4,622 fans swarmed to LoanMart Field on Friday night for Cinco De Mayo festivities, which included a matchup between the Inland Empire 66ers and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and a Julio Urias bobble head giveaway to the first 1,500 fans in attendance. Dennis Santana, the former shortstop now turned pitcher, got the nod for the Quakes as he faced off against 66ers starter Luis Pena. The Quakes came out in front on Friday night in the 2nd game of the series, as they used 2 separate 3 run innings to pull off the 7-4 win.
Luis Pena, the 5’10” right hander, generally sat 91-93 mph on his fastball, bumping 94-95 when he needed to. The fastball had a few variations, sometimes featuring some late cutting action and at other times would feature some sinking action. Pena relied on the cutter quite a bit more, which was effective early on but lost its’ luster as he entered the middle innings. Pena threw his 78-84 mph curveball every so often to mix things up but did use utilize it quite a bit against the aggressive swingers for the Quakes. Pena ended up striking out 5 batters and walking none on the night but he ran into some trouble in the 4th inning, partially due to bad command but also some bad luck mixed in. Pena allowed 3 base hits, hit a batter then had a ground ball booted by shortstop Jake Yacinich, which led to the 3rd run coming home in the inning for the Quakes. Pena pitched pretty well, striking out 6 batters, walking 1 and allowing 5 hits and 2 runs in his 5.2 innings of work. He looks like an organizational arm due to his small figure(5’10” max) and the lack of a 3rd pitch to put away left handed batters. His peripheral stats this year look decent(31 strikeouts compared to 14 walks) but he gets hit around too hard to project more than a career minor leaguer.
The 66ers were undone by that bad 4th inning, where they allowed 3 runs, and in the 7th inning, when some bad defense and pitching. Jake Yacinich committed another error, allowing 1 run to go home and sidearmer Sam Holland struggled with command, allowing 3 runs(only 1 earned) in his 1.1 innings of work. Winston Lavendier pitched in the 8th and allowed a gargantuan home run to Quakes 1st baseman Ibandel Isabel, who blasted it 450 feet the other way over the scoreboard at LoanMart Field. The 66ers offense actually had a solid night, pounding out 11 hits, including triples from Zach Gibbons and Jordan Serena and a double from Troy Montgomery, and also had 3 walks. Troy Montgomery had his 1st stellar night with the 66ers, singling twice and doubling, while also making a nice running grab in right field. Jordan Serena, who filled in for Matt Thaiss at 1st base, had a 3 hit night, including a big RBI triple late in the game. The big difference tonight really came down to the miscues the 66ers had defensively and the Quakes delivered 4 hits with runners in scoring position, compared to the 3 hits from the 66ers offense.
-Taylor Ward and Matt Thaiss both had the night off. These were simple nights off and not due to injury. Both participated in batting practice and Thaiss was particularly impressive. His above average raw power shows up during batting practice, when he shows the ability to elevate baseballs with ease, like he was able to Friday when he hit nearly 10 balls out to right field. He has been unable to bring that power in game so far and until he does, he projects more as a solid regular than a good everyday player.
-The 66ers routinely move players around during the season, a trend that continued Friday. Troy Mongtomery, Jared Foster and the recently promoted Michael Hermosillo alternated between outfield spots, showing that the Angels potentially view all 3 guys as 4th outfielders down the road who can play the corners well and handle center field in a pinch. The same principle applies in the infield, as Connor Justus and Jake Yacinich have both played shortstop and 2nd base this season.