By Gabe Schapiro
San Rafael, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (13-26, 4-7) and the San Rafael Pacifics (19-19, 5-6) engaged in another historic contest Wednesday night, with the balls and strikes once again being called by Pitch F/X, a first in professional baseball history. Unfortunately for the Admirals, they wound up on the losing end of this tech-heavy night, losing 8-2.
Vallejo starter Tony Guerra battled with wildness early, and combined with some miscues on defense, proved to be too much to overcome. The Admirals bats made solid contact off of San Rafael’s Patrick Conroy, but couldn’t string them together in an inning. Conroy scattered five hits over seven innings of one run ball, to earn the victory for the Pacifics.
After a quick one-two-three first inning, Guerra’s control problems started to bite him in the second.
Jeremy Williams led off the inning with a walk, before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Two batters later, with Williams now on third, Guerra induced a double play ball to limit the damage, but it allowed Williams to sore the games first run.
Four more walks, a wild pitch, and a Gadiel Baez error would go on to allow San Rafael to add two more in the third, and one in the fourth, to give the Pacifics a quick 4-0 lead.
Guerra settled down from there, working a perfect fifth and sixth innings to end his night.
“He kind of just lost his way after that first inning,” said manager Garry Templeton II. “He eventually worked his way back into it, but maybe an inning or two too late. He showed some signs of the Guerra from last year and being able to get the job done. And he also showed some signs of needing a little bit more work.”
The strong finish kept the Admirals in the game, but with Conroy pitching well, the four run cushion would be all he would need.
Vallejo briefly kept it interesting, when they finally broke through against the lefty in the seventh.
The big 6’6” Lydell Moseby led off the inning, and on the second pitch of the at bat hit a line drive home run, cutting their deficit to 4-1.
In the bottom half of the inning, however, the Pacifics got the run right back. Danny Gonzalez reached on another error by Baez, and would eventually come around to score on a Williams RBI single.
Since signing with the club at the end of the first half, the normally sure-handed Baez has been exactly what the doctor ordered at shortstop for the Admirals. As Templeton said, this just wasn’t his night.
“He’s making some really good plays out there for us, night in and night out. Tonight just wasn’t his night, maybe a little bit of fatigue mentally. He’s still learning to play the position at a professional level. He’s shown the physical ability, and now he just has to get better on the mental side. If he can do that you won’t see too many nights like this from him on the defensive side.”
After San Rafael went to their bullpen to begin the eighth, Vallejo finally got the rally they had been searching for all game.
Tyler Nordgren and Baez led off the frame with a double and single respectively, with Nordgren coming around to score on a Glenn Walker single.
That would be their final run of the game, however, as the push proved to be too little too late.
Meanwhile, the Pacifics once again had an answer in the bottom half of the inning, adding three more runs on a bases loaded bases clearing double by Gonzalez, driving the final nail into the Admirals coffin.
“If you look at the board, we had eight hits and only two runs, and on their side they had 10 hits and eight runs, so I think timely hitting has a lot to do with it,” said Templeton after the loss. “You need those hits with runners in scoring position, and you have to hit the ball in the gap to occasionally score guys from first. That’s something we’ve been struggling with all year, getting that key hit to drive somebody in once they get on base.”
On the bright side, however, despite being met with much skepticism, after two days the reviews are in for the Pitch F/X system, and it’s receiving almost nothing but praises.
“It was probably better then what we see on a night in and night out basis,” said Templeton. “It’s something that you can go up there as a hitter and know exactly where the strike zone is. So there’s no guessing. There was consistency, so I thought it worked. There were a couple of pitches that hitters might’ve thought were balls, I think that’s just the way the camera angle catches some pitches, or how it interprets strikes. But if you know that and it’s going to be there every time it’s easy to adjust to. I thought it was a successful trial run.”
Vallejo may have ended up on the losing end of these two historic nights, but if ten years from now a computerized strike zone is the norm throughout much of baseball, what the Admirals got in the loss column won’t be what is remembered.
Vallejo will be back at it tonight for the third and final game of this series with the Pacifics. The normal umpiring crews will be back, and the action gets underway at 7:00 PM.