EL PASO — In a rare pitchers’ duel among Triple-A West teams, the Chihuahuas played through light intermittent rain to beat Sugar Land 3-2 for their second straight victory with the help of some late-inning heroics by the ageless reliever Joe Beimel.
The story of the night for Padres’ organization, though, was the dominating performance by Adrian Martinez. The right-hander from Calexico labored through a 25-pitch first inning, giving up a pair of walks and a single, but somehow managed to wiggle out of the inning only giving up one run.
After that, he had no more struggles.
Martinez had his best outing since being promoted from Double-A San Antonio as he scattered three hits – all singles – and didn’t issue another walk as he cruised through the next five innings on 68 pitches. Tonight he threw a strike within the first two pitches to 17 of the next 18 batters he faced, and on the one he didn’t, he came back to get the strikeout.
“Each level is a little different and the strike zone in Double-A is a little more liberal than it is here,” El Paso manager Eric Junge said before Friday’s game, explaining Martinez’s initial struggles after his promotion. “Here it is going to be very TrackMan based, so the umpires are probably being evaluated on that as well.
“You have to get the ball over the white portion of the plate to get calls. So that was a bit of a learning curve early on with his command. His control has always been fine; he can throw strikes. But the level of command needed to be raised and he has met that expectation.”
In our interview with him last month, Martinez talked about locating his pitches better, particularly his two-seam fastball which set up his sinker/slider combination that led to his success in San Antonio.
El Paso tied up the game in the fifth when Friday night’s hero designated hitter Patrick Kivlehan laced a double to right center. Catcher Yorman Rodriguez’s single advanced him to third and he came in on left fielder John Andreoli’s sacrifice fly to center.
Rodriguez put the Chihuahuas ahead with a home run to left-center in the seventh, his third hit of the evening. The Padres selected Rodriguez in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft after he spent five years in the Blue Jays organization where he split time between catcher and first base. He has spent time at Fort Wayne, San Antonio and now El Paso this year. He hadn’t caught in the organization, but with Luis Campusano injured and Webster Rivas in the big leagues, he and Michael Cantu will get the opportunity to catch the last games.
After Rodriguez’s home run, Andreoli singled to left and was brought home by first baseman Taylor Kohlwey’s double down the right-field line to put El Paso up 3-1 at the end of seven.
After Shaun Anderson retired the Skeeters in order on only nine pitches in the eighth, Junge brought him back out for the ninth inning. The righty opened his second inning by giving up a single and a pair of walks before giving way to 44-year old lefty Joe Beimel.
Beimel allowed a sacrifice fly to the first batter he faced, but the trail runners didn’t advance and Beimel got two more flies to center to end the threat.
It was Beimel’s first Triple-A save since 2004 with the Rochester Red Wings.
Notes: El Paso has now won four of their last six games. … Gosuke Katoh was at third base Saturday and reached base in three of his four plate appearances. Katoh came into the game hitting .367/.415/.633 in 65 plate appearances in September. … RHP Michael Kelly, 29, a first-round pick of the Padres in 2011 threw an inning and a third for Sugar Land. Since leaving the San Diego organization in 2017 he has pitched with the Baltimore Orioles, the Atlantic League (Independent) Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and now with the Houston Astros organization.