STOCKTON, CA - It didn't take long for the Rawhide to give Emilio Vargas a lead. In fact, it took one pitch. Newcomer Luis Lara took Stockton starter Dustin Hurlbutt deep on a blast to right-center on the first pitch of the game that put Visalia up 1-0.
On the next pitch, Marcus Wilson followed suit by crushing a shot to left to give the Rawhide a 2-0 lead.
For Vargas, that was more than enough. The righty put up another shutdown performance, tossing six scoreless innings while fanning six Ports hitters. Vargas (W, 5-1) has now thrown 13 straight scoreless innings, all against Stockton, and has won his last two starts.
He had to work out of jams in the second and fourth innings, working around back-to-back walks and a leadoff double respectively. Both times he battled back to leave runners in scoring position.
Additionally, Vargas lowered his Cal League leading ERA to 1.13. He has not surrendered a run in three starts against Stockton this season.
Visalia (32-29) took advantage of an error by Ports shortstop Kevin Merrell in the second when Mark Karaviotis scored on a Raymel Flores groundout. The Rawhide tacked on one more insurance run in the seventh when Lara muscled a flare over the head of second baseman Nate Mondou to put the Rawhide up 4-0.
Stockton (38-24) failed to score against the Visalia bullpen, though they threatened in both the eighth and ninth innings against Tyler Mark. Brallan Perez walked and reached second in the eighth, then Will Toffey and Luis Barrera both singled in the ninth, yet Mark shut the door.
Tonight's win is Visalia's sixth shutout of the season, which ties them for second in the California League with San Jose and Stockton. The Rawhide also claimed back-to-back series for the first time since mid-April, when they took series against the Giants and Ports.
Lara finished with two hits, including the leadoff homer, and two RBIs and Wilson hit a double and a home run. Karaviotis reached base three times, with two walks and a ground rule double, and scored twice.
Hurlbutt (L, 1-2) retired one hitter in the sixth while allowing three runs, two earned, with five strikeouts and a one walk.
The Ports lead over the Rawhide is down to five games with eight contests remaining before a first-half champion is crowned. Stockton will clinch with any combination of four Ports wins or Rawhide losses.
Visalia has a chance for the series sweep tomorrow and will send RHP Tyler Keele (0-1, 6.43) to the hill against Ports RHP Parker Dunshee (5-2, 2.56), who has the third-best ERA in the Cal League. First pitch is at 2:09 PM and the live radio broadcast will be available on rawhidebaseball.com.
The Visalia Rawhide are a professional baseball team in the Class A Advanced California League and are the only professional sports team in Tulare and Kings counties. The team has been an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2007 and is entering their 72nd year of play in 2018. The Rawhide renovated their home at Recreation Ballpark in 2009 and have since become the largest gathering of individuals in Tulare County, having set an attendance record for the seventh time in the past eight seasons in 2017. In 2018, the Rawhide look to continue their reputation for hosting competitive baseball while providing affordable family entertainment. To be a part of the 2018 Visalia Rawhide season, please contact the Visalia Rawhide Ticket Office at 559.732.4433, visit us online at rawhidebaseball.com, or follow us on Facebook (TheRawhide), Instagram (@VisaliaRawhide), and Twitter (@VisaliaRawhide).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.