June 26: With his team in fifth place in BARB’s Cactus division, Santa Barbara’s Michael Pineda continued his comeback season with a gem against floundering Pottsylvania.
Two teams with the same hopes but going in opposite directions. That was the story entering the second of a three-game series between the Santa Barbara Angels and the visiting Pottsylvania Creepers. The Angels, with a deep starting staff, sat just a few games out of a potential playoff spot. The Creepers, having called up seemingly half of an all-star rookie team, made an initial push when the kids joined the big club but had fallen further off the pace since mid-June, now 20 games out of first-place Yuma, whose hold on the top spot was becoming tenuous thanks to an inspired stretch by the Brooklyn Moabs (who are reportedly still on the fence about contending and still open to offers on their stars).
Following their pattern from the night before, when they put up three first-inning runs against Shelby Miller, the Angels again struck first. Emilio Bonifacio began the bottom of the first with a walk before stealing second and advancing one more base on an error. Dioner Navarro cashed in the RBI and then took second on a groundout and scored on Ben Revere’s single.
The two runs were all Michael Pineda would need, but his offense added on a few more times throughout the game. Two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth gave the big righty a commanding 7-0 lead, allowing him to focus on going after hitters with nothing to lose.
And he didn’t lose a single one.
By the time the lead reached a touchdown (plus extra point), Pineda had set faced 18 Creepers and set down the same. Jeff Moore’s trio of rookie standouts led off the seventh after twice before being set down in order. This was more of the same. Carlos Correa: lineout to center. Joc Pederson: strikeout. Kris Bryant: pop out. Todd Frazier led off the eighth and laced a Pineda offering for the second time in the game…and was retired on a liner for the second time (in addition to a middle-innings strikeout). Erick Aybar pinch-hit for Kolten Wong. Groundout. Same result for Matt Kemp.
Going to the ninth, most of the home crowd had figured it out: Michael Pineda was on the verge of the second perfect game in BARB history, after David Price’s domination of Casselton in 2013.
Pedro Alvarez was first, and he gave Pineda a battle. Four fouls, a swinging strike and three balls ran the count full, but he chased a high hard one. ONE AWAY. Young C.J. Cron was sent in to hit for Tyler Flowers. Cron hacked at the first pitched and skied it to Revere in left. TWO DOWN!
Pineda ran through the possible pinch hitters, their strengths and weaknesses. He didn’t hear an announcement of the new batter, but he figured he had simply tuned it out in his extreme focus. But when he looked toward the plate, he saw:
Will Clark had let his relief pitcher, Santiago Casilla, hit to try to break up the perfect game!
Pineda, taken aback, stepped off the mound to process the unseen turn of events and collect his thoughts. Creepers manager Clark sat back with a smirk on his face, hoping he’d thrown a wrench into the gem by causing Pineda to overthink facing a weak hitter. Casilla, with one career hit on his BARB record (in 2011), dug in and took a ball in the dirt. Pineda again toed the slab, and in came his 106th pitch of the night: Casilla took a cut and grounded harmlessly to Corey Seager, in the game for defense. The third baseman took his time and fired to first, in plenty of time…A PERFECT GAME FOR MICHAEL PINEDA!
The 10-strikeout performance marked Santa Barbara’s seventh win in their past 10 games and it lowered Pineda’s ERA to 1.99. It was also the second year in a row that Guerra’s club no-hit the Creepers, following Justin Masterson’s 2014 performance for Nor Cal. Was it enough to boost the team toward the top of the division? They would need to take down a number of perennial playoff teams in the second half, but epic collapses are always possible.
COLLMENTER COOL FOR CUTTERS
Starter not hampered by 2014 workload.
In 2014, Josh Collmenter appeared in a BARB-record 115 games for the league doormat Brownsville Cutters (trailed closely by teammates Kyle Farnsworth and Matt Belisle with 112 and 108, respectively). Despite a 7-16 record and 5.35 ERA, the Brown brothers re-signed the righty with the unconventional arm slot for 2015. The Cutters added a few big arms in the offseason, most notably Corey Kluber, so the news of Collmenter’s return was met with scoffs by national media types.
However, Brownsville has benefitted so far. With almost half of 2015 in the books, the Cutters are in second place in the Grapefruit division, just four games back of league-leading New England and in solid prospective playoff position. Collmenter has been a factor in the rotation, making 12 starts (just one less than his 2014 total) as no less than seven different starting pitchers have spent some or all of the season on the disabled list.
It remains to be seen whether Collmenter can keep it up, but if his June 23 start was the peak, his team will take it. Hosting division-rival Riverside, Collmenter allowed a hit to Dustin Ackley leading off the game—and almost nothing else. He set down nine in a row after the single before walking Mike Napoli leading off the fourth. After stranding Napoli at first base, Collmenter didn’t go from the stretch once in the final five innings. He retired the last 15 Rum Runners and with four one-run innings of support from his offense, closed out the one-hit shutout by inducing flyouts from, fittingly, Ackley and Napoli.
Collmenter only struck out five in his 104-pitch gem, but it marked BARB’s best pitching performance of the year (until Pineda a few days later) and lowered his ERA to 3.23 for the surging Cutters.