Closers Struggle; Extra Innings Everywhere

Fans that came out Friday were treated to free baseball at three of the four affiliate's games. While the extra innings were great for fans, it wasn't such a good time for the bullpens, as closers struggled and extra inning heroics were the norm.

Portland lost 6-5 in 10

Wilson Valdez made his Portland Beavers debut after being acquired in a trade for Mike Bumstead and R.D. Spiehs. He went 0-for-4 and is now 0-for-8 in Pacific Coast League play, seeing action in one game for the Tacoma Rainers. In 42 games for Seattle, Valdez hit .198 with a .235 on base percentage. He struck out as many times (25) as he had hits during his tenure with the Mariners. He is a career .282 in the minors over a span of 764 games.

Scott Stewart also made his debut with the club on Friday. He pitched one inning and struck out two. Stewart had gone 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA for the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A farm club of the New York Mets. The righty had allowed a .299 average against in 24 innings for the Tides. While opponents hit .400 off him in the sixth and .318 off him in the seventh inning, they were hitting just .115 off him when he pitched in the eighth inning.

Justin Germano performed admirably but did not figure into the decision when Brad Baker blew his fifth save of the year. Germano surrendered two runs on six hits and a walk while tying his season-high in strikeouts with ten. Germano leads the team with 66 strikeouts on the year and is in the top five in the PCL in that category. He is averaging 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings and has a 4.1-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Ben Risinger was released by the club on Friday. Risinger played in 206 games for the Beavers over the past three years and hit .211 in 41 games for the club this year. He had just one RBI over his last 26 games and one extra base hit in his last 20.

Miguel Asencio was added to the roster on Friday. Asencio made one appearance with the Lake Elsinore Storm, allowing one run on two hits in five innings of work.

Mobile won 15-9

Down 7-0 after the top half of the second inning, Mobile scored 14 straight runs en route to a 15-9 win. Everyone except Ronnie Merrill had a hit and scored a run. Dustin Delucchi led the way with four hits. Six players had RBI's with five of those having two or more.

Casey Baker went 3-for-4 with a double on Friday. He scored three runs and notched four RBI's on the night. He entered the game with just three RBI's on the year in 44 games played. Baker also walked for the fourth straight game. He has doubled in three straight and has six runs scored over his past three games. His three-hit night pushed his average above .200 – to .218 – for the first time this season.

Starting pitcher Brian Whitaker recorded four outs on Friday, the shortest outing of his BayBear career, getting shelled for seven runs on nine hits in an inning and a third. His shortest outing of the year had been previously four innings on the year. Whitaker did have one outing on August 30, 2003 where he went one inning but that was to rest him in his last start of the regular season for Fort Wayne. The opposition is hitting .339 off him for the year. Whitaker also had a balk and a wild pitch on the night.

Angel Tovar, transferred from Portland to Mobile earlier in the week, made his debut with the BayBears. Tovar had allowed the last seven inherited runners to score with Portland but held the only runner he inherited from scoring on Friday. He went 2.2 innings to get the win, allowing an unearned run on one hit – the help of two errors on one play and a wild pitch. Over his last 11 innings of work Tovar has allowed just one earned run.

Lake Elsinore lost 4-3 in 15 innings

Javier Martinez pitched well enough to earn the win, giving up two runs, one earned, on five hits and a walk. Martinez has held the opposition to three earned runs over his past four starts, spanning 26 innings. He has also limited them to five or fewer hits in each of those starts. Martinez has lowered his ERA from 7.23 to 4.87 along the way.

"The first outing when I got back I went four innings and I couldn't throw anymore," Martinez admitted. "I was tired but now I am getting stronger in there. I did a lot of long toss to get my arm stronger."

After the bullpen threw seven fantastic innings, spread between Paul Abraham, Howie Pence and Eddie Bonine, the Storm handed the ball over to Leo Rosales in the 15th inning with a one run lead. The closer proceeded to give up two runs on two hits to take his fifth loss of the year, which is also his fifth blown save of the season. All five of his blown saves have come over the past 17 appearances and he has four in his last 11 outings, compared to just three saves over that same time span.

George Kottaras led the offense with a 3-for-6 night. He doubled twice and knocked in a run. Over the last four games, Kottaras has five doubles. It was his sixth three-hit game on the year and Kottaras threw out the only runner attempting to steal. He has thrown out ten of the past 23 baserunners trying to take an extra base. He did, however, get charged with his ninth passed ball of the season.

Fort Wayne lost 5-3, 1-0 in 10 innings

Luke Steidlmayer pitched a no-hitter – in his one inning of work. In a game that was delayed due to rain, Steidlmayer was pulled after one inning of work with the team up 2-0. Chris Steinborn took the hill when the game resumed. The newest Wizard allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in three innings of work. Both runs crossed the plate on a homer, his second homer allowed in 14 appearances.

Peter Ciofrone went 1-for-3 with an RBI in game one, giving him an RBI in each of the past five games. Over the last seven games, Ciofrone has reached base 17 times, going 10-for-26 with six walks and a hit by pitch. Ciofrone played first base in game two and went 0-for-3 with a walk. He also committed two errors in the field, giving him ten on the year in ten games played between first and third base, and grounded into a double play.

The Wizards were no-hit through 9.1 innings in the second game of the doubleheader before Tom Vincent broke it up with a single in a 0-0 game. Brett Dowdy was the only player on the squad to reach base twice, netting two bases on balls.

Vern Sterry got the game two start and proved he is much better at starting than in relief. In his first start of the year, Sterry went six innings and gave up four hits while striking out four. It is his longest stint all year without allowing a run. While his hitting average against is .182 as a starter now, the opposition is hitting .285 off him as a long reliever.


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