Rawhide Lose Division Crown to Giants

The Visalia Rawhide lost their fifth consecutive game Saturday, and subsequently the first-half North Division title for the California League. The San Jose Giants have won four-of-five to wrest the division from Visalia, who had led all season long until their bats disappeared this week.

The Rawhide currently tied with the Modesto Nuts for first in the Wild Card standings with one game remaining and Modesto holding the tiebreaker by virtue of their 8-7 head-to-head record thus far.

How bad have the last five games been for the Visalia Rawhide?  Well, two of those five losses came against the San Jose Giants, the team that would eventually overtake the Rawhide and claim the division title.  But even more disturbingly, the Rawhide offense only scored three runs over those five games.  That's unheard of. 

Visalia combined for 18 hits over the first four games, which averages to just 4.5 hits per game.  Then Saturday night against Bakersfield, the offense showed signs of life with eight hits - including two from the scrappy Elijah Rumler - but went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, stranded nine runners total, and managed to push across just one run.  Rumler actually stranded Ollie Linton at third base after he tripled in the third and provided the Rawhide with their best scoring chance of the day.

Part of the offense's struggles aren't the fault of the team.  Sean Coughlin's promotion to Double-A and Collin Cowgill's trip to the disabled list left holes in the middle of the lineup.   Those holes could not be filled by newcomer Brendan Duffy, who was a top-of-the-order sparkplug for South Bend, which wasn't a need for the Rawhide due to the presence of Linton.  David Cooper and Daniel Rodriguez - both of whom joined the team out of extended spring training and had never before played full-season ball - are clearly overmatched at the Hi-A level, combining for 10 hits in 88 at-bats (.115), nine of which were singles.

The good news for the Rawhide in the second half is that despite the promotions of Jarrod Parker, Wes Roemer, and Chase Christianson, the pitching is still on par with the Giants' for the best in all the California League.  The offense should rebound to an extent when Cowgill returns from the DL and could soon receive a boost from the likes of Justin Parker and perhaps a high draft choice or two.  There is also still an improbable chance of a first-half Wild Card seeding if Visalia defeats Bakersfield and Modesto loses to Lancaster.

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