By Matt O’Donnell, Vallejo Times-Herald
The idea that No. 13 is unlucky goes back to the 1890s and refers to a period even earlier described in the Bible.
The San Rafael Pacifics’ winning streak may be reaching Biblical proportions as far as the rest of the Pacific Association is concerned.
San Rafael won its 13th straight game on Thursday, beating the Vallejo Admirals 8-5 to start a crucial two-game, series at Wilson Park. The Pacifics (24-7) increased their lead over the Admirals (18-13) to six games with nine games left in the first half.
The finishing touch might have come in the top of the ninth when Brent Gillespie made a one-run game a three-run cushion with a two-run homer over the right-field fence against reliever Peter Reyes.
The Admirals loaded the bases in the ninth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, before closer Jose Casilla retired Chevy Clarke on a ground ball to earn his fifth save.
Vallejo cut the lead to one run twice but each time San Rafael added to its lead.
“We were having good at-bats and guys were making good pitches,” said Admirals center fielder Tillman Pugh. “(Reyes) left just one ball up and Brent got a hold of it. He’s going to do that. He’s a good hitter. They have a lot of good hitters in their lineup. We just have to maximize to take advantage of our opportunities.”
Vallejo fell behind 5-1 but cut the lead to 5-4 in the fifth when Rian Kiniry, playing first base for the first time this year, launched a three-run homer against starting pitcher Jose Morel (1-0). Cyle Figueroa and Pugh, who both walked, were aboard on the homer.
The blast was the second of the game for Kiniry, who hit a solo shot in the first inning against Morel. Kiniry has 10 homers on the season, one of three Admirals with double-digits in that category.
“(The Pacifics) are just playing really well right now. They are going to be tough to beat right now,” Kiniry said. “We played a pretty good game. It just wasn’t enough.”
Kiniry’s first homer gave the Admirals a 1-0 lead but San Rafael grabbed the lead in the second when Rando Moreno singled home Mark Lindsay and Michael Staudinger in the second inning against Admirals starting pitcher Alex Dandridge, making his first start of the season.
Dandridge went 5 2/3 innings, allowing six runs and 12 hits but showed some promise working out of even more trouble.
The Pacifics made it 4-1 in the third on Zach Files’ two-run homer to right. That blast came on a 3 and 0 count.
Admirals nemesis and designated hitter Jake Taylor made it 5-1 with a no-doubt homer in the fifth over the left field wall.
Kiniry’s three-run homer cut the lead to 5-4 but San Rafael added an insurance run in the sixth on Javion Randle’s RBI single. Vallejo made it a one-run game again in the seventh when Nick Akins Sr. singled home Pugh to make it 6-5.
“We just have to play our game,” Pugh said. “We have to take advantage of guys in scoring position and just play good defense, just playing our baseball. We know we have the talent to compete with everybody in this league.”
Despite allowing the homer, Reyes pitched well in relief of Dandridge, coming on with two on in the sixth and retiring Gillespie to start a stretch of seven straight batters retired. He walked Moreno, however, to start the ninth and he was aboard on Gillespie’s blast.
Notes: Thursday was Military Appreciation Night as several military veterans were in attendance. … It was the third multi-homer game for Kiniry this season. … Clarke, one of the stars of last season’s championship team, made his season debut against the Pacifics and started in right field. He went 0-for-5. … Admirals second baseman Brandon Fischer and shortstop David Kiriakos both made a handful of excellent defensive plays to keep the game close. The two also combined to reach base seven times. … The Admirals were 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts.