STOCKTON, Calif. - Stockton Ports starting pitcher Brian Howard (7-3) came one strike away from becoming just the first Ports pitcher to throw a complete game shutout since 2007 on Tuesday night at Banner Island Ballpark. Howard, who had the bases empty with two outs in the ninth, gave up a home run to Gio Brusa on a 2-2 pitch that spoiled the shutout bid and was lifted after an ensuing walk to Jacob Heyward. The Ports, however, cruised to a 5-1 victory over the San Jose Giants and Howard earned the victory in the longest outing of his career.
The Ports took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning as Brallan Perez opened the frame with a single and scored on an ensuing triple by Luke Persico, his first of the season, to give Stockton a 1-0 lead. Persico scored on a groundout by Nate Mondou to make it 2-0. Beginning with that groundout, Giants starter Raffi Vizcaino (3-4) would retire 11 consecutive batters. Vizcaino allowed just one hit and one walk outside of the first inning and allowed just four baserunners total but would suffer the loss in the contest. He went six innings and allowed three hits while striking out five.
Doug Still took over in the seventh and, after setting the side down in order in his first inning, would be tagged for three runs in the eighth. With one out, Jason Goldstein doubled and Perez followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Persico came up next and drove in his second run of the night with an infield single to third to make it 3-0. Mondou followed with an RBI single to right that scored Perez and a throwing error in from right fielder Sandro Fabian allowed the baserunners to advance to second and third, setting up Dairon Blanco for an RBI groundout to make it 5-0.
Still would allow three runs (two earned) on four hits while striking out one in two innings of work.
Howard, meanwhile, gave up a leadoff single in the second inning and proceeded to retire the next three batters in succession, the start of a stretch of nine-in-a-row set down. The stretch was broken up by an infield single by Fabian to begin the fifth, at which point Howard proceeded to retire the next 14 consecutive batters to take him two outs deep into the ninth inning. Brusa came up with two outs and, on a 2-2 pitch, homered down the right field line to spoil the shutout bid and make it 5-1. Howard, following a mound visit, was permitted to face one more batter and walked Heyward on a 3-2 pitch. Brendan Butler was summoned from the Stockton bullpen and struck out Wander Franco to end the ballgame.
Howard allowed one run on four hits while striking out seven over a career-high eight-and-two-thirds innings worked. He missed becoming the first Ports player since Josh Bowman on August 27, 2013 to throw a nine-inning complete game when he did it at Bakersfield. The only Ports player to pitch a complete game shutout since the franchise became and Oakland A's affiliate is Kevin Deaton, who accomplished the feat on August 7, 2007 at San Jose.
The Ports and Giants play the third game of their four-game set on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark. Matt Milburn (2-2, 5.59 ERA) makes the start for Stockton, opposed by San Jose right-hander Melvin Adon (2-3, 4.77 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. PDT.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.