The Beavers and Bees faced off for the second time this season. After a 9-2 blow out last night, the Beavers were looking more rested and in search of their eleventh win of the season. Justin Germano, who has had success in his first four starts of the season, posting a 3-0 mark, was leading them. Coming into tonight, Germano’s only hiccup on his record was a no-decision against Sacramento when he was touched up for four runs in five innings. Aside from that game, he hasn’t allowed more than one run in his other three starts and he looked to continue that trend.
The Beavers were the ones to get on the board first, scoring a run in their half of the third. A Vince Sinisi line drive single to right led off the inning, and was soon followed by a walk to Luke Carlin. The two runners advanced on a wild pitch by Saunders that skipped to the backstop. With one out, Portland’s most clutch hitter, Craig Stansberry, stepped in and delivered a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Sinisi and allow Carlin to move to third base. Stansberry is hitting .500 with 19 RBIs, with runners in scoring position.
The Beavers tacked on another run in the fourth to make it a 2-0 game. Jack Cust doubled down the third base line to start things off. After advancing to third on a Royce Huffman fly out to right, Luis Cruz came through with a two-out bloop over first base. The ball was nearly caught by second baseman Matt Brown on a diving attempt, but the ball skipped free of his glove when he landed on the hard PGE Park turf.
Germano was simply dominant, as he improved his record to 4-0 and dropped his ERA to 1.69. In his first seven innings of work, he never faced more than four batters per inning; he peppered the zone with an effective curveball at will, to go along with a powerful fastball to keep the Salt Lake batters off balance and chasing pitches outside the zone. In the eighth, he had to face five batters, because of an error by Paul McAnulty at third base that would’ve ended the inning. Fifteen of the nineteen balls that were put in play against Germano were hit on the ground.
“The curveball was on,” said Germano. “They weren’t really showing me that they could hit it, so I was going to just keep throwing it until they proved me wrong. It was a good thing being able to throw that and being able to spot my fastball to set up that curveball.”
The first pitch strike is a key focus that Beavers pitching coach, Gary Lance, has his pitchers work on. Tonight, Germano threw a first pitch strike to 23 of the 31 batters he faced. Those batters were 3-for-23. In all, Germano scattered six Salt Lake hits in eight scoreless innings, striking out five and walking none.
“Going after that first pitch strike is huge because it automatically puts you ahead and there is so many things you can,” said Germano. “Usually a team will make an adjustment, come out swinging, but they kept taking, so I just took advantage of it.”
When asked whether he was trying to send a message to the Padres organization that he’s ready to move up, Germano said: “Definitely, that’s what we’re here for. To let them know that we are ready to move on. I’m just going to keep stringing them along together and if a spot opens up up there, then hopefully I’ll take advantage.”
The win was Germano’s 20th in his Portland Beavers career, which gives him the most wins for a pitcher on the club since 2001 when the Beavers returned as a Triple-A affiliate.
Leo Rosales closed the door for Portland, by working a perfect one-two-three ninth inning. The save was his sixth of the season, tying him for second in the Pacific Coast League in that category. The two teams come back for an 11:05 matinee game tomorrow, with Mike Thompson taking the hill for the Beavers and Casey Olenberger for the Bees.