After expending seven pitchers during Wednesday night's 5 1/2-hour, 15-inning epic to get to the Cal League Finals, Class A Advanced Inland Empire needed a strong effort from its starter in Game 1 on Thursday.
Orangel Arenas came through with that effort.
The 24-year-old turned in what 66ers pitching coach Brandon Emanuel called his best start of the season, scattering eight hits and two walks while striking out six over eight innings in the 66ers' 4-0 shutout of the San Jose Giants.
"That was huge. The bullpen was obviously run down a little bit. We'd had extra-inning games throughout the series and even with Rancho [in the first round]. That picked us up big time," Emanuel said. "He came out and set the tone. To go deep for us, that helped us out tremendously."
It was Arenas' second start of the playoffs and his first victory after he came out on the wrong end of a 4-1 loss in the opener of the semifinal series with Lancaster. This time, his luck was a little better.
"He had a really god sinking fastball tonight, used it to get a lot of ground balls and mixed in a good slider and changeup as well," said Emanuel. "He threw strikes, that was the main thing. He attacked hitters, only had 98 pitches through eight innings.
"That's probably his strongest outing. He's shown spurts of it, put together some good games. He's had some really good games here of late and taken it into the postseason, hit the ground running with it."
The Venezuela native struggled at the beginning of the year in a stint with Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 6.57 ERA over six starts. He went 8-8 with a 5.14 ERA after arriving at Inland Empire. Overall, he was 9-13 this season with a 5.41 ERA, striking out 77 and walking 40 in 128 innings.
Arenas nursed a 1-0 lead through eight innings before the 66ers provided some insurance with a three-run eighth. Alex Yarbrough, Eric Stamets and Sherman Johnson each had a pair of hits, with Yarbrough providing a double for the team's lone extra-base hit of the game.
Brian Hernandez and Andy Workman each plated a run for Inland Empire.
The 66ers' Game 2 starter will be Dan Reynolds, who threw an inning of relief and recorded the save on Wednesday against Lancaster.
Reynolds struggled in his first two playoff starts, allowing three runs in a third of an inning in Game 3 of the first-round series with Rancho Cucamonga and three runs in two innings in the second game of the San Jose series. Despite those results, Inland Empire won both games.
"Danny's got a live arm, he has weapons. The main thing with him is making sure he's getting the ball over the plate and challenging hitters," said Emanuel. "The stuff is there, we just need him in the zone, forcing contact like Arenas did tonight."