By Matt O’Donnell, Vallejo Times-Herald
Using international tiebreaker rules in a professional baseball game might not sit well with traditionalists.
However, the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs is not a traditional kind of league. The circuit has tried robot umpires, a timed baseball game, Jose Canseco throwing knuckleballs and plenty of other wacky promotions over the years.
Actually, placing runners at first and second in extra innings may be one of the league’s most timid ideas.
The Vallejo Admirals may be in favor of the format after Thursday night’s 6-5 win over the Pittsburg Diamonds at Winter Chevrolet Stadium.
In the top of the 10th, pinch-hitter Cyle Figueroa knocked in pinch-runner dAundray Van Slyke (one of those aforementioned placed runners) for the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the 10th, Admirals reliever Eli Garcia coaxed Ryan Lashley to hit into a double play with the bases loaded to end the wild game.
Garcia (3-0) worked 2 2/3 excellent innings as he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth by inducing a double play as well.
Garcia said he thew his two-seam fastball, which gets natural sink, to get both of those double plays.
“You have to be ready for that situation as a reliever,” Garcia said. “You go out there and you can’t be worried about who is on base and who’s hitting and all of that. You just have to think about your next pitch. One pitch, one out. That’s all you have to think about and of course, throw strikes.”
As Yogi Berra once said it might seem like “déjà vu all over again” for players like Garcia, Figueroa and Vladimir Gomez. On a Friday the 13th game at Wilson Park, the Admirals rallied late to walk off on the Diamonds when Figueroa had a two-run, walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth. Gomez got an 0 and 2 bunt down in both of the winning rallies and Garcia actually worked out of first-inning trouble in the contest.
This time, Figueroa’s heroics came in the 10th as he chopped a single into left field to put the Admirals up 6-5 against reliever Sean Johnson. Figueroa said he thought the Diamonds might pitch around him since they had a base open at first.
“I got the count to 2 and 1 and I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to come after me but he left it over the plate and I got a base hit,” he said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play.”
Early in the game, it looked like the Diamonds (22-28) had an excellent chance to split the two-game series. They scored three unearned runs against Vallejo starting pitcher Jalen Miller in the first with Rafael Valera delivering the big hit — a two-run double to the wall in left field.
Meanwhile, the Admirals (27-23) did not get a hit against Pittsburg starting pitcher Dakota Freese until Nick Crouse’s clean single to left in the fifth inning. That hit appeared to snap the Admirals out of their funk as they scored three times that inning with Freese walking David Kiriakos with the bases loaded to force in a run and Rian Kiniry lining a single to right-center to make it 3-3.
Pittsburg grabbed the lead back in the bottom half of that inning at 5-3 after RBI singles from Joel Carranza and Valera.
Vallejo closed to 5-4 in the sixth when Chris Foranci’s RBI single scored Brandon Fischer and then tied it 5-5 in the seventh on another big hit from Kiniry — this one a rocket double into right-center to score Kiriakos against reliever Alex Leach.
Pittsburg looked like it was ready to push ahead again in the eighth as an error from Fornaci and two hit batters from Vallejo reliever Max Biedrzycki loaded the bases. Admirals manager P.J. Phillips brought on Garcia, who got the dangerous Yuki Yasuda to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play.
Phillips played a big part in the win as well as he had Eli Garcia intentionally walk Valera in the ninth inning and then Eli’s brother Jose Garcia in the 10th to outmaneuver Diamonds manager Aaron Miles, the ex-big leaguer.
The Pacific Association standings have been somewhat stagnant in recent weeks with first-place San Rafael and second-place Sonoma battling for first, Vallejo stuck in third and Pittsburg and Napa battling for fourth place.
Do the Admirals feel some pressure to win these games against the league’s three sub.-500 teams?
“I think every game we take as the same,” Figueroa said. “We still have a month left so we still have some time to catch up. I think the top four teams go (to the playoffs) so we just have to be in the top four and anything can happen in those one-game playoffs.”