"Their starter definitely came and did a great job," said LeBlanc. "He definitely did his job. They were able to make it tough on our hitters but we were able to scratch out just enough. That is the key to winning a game."
Wade LeBlanc struck out his tenth batter of the game to begin the eighth inning, just five outs from a perfect game. Lucas May then grounded a single between first and second base to foil his bid at perfection after the lefty set down the first 22 batters in the game. Ironically, May hit .175 during the month of May. He allowed a one-out single in the ninth inning and was pulled from the contest – leaving the California League with just two complete game shutouts on the year.
"You always want that complete game, especially when it is a close ball game," LeBlanc said of wanting that complete game. "You always want to be the guy with the ball in your hand. I was at my pitch count and I have a lot of confidence in Link so I had no problem relinquishing the ball. You always want to be the guy on the mound at the end of the game."
Over his last two starts, LeBlanc has gone 14.1 innings and has given up just four hits without surrendering a run. His 10 strikeouts match a career-high he set earlier this year (May 5). The lefty improved to 5-2 on the year and his 8.1 innings proved to be the longest outing of his career. He has thrown shutout ball in six of his 11 starts, including four straight in late April and early May.
"I think the biggest thing is keeping the ball down in the zone with whatever pitch I decide to throw and whatever count it is," LeBlanc said of his success. "To be able to throw any pitch in any count and to know it is going to be there for a strike – and my defense behind me has done a great job.
It was the sixth shutout of the year for the Storm. LeBlanc would have been the fifth to ever throw a perfect game in the California League.
"It is always in the back of your mind," he said of the perfect game aspirations. "What took precedence over that was the fact that we had a 1-0 lead and needed this win, especially since it is coming down to the wire in the first half. We needed the win tonight and that took priority over the fact that I had a perfect game going."
Jon Link closed out the game, getting the final two outs to earn his fourth save of the year in as many opportunities. The right-hander has gone 13 straight appearances without allowing a run, spanning 11 innings. He has given up just five hits over that span. Link has given up runs in three of his 21 appearances and only one of the hits he has yielded have gone for extra bases. Link had struck out 12 in his previous 7.1 innings but did not record a punch out on Friday.
Portland lost 5-4 to Iowa (Cubs)
Vince Sinisi cracked a solo homer in the first inning, his ninth, and added a run scoring double in the fifth, 2-for-5 on the night with two runs scored to compliment his two RBIs. He extended his hitting streak to eight games, going 11-for-30 with four doubles, three homers and eight RBIs over the streak. His nine homers this year have already surpassed the seven he had in 102 games with Double-A Mobile last year. Eight of his nine homers have come with the bases empty.
Jared Wells was on the hook for four runs on eight hits and four walks over five-plus innings in a no-decision. The right-hander has allowed 10 runs on 17 hits over his last 8.1 innings and has given up four runs or more in each of his last four starts, surrendering 23 runs on 37 hits over 18.1 innings. He has walked four or more in two straight and three times this year. Only once in his last eight starts has he allowed fewer than four runs.
Craig Stansberry went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to snap a 4-for-33 streak that had lowered his batting average from .360 to .314. Still, the infielder is in the top five in the Pacific Coast League in doubles with 18 and his 24 extra base hits sit in the top ten. Stansberry has 14 multi-hit games through 47 contests and sports a .395 on base percentage.
San Antonio lost 3-1 to Arkansas (Angels)
Nick Hundley accounted for the only offense, slugging a solo homer in the second inning – his lone hit of the day in four at bats. The catcher has homered in successive games played for the first time this year. He went yard in five straight games last year while playing for the Fort Wayne Wizards from June 10 through June 17. He caught 1-of-2 runners attempting to steal and has caught 15-of-40 thieves this season, 37.5 percent.
Cesar Ramos took his fifth loss of the year, allowing three runs, two earned, on five hits and a walk while striking out three over seven innings. The southpaw has a 1.96 ERA over his last seven starts but is 3-3 over that span. He has held the leadoff man of an inning to a .242 on base percentage and has surrendered just three first inning runs in 11 starts. He had a 4.44 ERA in the first inning last year in High-A.
Jon Ellis worked two scoreless relief innings, giving up one hit and walking two. The right-hander has allowed one earned run over his last 10.1 innings of work and has given up just one hit over his last four outings. He has walked two or more for the fifth time on the year, all coming over his last 12 games. He did not walk a single batter in his first 10 appearances, spanning 9.2 innings. But, with 14 hits allowed in 22.2 innings and three double play grounders induced he has limited the damage.
Fort Wayne won 5-3 over South Bend (Diamondbacks)
Needing a quality start to end a five-game losing streak, Nathan Culp went five-plus and was charged with two runs on four hits and two walks to move to 6-3 on the year. He did uncork two wild pitches but induced nine ground ball outs. The left-hander had allowed six runs or more in three of his previous four starts but has held the opposition to two runs or less in seven of his 11 starts. He has held left-handed hitters to a .190 average and has given up just one extra base hit to southpaw batters while righties have collected 12 extra base hits.
Javis Diaz led the way offensively, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and a stolen base, his fourth of the year. It was the first time this year that Diaz has collected multiple extra base hits in a game and he recorded more doubles in one game than he did in all of May. Diaz has now been successful in four of 11 stolen base attempts this year and has swiped two straight without being caught for the first time this year. He is hitting .314 with the bases empty.
Rolando Valdez earned his tenth hold of the season, pitching an inning of scoreless ball, striking out one. The right-hander has yielded runs in just four of his 24 appearances this year and has walked four batters in 24.2 innings. While hitters leading off an inning have reached base safely in 10 of the 24 innings he has started, Valdez has surrendered just four hits in 28 at bats with runners in scoring position. Just three of the 23 hits he has allowed have gone for extra bases.