I was in San Diego for about a week earlier this month, and I don't think I saw a day as sublime as this one at Gesa Staidum. A picture-perfect, cloud-free day, and the temperature holding steady at 80 degrees.
Thank you, Mother Nature.
A good pitching matchup, too, between Tri-City RHP T.J. Oakes (0-0, 3.91 ERA), an 11th-round draft pick out of the University of Minnesota, and Salem-Keizer RHP Raymundo Montero (3-3, 2.55), a 22-year-old Dominican native.
Dust Devils looking to extend a 10-game home winning streak. They also have a chance at their first five-game sweep since August of 2007.
Volcanoes get on the board early. Joe Rapp, the No. 3 hitter, connects on a 1-0 fastball from Oakes and sends it over the wall in left field for a 1-0 first-inning lead.
But Tri-City answers right back in the bottom of the first, getting a one-out triple from Derek Jones. Tom Murphy, the No. 3 hitter, then hit a grounder to third baseman Stephen Yarrow, who had plenty of time to throw home and get Jones.
But Yarrow's throw went wide of catcher Dashenko Ricardo, and Jones scored easily to tie it at 1 while Murphy advanced to second on the error. Jarod Berggren then scored Murphy with an RBI single into left field.
Tri-City leads it 2-1 after one inning.
Dust Devils keep it rolling in the bottom of the third. Zach Osborne starts things off with a triple down the line in right and scores on Derek Jones' RBI single to left. Murphy followed that with a line-drive double into the gap in right center, driving in Jones from first.
Francisco Sosa grounded a ball to Yarrow at third, and Murphy got caught in a rundown between second and third. But that allowed Sosa to reach second base. The next batter, Jarod Berggren, singled to center field to bring home Sosa to make it 5-1.
Oakes hits a spot of trouble in the top of the fifth. He gave up back-to-back singles to Mike Mergenthaler and Dashenko Ricardo to start the frame before striking out Yarrow. Oakes then allowed consecutive singles to Stephen Branca, Kentrell Hill and Ryan Jones to cut the lead to 5-3.
That was it for Oakes, but the bases remained loaded for reliever Chris Dennis. Facing Rapp, the No. 3 hitter, Dennis threw a wild pitch to score Branca. Then Chuckie Jones bounced a two-run single past a diving Alec Mehrten at third base to give the Volcanoes a 6-5 lead.
Oakes threw 86 pitches total. Except for the fifth, he looked pretty good. He was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes in the first four innings and flashing a nice curveball to catch a couple of guys on strikes.
Shout out to Peter Tago, the Dust Devils pitcher who was recently named the Northwest League pitcher of the week for his eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 Tri-City win over Salem-Keizer on July 20.
He's had a lot of high expectations after being drafted by the Rockies with the 47th overall pick by the 2010 First-year Player Draft, but he certainly lived up to them on that day.
Dust Devils tie things back up in the bottom of the seventh. Derek Jones draws a leadoff walk against reliever Randy Ziegler and Murphy singles to put runners on first and second. Sosa popped out to catcher, but Berggren followed with a walk to load the bases, and Hutcheson got tagged with the first pitch from Ziegler.
We're knotted at 6 after seven frames.
Errors cost Tri-City big in the end.
The Dust Devils committed three on the night — two by Mehrten — and two of them came in the 10th inning. After a leadoff walk to Rapp, Mehrten tried to backhand a hard grounder to third base by Chuckie Jones but couldn't come up with it. Jones advanced to second on a fielder's choice, as catcher Michael Ramirez made a nice play to force Rapp at third on a bunt by Trevor Brown.
Mergenthaler then hits a comebacker to reliever Josh Slaats, who wheels around and throws to Osborne on the bag at second to force Brown. But Osborne is a little wild on the pivot and throws into the Tri-City dugout, allowing Jones to score the go-ahead run.
S-K leads 7-6.
Now it's a final. Drew Beuerlein singled for the Dust Devils to lead off the 10th, but closer Lorenzo Mendoza set down the next three in order to get the save.
Too bad for Slaats, who pitched pretty well in relief, going three innings with only one hit allowed. He walked one and hit one, but it was the errors that killed him.
Tri-City finishes off the first half on a positive note, despite the loss. The Dust Devils won four of their last five to close out at 18-20. Not bad for a team that started the season 5-11 in June.