SAN JOSE - All streaks have to come to an end at some point. A couple of streaks saw their demise on Tuesday night at Municipal Stadium in San Jose. For starters, the San Jose Giants had their 10-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Visalia Rawhide. With that, the Rawhide ended a playoff drought that was more than five years old, bursting into the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Rawhide tied the game in the eighth inning before pushing across five runs in the ninth to run away with the victory. With the win, the 'Hide have clinched the third playoff spot in the North Division.
Rawhide starter Keith Hessler led the way for most of the game with six strong innings, giving up one earned run on five hits and three walks, striking out five. His only blemish was giving up a solo home run to Ricky Oropesa in the second inning. Hessler got some help from his defense in the first inning when Ryan Stovall threw out Brock Bond at the plate, as Bond tried to tag on a one-out fly ball from Mac Williamson.
San Jose starter Clayton Blackburn was impressive in his own right, holding the Rawhide scoreless in six innings of work, allowing just three hits and a walk while fanning seven batters. The Rawhide offense was never able to get anything substantial going against him.
The Giants held their 1-0 lead until the eighth inning. Ronnie Freeman and Evan Marzilli led off the frame with consecutive singles off reliever Stephen Harrold (BS, 3). Freeman was able to advance to third on a throwing error from catcher Jeff Arnold, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Two batters later, Gerson Montilla reached on a fielder's choice, allowing Freeman to come home from third and tie the game 1-1.
Conrad Flynn (W, 7-6) was able to hold the Giants scoreless in the bottom of the eighth to give Visalia the chance to provide the winning runs in the 9th.
Giants reliever Jeff Soptic (L, 3-2) walked Tom Belza to start the inning. A Ryan Stovall sacrifice bunt put the go-ahead run at second base with one out. But Soptic struggled with his command, walking Sean Jamieson and Freeman to load the bases, and then issuing another free pass to Evan Marzilli to bring home Belza and make it 2-1.
Luis Rojas came on to relieve Soptic, but Rojas could not do much to stop the bleeding. He didn't get a lot of help from his defense, as second baseman Trevor Brown botched a possible double play ground ball from Kevin Medrano, keeping the bases loaded and allowing Jamieson to score.
Gerson Montilla made the Giants pay for that mistake with an RBI-single to plate Freeman. Jake Lamb capped the rally with a sacrifice fly RBI to make it 5-1.
R.J. Hively came on in the bottom of the 9th and shut down the Giants, striking out Jeff Arnold to end the game and send the Rawhide to the postseason.
The playoff schedule has yet to be determined. Visalia will likely face the Modesto Nuts in the first round, assuming they hold on to win the second half. The Rawhide would likely host Modesto at Rawhide Ballpark for game 1 of the series on September 4th.