BERKELEY -- California continued its close-but-no-cigar habit against top-10 teams on Friday, dropping a 6-5 heartbreaker to No. 10 Stanford, just six days since coming a run short against No. 1 Oregon State in Corvallis.
"Not yet, not yet, and probably the most powerful word in my language right now is 'yet,'" said head coach David Esquer. "It's not 'if'; it's 'when.' Real competitive game."
The Bears (21-25, 12-13 in Pac-12) lost their third straight game to the rival Cardinal, and did it with their best arm on the mound.
After a game-tying solo shot from third baseman Denis Karas in the bottom of the eighth, closer Erik Martinez got Cal out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, but after striking out the first two men he faced in the top of the 10th, Martinez -- who came in with a 2.60 ERA and 6 saves -- walked first baseman Matt Winaker, and then stole second on the second pitch to shortstop Nico Hoerner. Hoerner ended a seven-pitch at-bat by lining a middle-middle fastball single over short to drive home Winaker, and Cal went down in order in the bottom of the 10th.
"I think I got behind, and when you're behind, you're forced to throw a good pitch, or let the guy get on first," Martinez said. "Winaker got on first, and he's a fast guy. He stole on the slider, and he got second, and then with a guy on second, [Hoerner] hit away. Minimizing walks is probably the biggest thing."
The Bears walked 9 batters on the day, with 4 of those coming from starter Jared Horn, who also hit a batter in his 5.0 innings of work, throwing 98 pitches. Horn didn't have command of either his fastball or his curveball, and became all too count predictable, which allowed the Cardinal (32-13, 14-8) to cue up hit-and-runs.
"I thought our bullpen did a nice job of stringing some one innings together there. The first two innings that we tried to string out of there, we didn't have success with any of them. Buckley in his second inning, and Martinez was out for his second inning. Coming off of finals, I thought our guys did a good job of just not letting them win by three runs when we got down against a good-quality pitcher who had a pitch that was really giving us some problems."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1778091-cal-strikes-again-...Quick-working left-handed Stanford starter Kris Bubic used his tumbling change to great effect, striking out 7 in 6.0 innings of work, while walking three and scattering 4 hits -- all singles.
"Out of the library [studying for finals], it was even tougher for us, I think," Esquer said. "Our guys competed well. I give them credit. They got a base hit and Hoerner did a nice job getting a base hit in a spot. Nine walks. On a Friday, if you walk nine, you're lucky to give up six. They had 18 base runners on the day with nine hits and nine runs. It's tough to lose these games as you're learning, and they seem like they're not piling up, but they're adding up."
Bubic mystified Cal early in the first, using his change up that broke down and away from right-handed hitters, but once he tried to nibble at the edge with his fastball, he walked No. 2 man Jeffrey Mitchell, who promptly stole second as Bubic baffled Pac-12 home run leader Andrew Vaughn. Bubic then came down and in with a fastball to Karas, who laced a liner over the head of leaping third baseman Jesse Kuet and into the left-field corner to break the seal with an RBI double in the bottom of the first.
The Cardinal evened things up in the bottom of the frame, when Maverick Handley put a charge into the sixth pitch he saw from Horn with 1 out, sending it right into the teeth of the wind in right center. But, with a man at third -- courtesy a looping double over first by Duke Kinamon and a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Wulff -- that cost the Bears a run.
Stanford crept ahead in a 22-pitch third by Horn, as a leadoff walk to Winaker turned into a run on a two-out ground ball single up the middle and past a diving Cameron Eden by Kinamon. Cal, though, was able to limit the damage, when a would-be RBI bouncer past Karas at third by center fielder Jack Klein set left fielder Max Flower up to hose Daniel Bakst -- who had earlier reached on a fielder's choice -- at the plate to end the frame.
The Bears answered back in the last of the third, thanks to Vaughn. After fanning with a man on in the first, he worked the count to 3-2 against Bubic before bouncing a two-out single off the mound and into center in the third, cashing in a one-out walk and a stolen base by second baseman Preston GrandPre.
Horn, who fought himself all afternoon, got into a two-on, one-out jam with men at the corners in the top of the fourth, but picked a fine moment to find command of his curveball, striking out Winaker and then getting shortstop Nico Hoerner to ground out to GrandPre, who made a sliding stop behind the bag at second to end the inning. Still, Horn had thrown 78 pitches over his first 4.0 innings of work.
Horn had bent, but not broken, over his first 4.0 frames, but the fifth changed that. Horn allowed a one-out single to desginated hitter Daniel Bakst, and then a two-out walk to Klein, before a first-pitch hanging breaker to right fielder Brandon Wulff was taken on a low line over the left field fence for a three-run home run, putting the Cardinal ahead, 5-2.
Bubich, on the other hand, settled down, finding command of his change and throwing Cal hitters off with his mid-motion hitch. Bubic fanned 2 in the bottom of the sixth, working around a one-out single by Vaughn and a two-out cue shot up the middle by Tanner Dodson.
Reliever Tyler Thorne, though, wasn't as sharp. The right-hander gave up a drilled fastball up the middle for a single to freshman catcher Korey Lee with one out in the seventh, then hit Flower on a 1-2 pitch inside. A grounder to the right side by GrandPre moved both runners into scoring position for Mitchell, who drove home both with a ground ball single through the left side, cutting the Stanford lead to 5-4. Thorne, though, fanned Vaughn with a 1-2 slider down and away to stop the bleeding.
The Cardinal's career saves leader, Colton Hock, who hadn't allowed a home run all season, then gave up a leadoff tater to Karas -- his second opposite-field home run of the season, both in the last two weeks -- to tie the game at 5-5.
Cal had a shot to go ahead in the bottom of the eighth, when, with two outs, Lee battled Hock for 13 pitches, before lining a single to shallow center to put men at first and third for Flower, but instead, Cal sent Tyrus Greene -- who's been limited to hitting with a hand injury -- to the plate, hitting .345. Greene -- who hadn't played since April 30 -- grounded out to second to end the inning, stranding speedy pinch hitter Jonah Davis at third.
In the ninth, it was the Bears' turn to stymie the Cardinal, as Martinez inherited a two-on, one-out jam from Andrew Buckley, who had thrown 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. Martinez fanned Kinamon on a fastball up, but then walked Klein to load the bases, bringing Wulff up to the plate. Martinez got ahead 0-2, but then Wulff stung Martinez's third offering to right center. After a collective gasp by half of the 1,194 in attendance, Mitchell tracked down the drive on a dead run, leaving the bases loaded.
The Bears and Cardinal take the field again at noon on Sunday, a game that will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.