By Matt ODonnell, Vallejo Times-Herald
For a team riding a four-game winning streak to start the season, a three-run first inning seemed like a good omen for the Vallejo Admirals.
The Admirals scored just one more run over the final eight innings and lost to the Pittsburg Diamonds 7-4 on Tuesday to start a Pacific Association series at Winter Chevrolet Stadium.
Vallejo not only held a 3-0 lead early but was up 4-3 in the seventh before the Admirals’ bullpen could not hold the lead. Brett Smith, who knocked in four, gave Pittsburg a 5-4 edge in the seventh with a two-run double to left.
A 4-1 record start is impressive, but Vallejo manager P.J. Phillips said he felt like the defending league champs could be 5-0.
“We definitely should have won this game,” Phillips said. “But you know … it’s baseball.”
The Admirals hit into three double plays, including one in the ninth inning.
Facing Pittsburg starter Corey Macdonald for the second time this season, the right-hander settled down and pitched six innings as the Admirals did not touch him again.
“I think we probably got a little over-anxious,” said left fielder Nick Akins Sr., who doubles as the hitting coach. “It’s tough to play here (in Pittsburg). It’s dead. There’s not a lot of energy but we can’t let the atmosphere here dictate our energy or how hard we play. I think we got a little mentally lazy and gave some at-bats away, but you’re not going to win every game.”
Akins scored the go-ahead run in the seventh against reliever Cain Spangler. With one out, Tillman Pugh walked but was caught stealing. Akins followed with a single to left and Graylin Derke doubled down the line in right field. Spangler then uncorked a wild pitch with Akins scoring easily.
The Diamonds grabbed the lead back in the bottom of the seventh on Smith’s RBI double against Admirals reliever Jalen Miller. They then tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth against Cage Cascone. Wes Wallace hit a long home run over the left-field wall and Austin Fraker had a sacrifice fly to score Stephen Haviar, who reached on an error.
Admirals starting pitcher Ryan Mordecai went the first five innings, allowing six hits and three runs. He struck out three and walked one in his first professional start.
“He did pretty well today,” Phillips said. “He commanded his fastball early and threw a lot of strikes. He pitched to contact, so overall he did well.”
The Admirals’ first inning looked like many of their innings over the weekend against the Martinez Clippers.
Leadoff hitter Rian Kiniry hit his third home run as he swatted the first pitch of the game off the Diamonds’ scoreboard. David Kiriakos flew out but Pugh and Akins both singled and Derke followed with a sac fly to score Pugh. Macdonald walked Brandon Fischer and Vladimir Gomez followed with a single to score the third run.
Pittsburg made it 3-1 in the third. Fraker tripled to left on a ball that nearly left the yard and scored on Smith’s sac fly.
The Diamonds (3-2) tied it 3-3 in the fifth as Jordan Van Atta crushed a Mordecai pitch over the left-field wall and Smith’s RBI single scored Pat O’Donnell, who had doubled. Smith is the league’s leading hitter, hitting at a .533 clip.
Despite the loss, Akins noted he’s seen some good signs with the Admirals’ offense.
“Guys have to settle down but we’re taking our walks,” he said. “Everyone, including myself, have to cut down on the mental lapses. Sometimes it’s the pitches you swing at early. It’s not always the last pitch that strikes you out. The pitches we chase early help guys out when we swing at balls up in the zone. We can clean that up but we’re fine.”
Notes: The Admirals actually snapped a 10-game winning streak dating back to last season. Their last defeat in 2017 was a 13-8 setback to the Stompers on Aug. 25.