The best story, despite all the runs, was the starter, Daniel Renken (W, 6-9), who bounced back from a series of rough starts to throw 5.2 strong innings. Renken ended up charged with three runs, though only one of the three was earned, lowering his ERA back below the six-run barrier. The start was a much-needed confidence boost, though Renken appeared to run out of gas in the 6th inning, when the game took an interesting turn.
The Blaze had built an early lead against Rancho starter Ryan Acosta (L, 4-2), posting six runs in just three innings, including a Devin Lohman three-run homer, but after Dominic D'Anna's two-run shot in the 5th, the Quakes started their comeback, and kept the pedal down for most of the middle innings.
In the 6th, with the Blaze up 8-1, Renken allowed a single, and his own throwing error was followed by a pair of walks and a sacrifice fly, and the Quakes began to cut into the lead. Blaine Howell was then summoned, but struggled with control, walking in a run before getting out of the inning leading 8-3. The Blaze added one more insurance run on a Travis Mattair RBI single, but the Quakes countered with a roundhouse in the 7th.
Howell walked two before a key fielding error loaded the bases with nobody out and forced the Blaze back to the pen. Mike Dennhardt entered and got two flyballs, one driving in a run, and it looked like the Blaze might escape with a 9-4 edge. That was not to be. Jonathan Garcia squeezed a line drive just over the wall in right for a three-run shot, and suddenly the Blaze led just 9-7.
Fortunately, that was as close as Rancho would get. Dennhardt and Carlos Contreras (S, 4) combined to pitch the 8th and 9th, and the Blaze put up one final run in the 8th to push the lead to three and take any final wind out of Rancho's sails.
The win moves the Blaze back to 70-68 on the season and ensures at least a break even season mark with two games to go, both against the Quakes.
Make sure to head to Sam Lynn Ballpark on Sunday night for Fan Appreciation Night at 7:15pm, as Stalin Gerson takes the hill for the Blaze and Garrett Gould for the Quakes. The Blaze are set to raffle off more than $5,000 in prizes, and raffle tickets are just a dollar!
Can't make it? Tune in LIVE to hear the SPECIAL GUEST broadcasters at BakersfieldBlaze.com -- pregame show coming up ten minutes prior to first pitch.