LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — On a warm, clear night in Riverside County, Pedro Avila (4-6, 4.05 ERA) stymied the visiting Visalia Rawhide for 6.1 innings, en route to a 2-1 Storm victory.
Avila worked effectively on both sides of the plate with a fastball that sat 92-93 MPH, and got ahead early and often, throwing first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 26 batters he faced. Most of his seven strikeouts came on a devastating slider that kept hitters uncomfortable all night. He needed 98 pitches to go into the seventh before getting pulled after a pair of back-to-back doubles plated the first Rawhide run.
Though he allowed seven Visalia hits, perhaps the most telling stat of the night was his walk total: one. Avila entered the game with 38 walks in 80.1 innings, good for a 4.3 BB/9 rate, the highest on the Storm staff.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez praised the 21-year-old Venezuelan, saying, “It was one of his best outings of the year. He introduced a slider today for the first time, and it was working for him. He’s been playing with that pitch but didn’t have the confidence to throw it in the game.”
“I felt uncomfortable coming into the game off a bad outing, but did much better tonight,” said Avila. “Yesterday I told my catcher, Luis (Torrens), ‘Let’s try out the slider the first two innings,’ and I used it the whole game, and it was good.” When asked what helped him limit his walks in Thursday’s start, he credited his manager, saying “I asked for his advice, and he told me not to be afraid of giving up hits, just pitch.”
Trying not to clog the @madfriars timeline w/hitters missing Pedro Avila’s slider, but this one was too good not to share. pic.twitter.com/cRhMN1nFYH
— Marcus (@marcusSDTX) July 6, 2018
Visalia starter Emilio Vargas (6-4, 1.75 ERA) almost matched Avila blow for blow, as the Arizona Diamondbacks no.29 ranked prospect and current ERA-leader of the Cal League posted an almost identical pitching line, allowing two runs on seven hits, a walk, and seven strikeouts.
Cleanup hitter Hudson Potts was at the epicenter of the Lake Elsinore offense. In the first inning, after Eguy Rosario reached on a standup double, he scorched a liner off the shortstop’s glove for his 41st RBI of the season. In the sixth inning, he blasted a long double off the wall in left-center, and then scampered home when Luis Torrens lined a single to right. He finished 2-for-3 on the night, with his league-leading 27th double of the season raising his OPS to .836 (ninth-best in the league).
“Our hitting coach has been working with him (Potts) on pitch selection,” continued Rodriguez, “so he’s been more selective at the plate, trying to look for a pitch that he can do damage with. A by-product of that is that his strike zone shrinks a little bit, and he’s taking more borderline pitches, so he’s taken more walks and gotten ahead in more counts.”
Buddy Reed and Edward Olivares combined to go 0-for-7 on the night, each striking out once (though Olivares did reach on a walk in the eighth inning). Despite the 0-fer, Olivares strung together some solid at-bats and worked the count. Reed had a different approach, seeing just four pitches his first three plate appearances, before striking out swinging after getting ahead 2-0 in his final at bat. On the defensive side, the two of them cover a lot of ground in the outfield, with the left fielder Reed coming this close to making a web-gem diving play on a slicing liner to his right that went for a double.
Shortstop Allen Córdoba went 1-for-3 on the night with a triple, raising his average to .105 in 16 games with Lake Elsinore. The 22-year-old also helped turned a beautiful 3-6-1 double play in the sixth.
6-foot-8 reliever Dauris Valdez recorded his third hold of the year for the Storm, pitching 1.2 innings and walking one while striking out two. The fireballer’s fastball sat 96-98 MPH and looked very difficult to hit, though he also had a wild pitch on the night.