STOCKTON, CA - Stockton's Brian Howard came within one out of a complete-game shutout on Tuesday night in a 5-1 Ports victory over the San Jose Giants at Banner Island Ballpark. Howard dominated on the mound as the All-Star right-hander limited the Giants to just a single run and four hits over 8 2/3 innings of work. The loss was San Jose's second straight to begin the series and dropped the Giants (32-33) below .500 for the first time since after the third game of the season.
Gio Brusa (1-for-4, HR, RBI) smacked his team-leading 11th home run of the season - a solo shot with two outs in the top of the ninth inning - to account for San Jose's only offense in the defeat.
Howard (7-3) earned his league-leading seventh win of the season. Howard struck out seven, walked one and retired 26 out of the 31 batters he faced.
The Ports took an early lead scoring twice in the bottom of the first against Giants starter Raffi Vizcaino. Brallan Perez led off with a single before Luke Persico smacked an RBI triple into the right center field gap to make it 1-0. Nate Mondou followed with an RBI groundout to shortstop as Persico scored for a 2-0 Stockton advantage.
San Jose managed only three baserunners over the first eight innings of the contest against Howard. Brandon Van Horn belted a one-out double off the left center field fence in the top of the first, but was ultimately stranded at third. Wander Franco then led off the second inning with an infield single to shortstop before Howard retired the next nine Giants hitters. Then in the fifth, Fabian reached on an infield single to third base, but then Howard set down 14 batters in a row before Brusa's round-tripper in the ninth.
Meanwhile, the Ports extended their lead to 5-0 with three more runs in the bottom of the eighth. With reliever Doug Still on the mound, Stockton produced four straight one-out hits. Jason Goldstein started the rally with a double to deep right center before Perez singled to put runners on the corners. Persico then beat out a slow grounder to third for an infield single as Goldstein scored the first run of the inning. Mondou followed with another RBI single before an RBI groundout from Dairon Blanco made it 5-0.
Howard quickly retired the first two batters of the top of the ninth before Brusa stepped to the plate and launched a towering solo home run down the right field line to break-up the shutout bid. Howard then walked Jacob Heyward, but Brendan Butler entered from the bullpen and promptly struck out Franco to end the game.
Vizcaino (3-4) suffered the loss despite matching a season-high with six innings pitched. The right-hander allowed two runs (both earned) on three hits. He walked one and struck out five during his 90-pitch outing. Vizcaino gave up only one hit after the first inning and retired 18 out of the final 20 batters he faced.
* The Giants have lost eight out of their last ten games.
* San Jose has now lost their last five games against Stockton (all in the last eight days).
* Howard ranks third in the California League in ERA (2.38), fifth in strikeouts (77) and first in WHIP (0.93). He has a 1.26 ERA (4 ER/28.2 IP) in four starts against the Giants.
* Brusa has hit five home runs over his last five games. His 11 homers overall are tied for fourth in the league.
* Franco (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to seven games.
* San Jose has still been shutout only once this season (4-0 loss to Visalia on May 3).
The Giants and Ports continue their series on Wednesday evening with first pitch at Banner Island Ballpark scheduled for 7:10 PM. Melvin Adon (2-3, 4.77 ERA) is slated to start on the mound for San Jose while Stockton is expected to counter with Matt Milburn (2-2, 5.59 ERA). The game can be heard live on sjgiants.com with coverage beginning at 6:50 PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.