SAN JOSE - The Inland Empire 66ers won the California League championship with a 3-1 Game Three victory over the San Jose Giants on Saturday evening at Municipal Stadium. San Jose was held to five hits in the loss as Inland Empire swept the best-of-five series three-games-to-none.
66ers starting pitcher Drew Rucinski picked-up the win on Saturday after limiting the Giants to a single run over the first 6 1/3 innings. Rucinski allowed five hits, walked two and struck out six during his stint on the mound. Relievers Eric Cendejas (1 2/3 IP) and R.J. Alvarez (1 IP) then combined to retire the last eight San Jose batters of the game.
Inland Empire took an early 1-0 lead with an unearned run off of Giants starter Adalberto Mejia in the top of the second. The inning began with Brian Hernandez lofting a high fly ball to deep right field that was dropped by Mac Williamson for a three-base error. Mejia came back to strikeout the next hitter, Abel Baker, but then Andy Workman singled sharply into left center field to plate Hernandez with the first run of the night.
It remained 1-0 until the 66ers added to their lead in the top of the fifth. Baker led off with a single before moving to second on Workman's sacrifice bunt. Then with two outs, Sherman Johnson hit a fly ball down the left field line that just eluded the diving Devin Harris. Baker easily scored on the play while Johnson was thrown out at third attempting to stretch the hit into a triple.
Meanwhile, Rucinski worked around a one-out single from Matt Duffy and a two-out single from Ricky Oropesa to toss a scoreless bottom of the first before setting down San Jose 1-2-3 in the second, third, and fourth innings. He had retired 10 straight hitters until Harris led off the bottom of the fifth with a double off the wall in left. The next two batters, Mitch Delfino and Ryan Cavan, were then set down on fly outs, but Jesus Galindo followed by ripping an RBI triple into the right field corner to score Harris. The hit cut the Inland Empire lead to 2-1, but Rucinski kept the 66ers in front when he retired the next batter, Myles Schroder, on a groundout to shortstop to end the inning.
Down by one run, the Giants threatened in the bottom of the sixth as Williamson walked with one out before Trevor Brown reached on a two-out infield single to put runners on first and second. Rucinski though worked out of trouble inducing Harris to pop out to the catcher Baker to strand the two runners.
Mejia tossed a 1-2-3 top of the sixth, but ran into trouble in the seventh as Michael Snyder led off with a high pop up that dropped in between Williamson and the second baseman Cavan for a double. Then with one out, Baker singled to put runners on the corners prompting a pitching change as Jose Casilla was summoned from the bullpen. Workman was up next and he hit a slow grounder to shortstop. Baker was forced out at second on the play, but Workman beat the throw to first to extend the inning as Snyder scored for a 3-1 Sixers advantage.
Casilla (1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO) limited the damage in the top of the seventh before striking out two in a scoreless top of the eighth. Derek Law (1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO) then pitched the top of the ninth inning keeping the Giants within two runs, but San Jose could not muster any late offense against the Inland Empire bullpen.
Rucinski departed after issuing a one-out walk to Cavan in the bottom of the seventh, but Cendejas entered and quickly got out of the inning with back-to-back one-pitch outs of Galindo and Schroder. In the bottom of the eighth, Cendejas retired Duffy, Williamson and Oropesa on three straight groundouts. Then in the bottom of the ninth, Alvarez set down Brown on a fly out to center, Harris on a fly out to deep right and Delfino on a routine groundout to shortstop to end the game and give the 66ers the title.
Mejia was saddled with the loss after yielding three runs (two earned) on six hits over 6 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
Notes: The Giants scored only two runs during the three games of the Championship Series … San Jose finished with a .133 team batting average during the series (12 total hits) … Inland Empire out-hit the Giants 8-5 in Game Three … San Jose lost the Championship Series for the first time since 1999 (four straight wins; 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) … The 66ers win the California League title despite finishing the regular season with a sub-.500 record (69-71) … Inland Empire outscored the Giants 16-2 during the Championship Series.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.