HALFWAY THROUGH SEASON, MARTINEZ STYMIED BY SONOMA SQUAD AS SUPERIOR STOMPERS STIFLE SUDDEN SURGE IN NINTH

 Jacob Barfield gets a high-five from Bart Zeller as Barfield comes home on his second round-tripper of the day.  M C Hunt

Jacob Barfield gets a high-five from Bart Zeller as Barfield comes home on his second round-tripper of the day. M C Hunt

HALFWAY THROUGH SEASON, MARTINEZ STYMIED BY SONOMA SQUAD AS SUPERIOR STOMPERS STIFLE SUDDEN SURGE IN NINTH

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- The Clippers hit two home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough to best the Stompers as Sonoma continued to press their advantage in one-run games against Martinez this season. The Clippers are 8-32 at the halfway point in Pacific Association play.

The Clippers, for the second week in a row, are 2-4 through Sunday, giving them a 4-6 overall record in the last ten games they’ve played. Martinez has thus doubled their win total from the first month of the season in just the past two weeks, and have played .200 baseball through 40 games - while not the most auspicious start for this first-year expansion team in the Pacific Association, the determination of a cohesive Clippers lineup and the dramatic improvement of starting pitching have worked wonders for both the Clippers’ run differential and the squad’s win total.

However, any postulation on the improvement of Clippers starting pitching is severely hedged by day-to-day consistency issues both within individual and across disparate rotations of the Clippers’ starting five; and it was those issues that most prominently figured in Sunday’s loss.

Joe Jones (L, 1-7) went just four and one-third innings into the ballgame, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits to Sonoma. Though Jones’ control was excellent, walking none for the first time in a starting appearance this year, the tenacity of Stompers batters proved too much for Martinez - Jones was outmatched by Dominic Topoozian (W, 6-0), who ended the ballgame with a league-leading ERA of 2.89.

Topoozian, who today was picked up by the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association, also gave up six hits - but only one earned run, stranding four Clippers through his seven strong innings of work in which Topoozian threw just 81 pitches.

The Clippers, coming off a lackluster offensive performance in which they had almost been shut out by Tyler Sharp, trailed 6-1 heading into the eighth inning, where a solo homer by Chris Caffrey (2-4) and an RBI double by Nathan Etheridge (1-4) made it 6-3.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jacob Cox came on for Sonoma, leading the league (and holding the Stompers’ single-season franchise record) with 11 saves. A leadoff home run by Jacob Barfield (4-4), Barfield’s second of the game, gave Barfield his first multi-homer game in professional baseball, and also gave him his fifth hit overall - of which four are home runs. It also made it a 6-4 ballgame, and with one out, a pinch-hit solo blast by Alan Mocahbee (5) pulled the Clippers to within one.

Despite a two-out single by Pedro Barrios (1-5), and then a crafty advance on a wild pitch, Martinez was unable to tie the game, Cox induced a groundout off the bat of the pinch-hitter Devin Carter (0-1) to end the game and secure his 12th save of 2018.

The Clippers head to Pittsburg for two games next week, before kicking off their longest homestand of the year with a weekend split set against the Pacifics and the Silverados.

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