The Vallejo Admirals have a wealth of pitchers — those who can start, pitch in middle relief and throw late in games.
However, they do not have any depth in terms of backup position players. That proved problematic in their 3-2 loss to the Martinez Clippers on Wednesday at Wilson Park. The two teams split the Pacific Association series as Vallejo continues to muddle near the .500 mark.
Pitcher Brian McKenna was forced into emergency duty in left field after center fielder Chevy Clarke injured his ankle in the first inning. Even though McKenna handled a fly ball in the third inning and singled in his first plate appearance, he misplayed a fly ball from Shaine Hughes in the seventh, leading to the go-ahead run.
The sky was hazy all night due to the fires in Northern California, creating issues for several fielders. Admirals manager P.J. Phillips wasn’t sure if that was the case on that play.
“It could have been … I don’t know,” Phillips said. “It was a routine fly ball that we should have caught. I was proud we battled back (in that inning) and kept the game close.”
While McKenna’s inexperience in the outfield could have been forgiven, Vallejo’s offense was more to blame. The Admirals (31-29) could only scratch home two first-inning runs against Clippers right-hander Joe Jones, who entered the game with an 8.42 ERA.
Jones worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed nine hits and five walks but made some quality pitches to work out of numerous jams.
“Ever since I got here, I have seen lots of quality starts,” said Clippers manager Dan Parker, who took over the team when the record was 6-28. “I think for him, it’s a little different game plan. He’s always had good stuff but sometimes the game gets away from him a little bit but he looked great tonight.”
Jones departed in the seventh with one out and the bases loaded but reliever Robert Humes induced McKenna to hit into a 1-2-3 double play to end the threat.
Humes worked 2 2/3 innings, did not allow a hit and earned the save.
“We have roles and some guys really thrive off certain situations,” Parker said. “I guess if we lose that game it looks bad on me but I’d rather have someone comfortable out there and it makes my job easier if they’re comfortable. I think his last 12 innings or so have all been stressful.”
On a bright note, the Admirals have been looking to find new arms that can help them in the final month. They appear to have found one in Dominican lefty Wilfri Aleton, who made his debut on Wednesday.
Aleton allowed just four hits and one run as he retired seven straight to finish his outing.
“He really kept the ball down and that’s what we’re looking for is a quality start,” Phillips said.
Martinez (17-43) scored its only run against Aleton in the first inning as Jimmy Lunardelli Jr. doubled and scored on Nathan Etheridge’s two-out, RBI single to left.
However, Vallejo grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first against Jones.
Vladimir Gomez led off the inning with a double that just landed fair near the left-field line as the ball glanced off the glove of a diving Lunardelli. Nick Akins Sr. singled to put runners at first and third and David Kiriakos’ sacrifice fly scored Gomez. With one out and the bases loaded later in the inning, the Clippers had a chance to end the inning as Clarke grounded to Alan Mocahbee, the third baseman. Mocahbee stepped on third for the second out but his throw to first was wild as Akins scored the second run.
Clarke was noticeably hurt as he stood on first and immediately came out of the game after the inning ended.
Martinez looked like it might tie the game in the second as Devin Carter doubled and reached third on a ground ball. No. 9 hitter and catcher Victor Grasso looked like he might squirt a single into center but Kiriakos, the shortstop, made an excellent play behind the bag and threw the sluggish catcher out at first to end the inning.
Grasso, however, knocked in Will Decker in the seventh to tie the game 2-2 on a single to center against reliever Lance Fairchild, another newcomer. After Fairchild walked Kent Blackstone to put runners at first and second, Phillips went to his bullpen to get Max Biedrzycki.
Biedrzycki struck out Lunardelli for the second out but Hughes’ fly ball alluded the grasp of McKenna as Grasso came home for the go-ahead run.
Phillips acknowledged it’s tough finding the right position players at this time of the season.
“Especially right now, it’s the end of the season,” Phillips said. “The thing about me is I don’t want to just bring in guys not knowing who they are, I worry about them messing up the chemistry so we’re just sticking with what we got.”
Notes: Vallejo was down to just nine position players after catcher Cyle Figueroa signed with the Ottawa Champions in the Can-Am League on Tuesday. … Admirals first baseman Rian Kiniry was 2-for-3 on Wednesday and 6-for-8 in the series. … Vallejo used seven pitchers, five on the mound and two in left field as Jalen Miller played left field in the final inning. … Parker has gone 11-15 since taking over.