Bakersfield is Ablaze

Bakersfield will go for their tenth consecutive win tonight at Stockton after last night's 6-4 win over the Ports. Timely hitting and strong pitching is a good recipe for success and the Blaze have used it to get within a half game of the California League North Division lead.

Bakersfield scored three in the sixth last night to take a four run lead and held on for a 6-4 win at Stockton. It was the Blaze's ninth win in a row and pulled them to within a half game of first place San Jose in the California League North Division. Josh Smith picked up his first win of the season by allowing three runs on seven hits before being lifted in the sixth. He racked up nine strikeouts with only one walk. Blaine Howell struck out the first batter he faced to end the sixth inning with two runners on base and went on to make his first appearance of the season a scoreless one. Daniel Wolford retired all three hitters in the ninth to record his second save.

Offensively the Blaze was led by Donald Lutz who had three hits while Billy Hamilton and David Vidal added two more each. Travis Mattair had two RBI including a solo homer in the sixth.

They will go after number ten when the series resumes tonight behind expected starter Tony Cingrani who is currently sporting a 0.53 ERA.

The streak, which raised the team's record to 12-7, can be credited to an overall team effort. They've gotten good starts from their pitchers and the offense has been able to put runs across the plate when needed. During the 9-0 run their average margin of victory has been less than two runs and they haven't won any by more than three.

Their rotation has been strong all season. In addition to Cingrani, Kyle Lotzkar is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA, opening day starter Daniel Renken is 3-0 with a mid-3 ERA, and Chad Rogers is at 2.37. In the bullpen Wolford, Brian Pearl, Wilkin De La Rosa, and Michael Griffin all have sub-two ERA's. They've combined for 28 appearances and 22 of them have not allowed an earned run.

Offensively the top of the lineup has been getting the job done. As expected, leadoff hitter Hamilton has been a terror on the base paths. He's been there a lot too, as his .357 AVG/.447 OB% would indicate. Though not regarded a big home run threat, his speed helped convert 11 of his 26 hits into extra bases which have him slugging .589. Devin Lohman follows him at .284 AVG/.392 OB. Lutz and David Vidal have been effective at driving them in from the heart of the lineup. They both have four home runs while hitting above .310 and slugging close to .600 while combining for 24 RBI.

The Blaze wraps up the current four game series tomorrow before traveling to Modesto. After a day off they will return to open May with a six game home stand in Sam Lynn Ballpark.

Other news from the farm:

Andrew Brackman lost his third straight when Louisville fell at Indianapolis 5-3. The Bats were limited to six hits including Daniel Dorn's fourth home run of the season. Closer J.J. Hoover was promoted to the Reds to replace injured pitcher Bill Bray on the active roster.

Pensacola scored three in the third to take a lead before losing 7-4 at Montgomery. J.C. Sulburan was lifted in the fourth and charged with all seven runs. Chris Manno faced the minimum in 2 1/3 innings of relief.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton did not have opportunity to steal in the first inning because he led off the game with his fourth triple of the season. He did steal second after a single in the ninth and advanced to third on a ground out by the next batter. He now has 19 steals in 19 games.

Dayton won 3-2 at Fifth Third Field when Cedar Rapids left the tying run at third base in the ninth inning. Tanner Robles won his second decision by holding the Kernals to one run on two hits over six innings. His ERA is at 2.66 after four starts. Second baseman Ryan Wright went 3-3 with a walk and two triples to raise his average to .307. Carlos Contreras retired the final two batters of the game and got the save.

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