By Thomas Gase, Vallejo Times-Herald
Early this season the Vallejo Admirals seemed to own the Martinez Clippers, as they defeated the expansion team in the first eight meetings.
On Saturday night at Wilson Park, however, the Clippers flipped the script.
Martinez scored five runs on five hits in the seventh inning and made a close game an eventual blowout as the Admirals fell 12-4.
The Clippers (13-38) were just 6-28 when they brought on new manager Dan Parker, but have played close to .500 ball (7-10) since making the change. They’ve won two straight against Vallejo (27-24).
“That team is totally different,” Vallejo manager P.J. Phillips said. “That manager (Parker) is doing a great job and those boys can play. Both sides of the ball got better. Pitchers got better, hitters got better. I feel like that team could be a possible sleeper in the second half.”
Early in the contest it looked like the Admirals would continue a two-game winning streak, as they took a 1-0 lead off Martinez starter Jason Harper in the bottom of the first. Vladimir Gomez had an RBI single up the middle, scoring Rian Kiniry, who walked earlier in the inning.
Martinez tied the game in the top of the third when Shane Hughes hit a solo home run to right field. The long ball was the third of the season for Hughes and the first of three hits on the night for the Martinez second baseman.
The Admirals grabbed the lead right back, however, in the bottom of the third. With one on and one out, Nick Akins Sr. hit his 23rd home run of the season, a no-doubt shot to left to make it 3-1.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Clippers finally got to Vallejo starter Alex Dandridge in the top of the fifth. Devin Carter doubled and later scored on single by Pedro Barrios that made it 3-2. The Barrios single went off the leg of Dandridge on a line shot up the middle, but the Admiral hurler couldn’t quite recover to throw out Barrios. Moments later Martinez added insult to near injury when it took a 4-3 on a Wilkyns Jimenez two-run homer to left.
Dandridge ended up throwing five innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs while striking out one.
“Alex was attacking the zone and he attacks a lot,” catcher Cyle Figueroa said. “We just have to get him when he’s up in the count to maybe get his pitches more down or even out of the zone to just keep batters off balance. But overall I thought he pitched well. We were down around 4-3 when he left and at that point we still have a chance at the game, and that’s all you can ask for from our pitchers. We’re a good hitting team and we feel we can still come back and win a game like that.”
Martinez added another run in the sixth when Hughes had an RBI single to make it 5-3, but Vallejo came right back to make it 5-4 in the bottom half of the frame when Figueroa singled to right to drive home Fischer, who had stolen two bases in the inning.
“At that point I’m just trying to put the ball in play,” said Figueroa, who replaced Chris Fornaci in the ninth spot in the batting order with three hits (Fornaci batted sixth). “With a runner on third, my job there is to just get him home.”
Although the Admirals had kept the game close, things fell apart for Vallejo’s bullpen in the seventh. Martinez collected five hits and five runs off Admirals reliever Tim Holmes to take a 10-4 lead. Holmes pitched very well on Thursday at Pittsburg by throwing two scoreless innings, but fate was not on his side Saturday night. Martinez had three doubles in a row off him, the RBI hits coming from Alan Mocahbee, Nathan Etheridge and Jimmy Lunardelli. Etheridge’s double was a flair between Kiniry, Fischer and Gomez that fell just in front of Gomez, who made a diving attempt.
“I actually think he had really good stuff,” Figueroa said about Holmes. “You saw that there was a couple bloop hits in that inning. That really changed the whole inning. A bloop hit there, and bloop hit there and sometimes that’s just baseball.”
Martinez added insurance in the ninth with RBI singles from Jacob Barfield and Hughes that made the score 12-4.
While Vallejo’s bullpen struggled, Martinez reliever Matti Doxter earned the four-inning save as he gave up just one run on three hits while striking out two.
“We’re just inconsistent right now,” Phillips said. “We win two, then lose two. We win one, then lose one. We just have to put things together. We have 30 games left and we just need to get better.”