered play on Friday winning only four of the nine games they’d played in Pittsburg, but one of those wins was a miraculous nine run comeback that started in the eighth inning. No such luck was in the San Rafael corner, as they fell 6-3 to open the series in Pittsburg.
“We were given a lot of chances on the base paths tonight and we weren’t able to bring runners around to score,” said Pacifics Manager Matt Kavanaugh. “We made on some costly mistakes on defense which cost us runs and we ended up losing a game that we needed to win.”
Runners reached base for the Pacifics in every single inning, and the tying run came to the plate in the sixth inning with one out and in the eighth with two outs, but once again the Pacifics continued their late-season trend of stranding runners in base, especially in scoring position. Six of the Pacifics 11 runners stranded on base came after the fourth inning, and the Pacifics ended up leaving five runners in scoring position.
The game turned in Pittsburg’s favor in the top of the third when, with the bases loaded, a run already in, and nobody out, Brent Gillespie stepped in. In almost an exact replica of the situation in Sonoma last weekend, Gillespie grounded into a 5-2-3 double play that cut off the run at home and squelched the Pacifics rally. San Rafael would tack on another run when Shull booted a ball at third, but the momentum had swung in favor of the Diamonds, and they’d never look back.
Nate Gercken (W, 2-2) lasted five and one-third innings in his second start of the season, allowing three runs (one earned), while allowing five hits and gifting the Pacifics seven walks. The bullpen combination of Marquis Pettis, Joe Mello, and Joe Lewis (SV, 4) kept the San Rafael offense at bay to preserve the Diamonds win.
The Pacifics now find themselves with their backs against the wall for a chance to play in the 2016 Pacific Association Championship Game. With Sonoma’s win over Vallejo, the Pacifics are now three games back of the Stompers with five contests remaining. Sonoma has a “magic number” of three, meaning that any combination of three Stompers wins and Pacifics losses will result in Sonoma winning the second half, negating the championship game and making them Pacific Association Champions.
The Pacifics return to action for the second game of the series in Pittsburg tomorrow night. First pitch is at 7:05 PM and live coverage can be found on the radio at pacificsbaseball.com or on Twitter by following @SRPacifics.