Live From Stockton: Ports vs. Visalia
Like Ryan Webb the night before, starter Scot Drucker's fine effort was wasted in a losing cause. Drucker was outstanding through six innings, allowing only five hits and no runs. However, he was touched for a lead-off homer in the seventh and then fell victim to two bloop singles before giving up a three-run homer. Drucker departed with a deceiving line of 6.2 innings pitched, four runs allowed on nine hits. He was actually much better then the stats would show, mixing his pitches well and inducing eight ground balls. Three of the nine hits Drucker allowed were of the infield variety.
The Ports had plenty of chances to score early, as they had runners in scoring position in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, the first two runners reached on opposite-field singles by Myron Leslie and Tom Everidge. However, Cliff Pennington bunted into a force out at third, Luis Perez flew out to medium-deep right and Richie Robnett struck out to end the threat. In the sixth inning, the Ports looked to be on the verge of scoring again when Gregorio Petit began the inning with a single and Landon Powell walked with two outs (pictured above). Leslie was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Everidge hit a come-backer to the pitcher on the first pitch he saw to end the Ports last scoring threat of the night.
Outfielders Travis Buck and Richie Robnett await a pitching change in the top of the seventh inning. Robnett was in center on Friday and he looked good out in the field, gliding under three long flyballs to straight-away center. Robnett has the arm for right, but with his speed, the Ports are going to try him in center, as well as right. If he becomes a full-time centerfielder, Robnett could post assist numbers that rival A's centerfielder Mark Kotsay's some day.
Righty Mike Mitchell came on in relief of Drucker in the seventh inning. He allowed a walk in the seventh before ending the inning. However, he allowed two walks and a single, which resulted in a run, in the eighth. Mitchell has allowed three runs in eight innings this season and has struck out nine.
Mitchell's line might have been much worse had it not been for the outstanding middle infield defense of Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit. In the eighth, with men on first and second and no-outs, Mitchell induced a hard grounder up the middle. Pennington ranged far to his left, snared it and flipped to Petit at second, who made a strong throw to get the runner at first to complete the double-play. Pennington made the defensive play of the game in the top of the third. With runners on first and second and two outs, the Visalia batter hit a hard shot to the hole between short and third. Pennington made a nice half-slide to snare it and then he fired to second to get the speedy runner in a force.
Reliever Elvis Avendano (left) returned to Stockton on Thursday and made his 2006 Ports' debut on Friday. He had a rough outing, allowing a single, a walk, a hit by pitch (in the head), another single and an infield hit before settling down to induce a pop-out, a sacrifice fly and another pop-out. Avendano spent much of last season on the Ports roster. He is in his sixth year in the A's organization.
DH Luke Appert was one of only two Ports to reach base twice in Friday night's game. Appert walked in the first and singled in the fourth. He is hitting .250 on the year.
Outfielder Luis Perez made his second straight start on Friday. He had a rough game, going 0-3 with two runners left on base. He also committed an error in right and misjudged two other flyballs that were ruled hits but were probably playable. Perez split last season betweeen Stockton and Kane County and was productive, hitting a combined .292 with ten homers and 47 RBI in 87 games. He has only appeared in five games this season, and has two hits in 15 at-bats.
The Ports offensive struggles this season are hair-raising. Despite being only one game under .500, the Ports have now not scored for 19 innings and are hitting .207 as a team. They have hit only seven homers and scored only 45 runs in 15 games. Their team OPS is 588, lowest in the league. Some of the team's biggest stars are struggling the most. Buck (above) has seen his average drop to .234 and Robnett's average has gone down more than 50 points in the last few days to .255. Pennington is in the worst slump of all, as he is hitting only .098 with five hits in 51 at-bats. Landon Powell is the only hitter above .300, as he is hitting .324 in his comeback season. The Ports have scored just enough to win seven of their first 15 games, so they haven't dug themselves too big of a hole yet.
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