Tuesday night's Bakersfield-Lake Elsinore game matched two of the California League's most promising hurlers in the circuit – Kennil Gomez and Wynn Pelzer. Both right-handers ran into early trouble, but Pelzer (7-3) was able to pitch out of the jams, leading the Storm (37-28) to an 8-2 victory over the Blaze (29-32).
Gomez (2-6) drew the loss, his third straight losing decision. In five innings of work, the Dominican allowed four earned runs (five total), eight hits and four walks, while striking out four.
Gomez labored through the first two innings, facing 15 total batters. He couldn't find a rhythm as he fell behind hitters and piled up high pitch counts. At the conclusion of the second inning, the 21-year-old had given up four runs on six hits and three walks.
"Not one of his best outings," said Bakersfield pitching coach Dave Chavarria. "(He) ran deep counts. Usually he stays with his fastball a little bit more, tonight he didn't. He went offspeed early, worked behind after the first strike, it caught up to him. He threw a lot of pitches the first two innings. After that, his pitch count went down. But by that time, it was too late."
With the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, Gomez was able to escape a potentially damaging rally by getting Storm right fielder Yefri Carvajal to pop out to shortstop, allowing only one run in the process.
The Dominican got two quick outs to start the second frame, but a two-out single by Brad Chalk opened the flood gates to a three-run inning.
Following Chalk's single, Gomez walked Beamer Weems and Logan Forsythe to load the bases. Gomez yielded a bases-loaded RBI single to Keoni Ruth and a two-run single to Felix Carrasco. Both singles were weak contact ground balls, which further emphasized the impact of Gomez's two free passes.
Gomez settled down over the final three innings by limiting the Storm to two hits, a walk and an unearned run. Gomez only gave up two extra-base hits on the night, which proves that he is tough to beat if he exhibits good command.
"Gomez has a real good feel for pitching", said Chavarria. "He knows when to throw a fastball and when to throw a breaking ball, and he can change speeds off his breaking ball. And not a lot of guys can do that and he's fortunate he can.
"All that stuff comes into play when you are working ahead. When you are working behind in the count, hitters are allowed to take. (When) you're not throwing it over the plate, or you're throwing it down in the zone, usually they are swinging at it because you are ahead in the count. Now you are behind in the count, it doesn't really play a whole lot."
Gomez warms up before Tuesday's start
Gomez's fastball ranged from 86-91 mph on the night. He was primarily in the 88-91 zone. At times, he also showed good touch with his curveball. During his second inning strikeout of Luis Martinez, Gomez hurled three curveballs, all at different speeds (76, 79, 74) and different breaking actions.
On the hitting side, the Blaze threatened Pelzer by putting runners in scoring position in each of the first five innings. During the first five stanzas, the Blaze reached base safely 10 times but could only muster two runs in the process.
Over a span of six innings, Pelzer held the Blaze to two runs, seven hits and a walk, while fanning eight. He also hit two batters.
With Lake Elsinore leading 4-1, Bakersfield's best chance for a big inning came in the fourth when they loaded the bases with no outs. Davis Stoneburner brought home Joey Butler with a sacrifice fly to center, cutting the deficit to 4-2.
However, the Blaze squandered the chance when Engel Beltre popped out by swinging on a first pitch and Jonathan Greene struck out to end the inning.
Over the final four innings, the Blaze hitters struck out seven times and reached base only once.
NOTES: Designated hitter Eric Fry enjoyed the best day at the plate for the Blaze, going 2-for-4 with a triple, a double and a run. Fry hammered a deep triple off the centerfield wall and hit a frozen rope double off the Green Monster-like wall in right.
Adalberto Flores struck out the side while making a relief appearance in the eighth. The Puerto Rican's fastball was clocked at 91 mph on the stadium gun, but it was his two-seamer (82-84) that was giving the Storm fits.
"It's almost between a changeup and a fastball," said Chavarria when referring to Flores' two-seamer. "A little bit too hard for a changeup. A lot of sink to it. A lot of deception with the arm speed.
"It's a good pitch, a real tough pitch for hitters to pick up. A lot of them swung over the top of it and it just bottomed out at the end. A real good pitch for him. He's kind of developed it this year. It's helped him a whole lot. It's really good for what he does—it offsets his slider which he likes to throw a lot. It just keeps hitters off-balance with it."
Flores has fanned 42 batters in 29 innings this year to go along with a 3.41 ERA.
Following Blake Beavan's promotion to Frisco, the Blaze plan to utilize Zach Phillips in the rotation for at least one more start. His status is up in the air after that start.
On Sunday, Phillips came out of the pen to throw a masterful performance against Rancho Cucamonga in a losing effort. In seven innings of work, the left-hander held the Quakes to one run (unearned), one hit and two walks, while striking out seven.
"That wasn't really the plan," said Chavarria. "The plan was to try to get him five. He kind of forced the issue with seven and almost forced the issue for eight or nine, the way he was pitching that day.
"He was kind of stretched out a little bit. But these guys dictate what they do, how many innings they are going to throw and all that stuff. If they are rolling along, their pitch count is low, and they are feeling good, we are going to send them back out there and they know that, which is good."
Storm extinguish the Blaze
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