While fans might have turned out to see rehabbing Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson on Monday night at LoanMart Field, live-armed Fabio Martinez gave them a performance they won't soon forget.
The right-handed Los Angeles prospect threw six hitless innings of relief as Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga walked off with a 3-2 win in 12 innings over Inland Empire.
"The one thing Fabio was doing tonight, which I haven't seen a lot of, was he just pounded the strike zone," said Rancho Cucamonga pitching coach Matt Herges. "He got his secondary stuff over the plate too. When you have an arm like he does and you throw secondary pitches for strikes, you're going to be pretty good."
Martinez walked four batters over his six innings but worked around them with five strikeouts. The 24-year-old induced an inning-ending double play to finish the third with two 66ers aboard. He got some help in the sixth when catcher Tyler Ogle caught Chevy Clarke stealing after Clarke's leadoff walk. Martinez ended that inning with a double-play ball too.
"He got in trouble by basically, in my mind, not trusting his heater," Herges said. "There were times when he would have a guy right where he wanted him, but he would go to his offspeed pitches later in the count. That's something we'll definitely talk about. With a 97-mile-per-hour fastball that has life at the very end of it, you really don't need to throw offspeed pitches.
"He fell in love with his slider tonight and even his changeup. His changeup was registering at 91 miles per hour. With the late action it had, shoot, I would want to throw it too. But he's going to have to start trusting his heater more because it's as good as I've seen in a while."
Wilson gave up a double to Jose Rondon, then bounced back to strike out Brian Hernandez to end the first. The bearded right-hander, rehabbing an elbow issue, provides a Major League presence in the clubhouse that has played well with the Quakes staff.
"For me, it's a huge luxury," Herges said. "The kids I have on my staff have an opportunity to see up close what a big leaguer does; how he goes about his business, what he does in the clubhouse before the game, what his 'pen looks like when he's warming up, things like that. It's super valuable to have, and the guys that we get have all been great."
In addition to his process and demeanor, Wilson's performance impressed Herges as well.
"I'm encouraged," Herges said of the veteran's second outing for the Quakes. "He's not holding back. It's coming out, and it's got life behind it. In these two outings, he's thrown nothing but fastballs by design, and it's got life. Being Brian Wilson, and everything that he comes with, the persona, the guy knows how to pitch. He flat-out can throw the ball where he wants to, and it's got something behind it."
Martinez departed in line for the win with the Quakes leading, 2-0, thanks to a solo home run by Jeremy Rathjen in the first and an RBI single by Corey Seager in the fifth.
Inland Empire rallied in the ninth to erase Martinez's chance at a victory. Cal Towey tripled to bring home the 66ers' first run and Andrew Ray singled him home to tie the game.
In the bottom of the 12th, Brandon Dixon ended the long affair. Dixon sent Grant Gordon's offering over the left-field wall for his first homer of the season.
The walk-off provides a hard-earned lesson for the Quakes.
"Extra-inning games are tough because you're here a lot longer," Herges said, "but the fact that you play high-pressure games like this and actually win them, it's huge for development. It gets them more comfortable with playing tight games late.
"The fact that they're doing it in a pressure situation, the fact that they win as a team and get to jump on the field, I love it. It's huge."