VISALIA - The Visalia Rawhide overcame an early four-run deficit before scoring once in the bottom of the ninth to record a 6-5 Game Four win over the San Jose Giants on Tuesday evening at Recreation Park. The best-of-five North Division Series is now tied 2-2 with the decisive fifth game set for Wednesday night at Municipal Stadium.
Ricky Oropesa (1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI) smacked a three-run home run while Jesus Galindo (2-for-4), Trevor Brown (2-for-4) and Jeff Arnold (2-for-4) had two hits apiece to lead the Giants offensively in defeat.
The Rawhide tied the game 5-5 with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and neither team would score again until the ninth. Austin Fleet was summoned from the San Jose bullpen to begin the bottom of the ninth inning, but he promptly allowed a leadoff single to Kevin Medrano. A sacrifice bunt from Gerson Montilla then advanced Medrano to second before an intentional walk to Jake Lamb. David Peralta was up next and he lined a single into center field that looked to give Visalia the win. However on the play, Medrano slipped and fell to the ground as he rounded third base. Medrano though would still score as the center fielder Galindo misplayed the ball as he attempted to quickly pick it up and make a throw home. Galindo was charged with an error as Medrano scored without a throw to the plate sparking a wild Rawhide celebration.
Fleet (0-2) was charged with his second loss of the series after surrendering the deciding run in the bottom of the ninth.
Visalia reliever Kaleb Fleck (1-0) picked-up the win with two scoreless innings of relief over the eighth and ninth.
The Rawhide initially enjoyed a 1-0 lead after scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning against Giants starter Clayton Blackburn. Back-to-back singles from Medrano and Montilla started the frame to put runners on the corners. After Lamb flied out to shallow center, Peralta hit a sharp grounder to first that rolled through the legs of Oropesa for an error. Peralta was credited with an RBI on the play as Medrano scored to make it 1-0.
San Jose immediately answered in the top of the second as Devin Harris reached on an error to start the inning before a single from Brown. Oropesa followed by crushing a three-run home run to deep right field. The home run, Oropesa's third of the series, gave the Giants a 3-1 advantage.
San Jose added to their lead with two more runs in the top of the fourth inning. After Arnold led off with a single, Elliott Blair ripped an RBI double into the left field corner. Galindo followed with a sacrifice bunt before Matt Duffy delivered a sacrifice fly to right plating Blair for a 5-1 lead.
Meanwhile, Blackburn retired Visalia 1-2-3 in the second and third innings and had set down eight straight hitters until Peralta singled to begin the bottom of the fourth. Belza followed with a single of his own and then Sean Jamieson blasted an opposite field three-run homer to right bringing the Rawhide to within 5-4.
Blackburn recovered to retire the next two batters after the Jamieson round-tripper, but then Evan Marzilli stepped to the plate and connected for a solo home run to right tying the game 5-5.
The Giants managed only two hits - both singles - over the last five innings. With the game still tied, San Jose threatened in the top of the seventh when Galindo led off with a single before two wild pitches moved him to third with one out. However, Williamson followed with a grounder to shortstop that saw Galindo easily thrown out at the plate before Devin Harris struck out to end the inning.
In the top of the eighth, Brown led off with a single, but was promptly erased when the next batter, Oropesa, grounded into a double play. Visalia relievers Seth Simmons (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO) and Fleck (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO) combined for four scoreless innings with five strikeouts to finish the game. Rawhide starter Andrew Barbosa was charged with five runs (four earned) on eight hits over the first five innings.
Visalia had several opportunities to move back in front before the ninth putting the potential go-ahead run at second base with none out in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings. In the fifth facing Blackburn, Montilla led off with a double before a walk to Lamb. Blackburn though induced Peralta to ground into a 6-4-3 double play and then retired Belza on a groundout.
Jose Casilla (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 SO) entered the game to begin the bottom of the seventh and issued consecutive walks to put runners on first and second with none out. Casilla though worked out of trouble registering back-to-back strikeouts of Lamb and Peralta before Belza grounded out. Then in the eighth, Jamieson doubled to leadoff, but Casilla struck out the next three batters to end the inning and keep the game tied.
Blackburn allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits over the first six innings. He walked one and struck out eight.
Notes: Both teams finished with 10 hits … San Jose was 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while Visalia was 2-for-14 … Oropesa has homered in three straight games … Blackburn allowed just three earned runs in 37 innings against the Rawhide during the regular season (six starts) … The Giants committed three errors (five errors in the last two games).
On Deck: The Giants and Rawhide will play a decisive Game Five of the best-of-five North Division Series on Wednesday evening at Municipal Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM. The winner advances to the California League Championship Series. Pat Young (3-1, 0.92 ERA in Salem-Keizer) is slated to start for San Jose while Visalia is expected to counter with Brad Allen (1-1, 7.94 ERA). Tickets can be purchased by calling (408) 297-1435 or by visiting sjgiants.com.