STOCKTON, Calif. — When a team is struggling, so often a strong a pitching performance can get a team back on track. Perhaps that’s what happened on Friday night at Banner Island Ballpark, as Kyle Virbitsky spun a gem for the Stockton Ports in game four of the series. The
STOCKTON, Calif. — When a team is struggling, so often a strong a pitching performance can get a team back on track. Perhaps that’s what happened on Friday night at Banner Island Ballpark, as Kyle Virbitsky spun a gem for the Stockton Ports in game four of the series. The best pitching performance in the professional career of the former Nittany Lion helped give the Ports a 6-2 win in front of 991 fans in Stockton, evening up the series at two games apiece.
The Ports (8-17) got the big-time start from Virbitsky at the right time, who turned in a much-improved outing at home. After struggling in his last home start with four runs allowed on eight hits, he failed to let Giant cross home plate in six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and walking one. Perhaps the best part of his night was his strikeout total, where he punched out 10 San Jose Giants, doubling the most he’s had in the game this season and setting a new professional career-best. Only Blake Beers has struck out as many in a start this year for the Ports.
The strikeout pitch was working early and often for Virbitsky, as he struck out three in the second inning, three in the fourth, and two more in the fifth. After putting the leadoff runner aboard in each of the first three innings, Virbitsky found some confidence and swagger on the mound, retiring 12 of the final 13 hitters he faced. He needed 97 pitches to get through six innings of work, tying a season-best in that department as well.
The offense backed up Virbitsky with single runs in the third, fourth, and sixth innings to provide enough of an early cushion. In the third, Robert Puason reached on an infield single, and then moved to third base after a throwing error from Giants starter Eric Silva went into the Ports dugout. That allowed Denzel Clarke to drive him home with a bloop double to right field, making it 1-0 Ports.
Another run scored in the fourth when Kevin Richards singled with one out, and with the bases loaded and two outs, Mariano Ricciardi was the one to bring him home with a bouncing ball up the middle that the Giants infield could not turn into an out. Again, the Giants helped the Ports add on in the sixth, when T.J. Schofield-Sam opened the inning with a double and then promptly scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch.
The game was blown open in the seventh inning after the first three hitters reached base safely: Max Muncy with a walk, CJ Rodriguez with an RBI single (after a balk), and then a Richards double to the alley in left center. With two outs and the inning in jeopardy, Pedro Pineda slashed a triple inside the bag at first base and down the right field line, scoring two and capping off a three-run seventh. After not recording a triple in the first 23 games of the season, the Ports have triples in back-to-back games.
The Giants added on single runs in the eighth and ninth innings off of the Ports bullpen thanks to solo home runs from Grant McCray and Vaun Brown. San Jose now has nine home runs in the first four games of the series.
The series continues on Saturday night with a 7:05 first pitch inside Banner Island Ballpark. Mitch Myers will go for the Ports and will be opposed by Nick Sinacola. Postgame fireworks will take place after the game. Tickets are on sale at StocktonPorts.com/tickets.