Cal closer Erik Martinez blows first save as Stanford comes back for 8-6 win

BERKELEY -- Cal closer Erik Martinez blows his first save of the season as Stanford scores three runs in the top of the ninth to end the Bears' seven-game winning streak.

BERKELEY -- The No. 9 California Golden Bears saw closer Erik Martinez implode for the second time in two outings, as he allowed three runs with two outs in the ninth inning and blew his first save of the season in an 8-6 loss to Stanford, with the big blow being a two-run home run from senior Johnny Locher, who came into the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

Cal (18-7) saw their season-long seven-game winning streak end in the teams' first meeting of the season, as the Cardinal (15-8) overcame three errors with a 14-hit attack that just would not quit in a back-and-forth battle that ended in the Bears' third loss at home this season, and just their third loss at night.

Stanford sealed the deal in the ninth with a leadoff double off the bat of first baseman Matt Winaker, and after a quick strikeout of Mikey Diekroeger, and a fly out to newly-entered left fielder Sean Peters took just six pitches, Martinez looked to be in shut-down mode, but designated hitter Brandon Wulff, after falling behind 0-2, stroked a single up the middle. 

Center fielder Aaron Knapp charged, but his throw home was in time, but well up the first base line, and Winaker -- going on contact -- came around with the tying run. Then, Locher stepped up and slugged the second pitch he saw off the RSF for the winning margin.

In his last two outings, Martinez has allowed five runs on six hits in his last 2.0 innings of work. He came into the game with a 1.84 ERA in 13 appearances, with seven straight saves in seven opportunities.

"Every now and then, you run into a streak where your location isn't where you want it to be, and you're not as sharp as you want to be," said Cal head coach David Esquer. "0-2 base hit, we're trying to throw the ball off the plate, and he centers it. We're one pitch away. He locates that pitch, then he goes to a pitch to get him out -- a fastball up or a breaking ball -- but we never got to the pitch. He's our best guy, and if you're going to get beat, you want to go down with your best."

Knapp, who had been hitting .225 on the season through the first two games of the Oregon State series, has since gone 9-for-22 with five stolen bases over the past six games, and led what looked to be a Cal win as late as the eighth inning.

Knapp swiped three bases -- one in the first, and two in the third -- both of which helped him shimmy into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

In the bottom of the first, after a leadoff double by Devin Pearson, Knapp sliced a single into left, and then stole second as Mitchell Kranson struck out swinging. Sophomore Brett Cumberland stepped up and pulled a shot to third, where third baseman Mike Diekroeger booted the ball, putting men at the corners and scoring Pearson. Left fielder Brenden Farney sent the scone pitch he saw from starter John Hochstatter to the left side, but the would-be double play turn at first was botched, as freshman second baseman Nico Hoerner's throw to first was low, allowing Knapp to come around to score.

Stanford scratched across runs in the second and the third on a sacrifice fly by Alex Dunlap and an RBI single by Quinn Brodey. 

After Knapp's third stolen base of the day -- on a first-pitch ball to Cumberland in the third -- he trotted home on a hard single up the middle by the switch-hitting catcher in the bottom of the third to give the Bears a 3-2 lead.

The Cardinal inched ahead in the top of the fourth, when, with two on, Tenerowicz negotiated a tough hop, threw to first, but it was either not in time or Halamandaris pulled his foot off. Either way, Halamandaris moved to go off the field, but the late safe call by first base umpire Jeff Henrichs means Halamandaris doesn’t throw home, and two runs scored, giving the Cardinal a 4-3 lead.

Cal tied things up in the bottom of the sixth on another pair of defensive flubs by Stanford, as a wide throw by reliever Kris Bubic to first, that appeared to pull Hoerner's foot off the bag, turned a Tenerowicz sacrifice bunt into a bases-loaded situation. With the bases juiced, shortstop Preston GrandPre sent a first-pitch shot to third against the lefty reliever, and third baseman Mike Diekroeger could only knock it down, stumbling and corralling the ball and tagging third, while Celsi trotted home.

With two outs, Knapp struck again, tagging a frozen rope to right on an 0-2 offering from Bubic to bring home Tenerowicz and put the Bears ahead, 5-4.

"Five or six runs with pitching and defense should be good enough," Esquer said. "You can grind out a lot of wins that way, so it wasn't like we weren't scoring runs at all. We weren't overly offensive, but I think we were in the game, and had wrestled the lad away there at the end. [I'm] not too concerned."

Freshman reliever Joey Matulovich relieved his classmate Tanner Dodson (4.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K), and continued his strong work from last week, going 2.1 innings, scattering three hits and striking out three. Against UCLA this past weekend, he went 2.2 scoreless, walking one.

Matulovich, though, did leave the game in the top of the seventh with a man on first -- Diekroeger -- who had singled to left with one out. Matulovich exited the game after throwing a ball to Brodey, who promptly took the first pitch he saw from reliever Keaton Siomkin off the center field wall for a game-tying RBI double.

"We're giving him more and more responsibility," Esquer said of Matulovich. "He looks like he's emerging to be able to handle it, so that's going to be an important part of getting some production out of that freshman class on the mound."

The Bears faced all left-handed pitchers on Tuesday night, until Colton Hock entered with two outs and a man on third in the bottom of the eighth. The first man he faced -- Pearson -- negotiated a "nasty curve" and sent a chopper to short, where Diekroeger charged, barehanded it and threw off-balance to first. The ball bounced in front of Winaker at first, but Pearson had it beaten, as Tenerowicz came around to score for the go-ahead run.

In some ways, facing off against three left-handed pitchers prepared Cal for this weekend's opponent: Oregon.

After finishing the home stand 7-1, the Bears head north this weekend to face the Ducks, who feature three left-handed starters, and the Bears' lineup, save for the switch-hitting Cumberland, Pearson, GrandPre -- who was pulled in the sixth after he was hit in the knee by a pitch -- and Tenerowicz, is left-handed, and Cumberland doesn't have quite the same power from the right side as he does the left -- only one of his Pac-12 leading 10 home runs have come right-handed. 

On the evening, Cal went 8-for-33 against the Cardinal's left-handed pitchers.

Esquer said that Cal will know "in the next day or so" whether ace Daulton Jefferies (lower leg tightness) will be able to pitch on Friday against Oregon. Reliever Alex Schick (knee) will not be making the trip, but will throw off a mound next week.


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