Cahill-Alderson Rematch Turns Slugfest

STOCKTON, CA - Things were all set for a highly anticipated rematch Tuesday night in Stockton as highly touted pitching prospects Trevor Cahill and Tim Alderson were set to take the hill against one another for the second time in a week.

In their first match-up last week, Trevor Cahill went six scoreless innings in San Jose, allowing just one walk and two hits while striking out nine to outduel San Jose Giants ace and San Francisco Giants 2007 first round draft pick Tim Alderson, who allowed four hits and one earned run in six innings to suffer his first loss of the season.

On Tuesday, the rain which threatened to come all day long in Stockton never came and things looked bright for another pitchers' duel, but it was not to be as both pitchers allowed runs early on, setting the stage for a dramatic Stockton Ports comeback victory.

Pitching back at home for the first time since his California League debut that saw him pitch seven shutout innings, Cahill struck out the first batter of the game swinging but an unlucky infield hit got the Giants going in the first. Cahill struggled with his control in the first inning with two walks in the inning after only two walks total in his previous three starts. He did induce a ground-ball that could have gotten him out of the inning unharmed, but the inning was extended and he gave up two two-out hits to score three runs.

After a leadoff walk to start the second, Cahill seemed to find his control, as he was no longer getting behind in the count and he was able to get two strikeouts with his change-up in the second inning and two in the third inning as part of his only 1-2-3 inning. Location is huge for Cahill and once he found it, he was dominant, as he retired eight straight before a hit batter led to a bizarre two runs scored against him.

With runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth, Giants RF Tyler Graham surprised the Ports with a beautiful bunt between first and second. As Stockton first baseman Chris Carter waited for the hopeful throw to first both Cahill and second baseman Mike Affronti went after the bunt and ran into each other. The ball rolled away and by the time it was retrieved, two runs had scored. Cahill finished the game having allowed five runs on six hits in five innings with three walks and six strike-outs.

Cahill continues to look to have the ball put in play on the ground, as 13 of his 15 outs came on the ground and the only hit he gave up through the air was for extra bases as a key hit in a three-run first. His earned run average more than quadrupled from the 0.50 at the start of the game to 2.14, but after now seeing all four starters at least twice, I would consider Cahill to be the staff "ace" with the most potential down the road to join the A's in Oakland with Brett Anderson a close number two.

Cahill doesn't throw quite as hard as some of the other starters in the Stockton rotation and his strike-out totals will be lower, but he still gets his share of Ks on well-placed pitches to get batters to chase instead of blowing them away with a fastball. Batters have a tough time putting the ball in play against him and have to put together a series of hits to score runs instead of an extra-base hit leading to much easier scoring. His off-speed/breaking stuff more often than not is top-notch, as he seems to use his fastball to set-up the off-speed arsenal.

Opposing Cahill on Tuesday was Tim Alderson for the San Jose Giants. With an unorthodox delivery, Alderson was selected last year in the first round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft out of Horizon High School in Arizona. He pitched strictly out of the stretch in high school, but the Giants are having him work out of the wind-up despite the normal tendency of teams in the California League wanting their pitchers to throw out of the stretch.

Staked to a 3-0 lead before even taking the mound, Alderson was quickly touched up by the Ports, as the first three Stockton' batters reached base. Archie Gilbert bounced a single to leftfield but was thrown out trying to stretch it into the double for a costly first out. Like Cahill, Alderson struggled early with his control despite a fairly-generous strike zone from the home plate umpire. After Gilbert was thrown-out at second, Alderson allowed a line-drive single to center from Josh Horton and then walked Sean Doolittle. He then hung an off-speed pitch with two-outs that Jed Morris made him pay for with a double to right which scored two.

Alderson gave up two walks in the game, including a leadoff walk in the second inning which came around to score despite not allowing a hit due to a passed ball. After that, he started mixing his pitches up well and hitting the corners in his last three innings, as he didn't allow another walk and allowed just two hits.

Alderson's curveball looked to have some great potential along with his fastball in the high 80s to low 90s. Similar to Cahill, Alderson gets his share of weakly hit ground balls due to his excellent location on his pitches. He showed that he can go for the strike-out when needed. After giving up a leadoff double fifth inning, he came back and got Gilbert with an excellent curveball to sit down the Ports leadoff batter on strikes without having the baserunner get to third with less than two outs.

Alderson had his earned run average go from 1.69 to 2.14 in the game and he gave up the most hits in an outing so far this season with five base-hits allowed, three walks and one strikeout. Despite it being his worst outing on the year, I could see he has the command of several fairly effective pitches and could, despite his young age, work his way through the Giants minor league system in fairly quick fashion. He doesn't seem to have one dominant pitch which would be his go-to pitch, but despite being just 19 years old he never seemed to be rattled on the mound when he ran into trouble showing plenty of poise.

The excitement in the game did not end when Cahill and Alderson exited. Carter hit his sixth homer in five games in the bottom of the sixth inning to draw the Ports within one at 5-4, as he welcomed Giants reliever Steve Edelson into the game with a blast to left-center on the first pitch he threw. Ports reliever Derrick Gordon continued his hot pitching out of the bullpen. He struck-out four in two scoreless innings. Sam Demel and Andrew Carignan each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for Stockton to keep San Jose at five runs.

Stockton still trailed by a run going into the bottom of the ninth by a score of 5-4. The Ports were able to rally off of San Jose closer Taylor Wilding, however. The rally began when the Ports got a ground ball single to right from Darryl Lawhorn to lead-off the bottom of the ninth. Looking to get the runner into scoring position, Mike Affronti laid a perfect bunt down the third-base line that he was able to beat for a hit while Lawhorn moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher. After a Matt Sulentic walk loaded the bases, Gilbert came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly to center to score Lawhorn while Affronti advanced to third.

Needing just a sac-fly to get the win, Horton lined a hit to right for the walkoff 6-5 win over San Jose. The win moved Stockton into a tie for first with San Jose. Jason Fernandez will start on Wednesday for Stockton with Jared Lansford scheduled to come out of the bullpen, as they will oppose San Jose's Jesse English.


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