"One bad inning" sinks Storm

SAN JOSE -- On Friday night, the Lake Elsinore Storm boarded their buses with a 2-0 series lead over the San Jose Giants, looking to continue an impressive run through the California League playoffs. But for the second straight night, they stumbled to a loss, dropping Sunday's contest 8-7 to force a deciding game five for the league championship.

The Storm fell behind early when John Bowker launched a homer on the first pitch of the third inning, and then compounded their trouble with shaky defense for the second game in a row.

Two consecutive short fly balls dropped in for doubles when Brett Dowdy and Jordan Pickens each had trouble with a swirling wind. Guilermo Rodriguez, who hit the first ball that dropped in, later came around to score on a fielder's choice to make it 2-0.

After the Storm got one back on back-to-back doubles by Pickens and Brett Bonvechio in the top of the fourth, the Giants plated five in the bottom of the inning, to put the game out of reach.

Storm starter Arturo Lopez opened the inning with a single, double and walk, then a Bowker line drive fell in for an RBI single just in front of Pickens, who was playing in just his second game since going to the disabled list with leg trouble. After Lopez got a strikeout and popout, he forced in a run with a full-count walk to leadoff man Pat Dobson, and then a bases-clearing triple by Clay Timpner, who had eight on the year.

"We had one bad inning today, again, and I think that's been the story of the series," said Storm manager Rick Renteria. "If I look back at this whole series, the club that ended up coming out on the bottom has had one bad defensive inning."

On the game, Lopez went five innings, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out a pair. It was the sixth time in seven postseason games that a Storm starter failed to get an out in the sixth inning.

The Storm rallied for four in the sixth when five of the first six batters reached safely. The inning including another Bonvechio double, a two-RBI single from Juan Ciriaco, and a two-bagger by Drew Macias.

Elsinore had an opportunity to score more in the inning, but Josh Howard – replacing Chris Kolkhorst in the leadoff spot on the night – struck out and, after a four-pitch walk to Josh Dowdy, Michael Johnson popped a harmless foul ball to the catcher to end the threat with Macias still on third.

In the bottom of the frame, they once again gave one right back when Rodriguez, a 27 year-old catcher, led off with a homer against righty reliever Wilmer Villatoro. Ryan Blackwell came on after the Giants loaded the bases and kept the game from turning into a laugher, inducing two grounders to escape without further damage.

In the ninth, the Storm made one last charge against Giants' closer Joe Bateman when Bonvechio, who finished with three extra-base hits on the night, lofted a two-run opposite-field homer into the visitors' bullpen, but they could do no further damage.

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