In a game the Napa Silverados desperately wanted to win, they committed six key errors and virtually handed the last-place Martinez Clippers (19-46) a 15-9 win in game that lasted nearly four hours.
The Silverados fell to 27-38 and, at the end of the day, trailed the Vallejo Admirals by four games for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs.
“Normally, you would take nine runs, but you can’t walk six and have six errors and expect success,” said Napa manager Tito Fuentes Jr. “Those errors are hard on our pitchers. I expect better defense than we showed tonight.”
Fuentes noted the first inning, when two throwing errors on fairly routine ground balls allowed Martinez to have a four-run rally at Napa Valley College.
“If we had gotten that first out, the momentum of the game is totally different,” he said.
After spotting the Clippers the four-run lead, the Silverados scratched out single runs in the first and second innings thanks to a ground-rule RBI double by designated hitter Nicco Toni and a double by Dom Bethancourt, who scored thanks to an RBI groundout by Nick Stoll.
But a walk, a hit and another defensive lapse by the Napa infield in the third loaded the bases for Clippers designated hitter Chris Caffrey, who bombed a grand slam over the right-field fence for an 8-2 lead. Silverados starting pitcher Scott Harkin retired eight of the next nine Clippers, but the damage was done. Harkin took the loss, and Martinez starter Joe Jones recorded the win.
The Silverados gave the small home crowd something to cheer about with a four-run inning of their own in the bottom of the fourth. Devon Ramirez and Bethancourt opened with walks and newcomer Kendall Coleman, in his fourth game with Napa, followed with a smash single that scored Ramirez. Stoll doubled down the left-field line, scoring Bethancourt, and consecutive groundout RBIs by Zach Taylor and Ray Jones cut the Martinez lead to 8-6 with a lot of baseball left to be played.
After the Clippers tacked on another run in the top of the fifth, the Silverados pulled to within 9-8 in the bottom of the sixth thanks to another RBI double by Toni.
But bad luck again bit the home team in the seventh, with Elvin Liriano on in relief of Harkin. A routine fly ball that appeared to get lost in the lights fell in for a hit to begin the inning, and another Martinez hit once again loaded the bases with no one out.
Fuentes turned to Chris Butcher to put out the fire, but it was not to be. Consecutive two-run hits by the Clippers padded their lead to 13-8, and it was pretty much game over.
Toni had a good night at the plate for the Silverados, crashing two doubles to right center and just missing a third on a long drive to left-center later in the game. Normally the Silverados catcher, he said being DH allowed him the luxury to just focus on hitting.
“I felt like I was gripping the bat better and seeing the ball well tonight,” said the affable Toni. “They were serving up fastballs, so I just kept hitting them.”
With just 15 games left before the playoffs, Fuentes said the Silverados – who were to host the Clippers again Wednesday night – were running out of time.
“We’ve got to turn it around, and I believe we will,” he said. “We can’t depend on other teams losing. We have to take care of our own stuff. We didn’t want to split with Martinez, but now that’s the best we can do.”