The last time a California League pitcher struck out 10 straight hitters, Stockton was on the wrong end of the historic moment. On Sunday, Ports starter Chris Lamb didn't know he was in the midst of doing the same.
The left-handed Oakland prospect fanned 10 consecutive batters from the third inning to the sixth as part of a career-best 17-strikeout day, but Class A Advanced Stockton missed out on a chance to clinch the second-half North Division title, falling to Rancho Cucamonga, 3-0.
Lamb (4-5) had already struck out three batters when Erisbel Arruebarrena, who hit a solo homer in the first, went down swinging for the second out of the third. That kicked off a string of 10 straight Quakes, equaling a Cal record last matched by San Jose starter Craig Clark against Stockton on June 1, 2009.
Lamb struck out eight batters swinging and two looking over his dominant span. Arruebarrena was the last batter in the run, going down swinging before Pratt Maynard snapped the streak with an infield single. The left-hander then punched out Jeremy Rathjen to end the inning.
"It's always more fun to win," he said. "I'd definitely pick one of the outings where my team won as my favorite outing, but in terms of my personal execution for a little stretch in the middle of the game there, that's as good as I've ever felt.
"You sort of have some idea that a lot of the guys are striking out, but I didn't have a running tally going or anything like that. I was just really focusing on each pitch, trying to execute it and throw it where I wanted."
With his pitch count climbing, Lamb returned for the seventh and struck out the side once more, finishing with a swinging K of Dillon Moyer. The southpaw blew past his previous game career high of 11, notched over six shutout innings on July 17 in a no-decision at Inland Empire.
"My last start didn't feel too good," said Lamb, who took a loss five days ago at Lake Elsinore. "It was good to get back on track here heading into the playoffs. It was one of those days where I felt really good warming up in the bullpen.
"I had a bit of a rocky first inning, trying to find the strike zone and put the ball where I wanted to. After that, everything clicked, and I felt like I could throw pretty much any of my pitches wherever I wanted."
Despite the monumental effort from their starter, the Ports missed out on a chance to clinch the second-half title. Stockton would have secured the crown with a victory, after San Jose lost to Visalia, 8-0, earlier in the day.
"This is the time of year where it really matters," Lamb said. "You want to be throwing your best when the games matter. It's a good feeling.
"Last night was the same thing (in a 3-2 Ports win). We were down late, scored some runs, took the lead, and we had some guys shut it down for us. Even tonight, there was no point in the game where I felt like we didn't have a chance to come back. I was confident the whole time. It was a really good feeling. I think our team is clicking well right now, and I like our chances going into the playoffs."
Quakes starter Jharel Cotton (6-10) scattered four hits, striking out six and walking one over 5 2/3 innings to earn the win. Daniel Tillman allowed a hit and a walk in the ninth, but picked up his first save.