Cal closer Erik Martinez gains redemption, earning the win against Stanford after blowing a save against the Cardinal on April 5

BERKELEY -- Brett Cumberland drives in three of Cal's five runs, including his Pac-12 leading 11th home run, as Erik Martinez begins to look a bit more like his old self, throwing 1.2 innings in a 5-2 win.

BERKELEY -- The last time that California closer Erik Martinez faced Stanford, he allowed three runs with two outs in the ninth, blowing his first save of the season and taking his first loss, back on April 5.

On Tuesday, Martinez entered with one out and the game tied 2-2 with two outs in the top of the sixth, and promptly struck out catcher Alex Dunlap on a cutter away to end the threat. Martinez pitched 1.2 innings of hitless relief, with three strikeouts, earning the win in a 5-2 victory for the Golden Bears.

"You always think about that stuff, but you don't let it get to you," Martinez said. "Just say, 'Hey, it's a new day. Anything can happen.'"

After Martinez came in to put out the fire, Cal exploded for three runs, with the decisive blow being a two-run double from Brett Cumberland.

The switch-hitting catcher got a day off behind the plate (being spelled by Matt Ruff and Tyrus Greene), but looked just fine at it, slugging his Pac-12-leading 11th home run (his second from the right side) on a fastball middle-in, in the third, and then rocked a two-run line-drive double over the head of first baseman Matt Winaker with two outs in the sixth -- the Beas' first hit with runners in scoring position all night. The only two runs Cal had up to that point were on a pair of solo home runs by Cumberland and first baseman Nick Halamandaris (his third), both on first pitches in the bottom of the third off of Cardinal lefty starter John Hochstatter.

After getting a run in the top of the fifth, when reliever Joey Matulovich -- who had allowed just three earned runs over his last 7.2 innings, with 10 strikeouts -- allowed an inherited runner to score on two singles, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly, which was snared by a sliding Brian Celsi.

The Cardinal tied things up in the top of the sixth, when a would-be 1-6-3 double play was wiped away by the umpiring crew, after a hot shot up the middle by Mikey Diekroeger deflected off of Matulovich's mitt, right to shortstop Preston GrandPre, who crossed the second base bag and threw to first. It was ruled that he did not touch the bag, though replay showed he did, erasing Winaker. But, instead, the Cardinal had one man in scoring position, and a 1-0 line drive single by Quinn Brodey through Halamandaris's diving arms at first cashed in that run.

"When you're battling yourself, you don't want a call not to go your way, and he maybe let it affect him a little bit more than it normally does," head coach David Esquer said.

But, in the bottom of the sixth, Cal struck back, with a leadoff triple by Aaron Knapp between Winaker and the bag. A strikeout by GrandPre, though, saw the pitch get through Dunlap, but not too far away. Knapp bluffed hard down the third base line, forcing Dunlap to pay attention, and thereby allowing GrandPre to reach.

A sacrifice fly on a slicing liner to right by Celsi broke the tie, and a groundout by Mitchell Kranson -- who hit leadoff for the first time in his entire life, at any level (and, in the first inning, got an infield single because "I wanted to show off my speed," he laughed)-- moved GrandPre to second.

Robbie Tenerowicz got ahead 3-1, but after a big hack at a fastball, he got something in his eye. After applying some eye drops, he came back to the dish and promptly took ball four, low, to put two men on for Cumberland, who obliged with the line-drive double.

"After the first and second inning, we had a chance to score runs with outs," Esquer said, as the Bears, in the first and second innings, had two men on with no outs in each frame, and couldn't get a run home, leaving the bases loaded in the second. "We didn't even have to get a hit to get runs there. We've been underwater a little bit, and battling it, fighting ourselves, and that was more evidence of that, in the first two innings."

Even Cumberland came up empty with two on and no outs in the first, chasing a change up away to strike out.

"That was a bad at-bat by me, in that first inning," Cumberland said. "I've got to be better in those situations, do something to get a guy over. When I got that hit with runners in scoring position, I was glad I was able to make up for that first inning."

After Martinez worked his 1.2 innings, Keaton Siomkin worked through a two-on, no-out jam after a quick pitch allowed Winaker to reach, and then a walk to Diekroeger, getting a pop-out foul to Kranson by Brodey, and then striking out Dunlap on a full-count off-speed offering to end the threat.

"I've told our guys they've got to attack the game, in the sense of things we haven't been doing well, and we have to figure out what they could be, whether it's watch video tape or work on swings, little things for the weekend, and Erik's been doing that," Esquer said. "He hasn't been himself. He's just been trying to find a way to figure out what he needs to do."

Starting with his appearance against UCLA, Martinez has allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and six walks in 5.1 innings of work over four appearances.

"Coach [Thomas] Eager was telling him that he was falling off and his arm was dragging behind, leaving the ball flatter, and up, so I think those things helped him," Esquer said. "He looked more like himself."

Martinez said that his slider was a particularly sharp weapon on Tuesday, and that now that he's more on top of the ball, instead of underneath it, he's getting more break.

"It was breaking," Martinez said. "It's not just spinning. I got the movement that I wanted; it was going away from the hitter, not coming backdoor and just spinning. That was a great difference."

Freshman Tanner Dodson came on for the ninth, and struck out two in the perfect frame.

Lineup Changes

Kranson leading off, Esquer said, "was kind of my SABR-metric lineup."

"I went through all the numbers, and I was trying to figure out -- he hasn't had enough RBI situations," Esquer said. "His batting average is among the highest, his on-base percentage is among the highest, and in actuality, even over the last four years, our leadoff guy is an RBI spit, because well turn the lineup over and set the lineup up for him. We felt like that would be a good place for him."

That situation came up in the second, when Kranson stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, but fouled out to Dunlap.

Esquer said he has "looked into" keeping Kranson in the leadoff spot, "until we get some other guys going," but it will remain fluid.

"Knowing that that spot comes up with runners in scoring position quite a bit, to be honest, he had it and he popped up, but he's only had five at-bats with a runner at third and less than two outs, all year," Esquer said. "We've got to give him more opportunities to drive in some runs and some free at-bats." Top Stories