Down 2-0 after three hitters and 3-0 after five, Lake Elsinore closed within one. They fell behind 6-2 before roaring back with three runs and threatening in the bottom of the ninth.
Luis Martinez threw out a pair of baserunners and after nailing Ollie Linton in the top half of the third inning, the backstop ranged back on a pop up behind the plate and made a sliding catch right as his feet slid into the cage that designates foul territory.
Suffice to say, Martinez aided starter Corey Kluber tremendously, saving runs with his arm and defensive play. Kluber had walked three of four batters he faced during one stretch but Martinez caught two of those runners.
“Luis was great behind the plate tonight,” Kluber said. “He definitely made it easier on me.”
“Last year, I think I threw out the first six or seven runners,” Martinez said. “I would have felt better if we would have won tonight.”
Kluber got into early trouble after a single up the middle to the leadoff man. Taylor Harbin dropped a bunt down that went high in the air. Kluber tried to dive for it but could not corral it. Collin Cowgill followed with a hard hit double to deep left-center, scoring two. Cowgill came around on a groundout to make it 3-0.
“They scored three runs in the first inning and kept battling,” Martinez said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough but if we keep doing that every day, we are going to win a lot of games. So much heart and passion for the game.
“This team has heart – you see it from spring training and even last year because a lot of us were together then. This team has heart and that is what I love about us. We keep fighting until the end.”
With Max Scherzer tossing the ball between 93 and 98 mph, the Storm hitters scuffled. They did manage to load the bases in the fifth without the benefit of a hit all game.
Martinez got plunked on a 0-2 pitch from Scherzer in the fifth inning, putting two men on with one out after a Danny Payne walk. Beamer Weems followed with a walk to load the bases.
The first hit off Scherzer also plated the first Storm run. Brad Chalk came through with a bullet up the middle. Martinez held on contact and could not score from second.
Scherzer was pulled after striking out Justin Baum on a 3-2 curveball. A passed ball brought the Storm within one with two in scoring position. Cole Figueroa’s fly out to left ended the frame.
Figueroa then cost the Storm a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. He threw a ball away on a sure double play, allowing a pair of runs to score on Aaron Breit.
“That double play ball we didn’t turn hurt us,” manager Carlos Lezcano said. “Cole rushed it a little bit and he will learn from that. That first inning – the third run hurt us. We had the runner caught between third and home, but Carrasco didn’t check the runner.”
Matt Teague allowed a solo run in his lone inning, pushing the deficit to 6-2.
Felix Carrasco notched the first extra base hit of the year for the Storm, smoking a hanging curveball into the left-center gap for a triple, scoring Baum and Logan Forsythe. Danny Payne followed with a hard single off the big wall in left to plate Carrasco, making it a 6-5 game.
“It was a whole team effort,” Chalk said. “No one put their head down and everyone battled until the last out. If a couple of things went our way, we had that game.”
Figueroa had a chance for redemption in the bottom of the ninth and delivered a single up the middle to move a runner to third base with two outs and the Storm down by a single run. Forsythe came to bat and flied out to end the contest.
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