The Stockton Ports got off to a solid start this season, but a recent eight-game losing streak has dropped them into third place, five games behind first-place Modesto, with a 17-22 record. The Ports’ losing streak included a little bit of everything: from blown saves to blow outs to close losses. It came to an end on Tuesday night, when second baseman Josh Vidales hit a two-out, two-run single to give Stockton a come-from-behind, 4-3, walk-off victory.
Stockton has had a solid offensive attack for much of the season. Through Tuesday, the Ports ranked third in the league in team OPS at 725 and fourth in the league in runs scored with 175 in 39 games (4.48 per game). Stockton is tied for second in the league in homeruns with 32 and rank third in slugging percentage at .386. Stockton is only fifth in the league (out of eight teams) in OBP, however, despite being second in the league in walks. The Ports haven’t done much running this season, ranking second-to-last in stolen bases and stolen base attempts.
Backed by several of the A’s top starting pitching prospects, the Ports’ pitching staff got off to a fast start this season. Recent roadtrips to offense-friendly ballparks in Southern California have taken their toll on the Ports’ team ERA, however. Through Tuesday, the Ports’ team ERA of 4.29 was tied for fifth-highest in the league. Homeruns have been a problem, as Stockton has allowed the second-most as a team, behind only Lancaster. Ports’ pitchers have walked the fewest batters in the league (96 in 338 innings, or 2.55 per nine innings), but they are fifth in the league in strike-outs (344 – which is still more than a batter an inning).
The Ports play two more games at home against Inland Empire and then take on Lake Elsinore for four games before heading back on the road again on May 23.
Comings and Goings
The month of May has been relatively quiet on the transaction front for the Ports thus far. On May 2, the Ports lost relievers Matthew Sergey and Joey Wagman to injuries. Sergey was activated from the DL on Tuesday, while Wagman remains out. Replacing them in the bullpen were a pair of left-handers called up from Beloit: Will Gilbert and Andrew Tomasovich.
On May 6, the Ports lost starter Brett Graves to a promotion to Double-A Midland. Graves was arguably the top starter for Stockton at the start of the season, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 29:3 K:BB in 24.2 innings.
With Graves in Midland, the Ports altered their tandem rotation system. Logan Shore, A.J. Puk and Evan Manarino are no longer part of the tandem rotation, as each gets his own turn every five days. The other two turns through the rotation are taken by tandems of Dustin Hurlbutt and Boomer Biegalski and Casey Meisner and Angel Duno. Daulton Jefferies, who began the year as part of the tandem rotation, is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late April.
One of the hottest hitters in the Cal League in May has been Ports’ infielder Mikey White, who has a 1048 OPS in 52 at-bats so far this month. White has 11 extra-base hits and an even 9:9 K:BB. For the year, White is now sporting an 844 OPS, good for ninth-best in the Cal League. Ports’ hitting coach Tommy Everidge says that White’s resurgence at the plate has been a product of the work White has done on his approach.
“Mikey has been great. He has been focusing on being consistent in his approach, with an increased focus on the things he does that lead to success,” Everidge said. “A lot of times young players only focus on the negative. What am I doing wrong? What change do I need to make? Mikey has really paid attention to what happens when things go well. Taking that approach has allowed him practice repeating the good things he does. He’s creating more opportunities for successful results.”
After a slow April, slugger Chris Iriart is having a good month of May. He has homered four times in 56 at-bats and is batting .286 for the month. Iriart is tied with Seth Brown for the team lead in homeruns with seven.
Skye Bolt missed a week on the disabled list in late April, but he has been one of the team’s most prolific hitters since his return. In May, Bolt has an 842 OPS in 49 at-bats. He has walked nine times and has six extra-base hits. Bolt also continues to play very well in centerfield.
Shortstop Eli White hasn’t hit for much power in May, but he has a .400 OBP for the month and is seventh in the league with a .400 OBP for the season. White and Bolt are fifth and sixth in the league in walks with 21 and 20, respectively. Outfielder Tyler Ramirez leads the Cal League with 24 walks this season. He had five in one game on May 10, finishing one walk shy of the single game Cal League record. For May, Ramirez’s OBP is .406 and his season OBP is .388.
Reliever Carlos Navas continues to blow through the Cal League. He hasn’t allowed an earned run this season in 15.1 innings pitched. Navas has 21 strike-outs and he has allowed just eight base-runners (four walks and four hits) and one of those base-runners was an intentional walk.
Tandem starter Casey Meisner is pitching well after a rough April. The right-hander has a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings this month through Tuesday. He has struck-out 17 and walked only two during that stretch. He’s also been much more efficient with his pitches, averaging just 11.1 per inning pitched.
A’s 2016 top pick A.J. Puk is having a solid month of May, as well. The left-hander has a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings and an 18:3 K:BB. Puk’s season ERA is 4.15, but he has a 49:9 K:BB in 30.1 innings and Cal League batters are hitting just .202 against him.
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