LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — As the first half of the season draws to a close, the Storm are pushing for a division title and a playoff berth. After tonight, their prospects look a lot more uncertain.
The Storm could not hold a late lead for the second consecutive night and lost at home to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 4-3.
The Storm jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first when Buddy Reed lined a double off the right field wall. Rancho’s Saige Jenco played the ball perfectly but Reed’s speed beat a strong throw. After Austin Hedges, starting a rehab assignment again, singled, Luis Torrens knocked in Reed with an RBI single.
Reed put together great at-bats all night, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base — his 30th in 35 attempts. Reed is noticeably choking up on the bat, which has enabled him to reduce his strikeouts. In the month of June, Reed is hitting .366/.449/.439, with seven walks and eight strikeouts in 48 plate appearances.
“He made that adjustment [choking up on the bat] about a month-and-a-half ago,” said Storm manager Edwin Rodriguez.
“With two strikes, he was choking up on the bat and getting hits — doubles and a home run. He found that if he is hitting better, why not do that all the time?”
On the mound, Chris Paddack struggled with command early. He fell behind several hitters early in the count, leaving his fastball up in the zone. In the first, he struck out Rancho Cucamonga shortstop Gavin Lux with a fastball to start the game. After a two-out single, Paddack got out of the inning with another strikeout, this time on a changeup.
Throughout the game, Paddack sat around 90-94 MPH with his fastball, touching 96 when he needed to get a strikeout. His changeup was nasty and generated several swing-throughs. But he pitched in traffic all night.
In the second, Paddack allowed back-to-back one-out singles before he finished off the inning with a pair of strikeouts.
In the top of the fourth, Paddack walked the lead-off batter, which came back to haunt him. It was just the third walk for Paddack all season.
With runners on first and third with two outs, the Quakes attempted a double-steal. When Hedges threw the ball to second, Logan Landon broke from home, beating the throw back to the plate. It was the only run Paddack allowed all night.
“He’s been outstanding. Not only tonight but pretty much the whole season. He gives us five, six strong innings and kept us in the game. He knows how to win — he knows how to prepare himself for the game,” said Rodriguez.
The Storm led 2-1 in the seventh inning until Rancho Cucamonga first baseman Cristian Santana took a David Bednar fastball out for a go-ahead homer — a prodigious shot that cleared the scoreboard in left.
The Storm battled back in the bottom of the seventh when Hudson Potts doubled down the left field line — his 20th double of the year. The Quakes took the lead for good on a fielder’s choice in the top of the ninth.
With five games left in the first half, the two teams are tied for first place in the Cal League south division. They will meet again Wednesday at The Diamond.
Austin Hedges went 1-for-2 and caught six innings for the Storm. He is expected to DH Wednesday night.
Shortstop Allen Cordoba went hitless in four at-bats and appeared to injure his hand when he made a diving stop. He stayed in the game and there doesn’t appear to be any concern about an injury.
Potts doubled twice on the night and is hitting .333/.420/.595 in June.