LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — After giving up leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, the Storm finally won when Esteury Ruiz lofted a fly ball to medium left for a game winning sac fly.
The key moment in the game, though, came in the seventh, when Hansel Rodriguez was called on to face rehabbing big leaguer Jonathan Lucroy. With two on and two out in a tie game, Rodriguez got Lucroy, who has 107 career home runs and 18.1 WAR, to weakly pop-up to second to end the threat.
Two minutes later, Gabriel Arias led off the bottom half of the inning with a laser over the right field fence for his career best 11th home run to give the Storm a 3-2 lead
“Arias has been seeing the ball really well lately,” said manager Tony Tarasco. “We have really been working with Gabe about being more selectively aggressive. Find the pitch you want, square up, and put a good hard swing on it. This month we have finally see the results of his hard work.”
Arias hit homers in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, putting an exclamation point on his best month as a pro. Arias now has four home runs this month, 19 RBI and has an OPS hovering near 1.000. That would be impressive for anyone, let alone a 19 year-old, plus defensive shortstop.
Working with a lead, Rodriguez cruised through the eighth, but he gave way after allowing a walk and single in the ninth. He threw 33 pitches in the outing.
Three hours earlier, former Midwest League ERA champion Osvaldo Hernandez took the mound for his sixth start with the Storm. Despite not walking a batter , Hernandez consistently missed location on his offspeed stuff, a sign of a pitcher still shaking off the rust after spending most of 2019 on the IL. While the missed location led to multiple hard swings, nearly all of them found gloves for outs. Hernandez went the first three innings allowing only two hits.
“He is looking better time every time out,” said Tarasco. “He is ready to go 5 or six inning, but knows the goal is to keep himself healthy the rest of the year.”
After three he turned it over to rehabbing LHP Jose Castillo. After Hernandez sat 89-91 with his fastball, Castillo’s first pitch registered at 96 mph. Castillo breezed through his inning striking out two. While this was his first rehab appearance with the Storm, he looked not far away from being able to return to the Padres.