Fernando Valenzuela Jr.
LAKE ELSINORE- A six o’clock start was the backdrop for a game between the San Diego Padres’ High-A affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm, and the Anaheim Angels’ affiliate the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. A crowd of 2,123 was on hand to see Fernando Valenzuela Jr. hit his eighth homer of the year, a three-run shot that ended up as the game-winner of a 6-4 contest.
After two failed bunt attempts to move runners on first and second over with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth and the Storm down by two, Fernando Valenzuela Jr. tagged a changeup over the high wall in right field for a three-run homer and a Storm lead, 5-4.
“We are the type of team that at the end we are always going to come back,” said Valenzuela. “We have had games where we lost with the tying run at home plate. We battled.”
His three RBI’s gave him the team lead with 54, one more than Juan Ciriaco.
“Fernando is one of our best two-strike hitter,” manager Rick Renteria said, defending why he would bunt with a man who had no sacrifices coming in. “There are a lot of things to consider there. Once there were two strikes – he puts real good two strike at bats together. He got a pitch up and got a good swing on it.
“You have first and second in the eighth inning and we are struggling to score any runs, I am going to get that tying run over to second base any way I can. My only concern when he got to two strikes is hopefully he keeps it off the ground (to avoid the double play).”
The pitcher for the Quakes, Justin Dowdy, was tossed after the next pitch when his fastball sailed near the head of Bonvechio.
Juan Ciriaco followed with a one out triple and scored with the infield drawn in, sliding past the tag of the catcher to pad the lead 6-4.
Chris Tierney (3-4) pitched one inning of relief to get his first win as a reliever. Leo Rosales came on to pitch the ninth for his 14th save.
Rancho Cucamonga scored first off Javier Martinez in the third. Three straight batters reached base to open the inning, a sacrifice fly scored the second run and a two-out single made the score 3-0.
“One bad inning,” said Martinez. “Things happen in baseball.”
Brett Bonvechio doubled in Jordan Pickens in the bottom of the fourth inning to get one run back. Pickens had walked to leadoff the inning and was pushed to third on a single by Fernando Valenzuela. Juan Ciriaco had a chance to tie the game but popped out to the third baseman who made an great catch falling into the Storm dugout.
A double by Peeter Ramos with two outs in the fifth scored Adam Bourassa to close the gap to 3-2.
The Quakes doubled up on Lake Elsinore in the top of the seventh with a double, ground out and a sacrifice fly driving in a run.
Martinez ended his night surrendering four runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings of work. It was the fourth time this year that he has faced the Quakes, including three of his last four starts, and the first time he made it through seven innings.
“He kept us in the ballgame,” Renteria said. “Four runs is still not a bad outing. I think he threw 111 pitches.”
Michael Johnson spent some time hitting off a tee.
“It’s really up to him,” Storm manager Rick Renteria said of his return to the lineup. “We will do some light hitting in a couple of days and see. Really it is his tolerance (for pain).”