Thursday Pebble Report: Modesto Advances To Championship Series Behind Tyler Matzek

Tyler Matzek

High-A Modesto - W 6-2, CAL Semi-Finals Game 5, Nuts Win Series 3-2

Modesto lost their first two games of their playoff series in Bakersfield, putting their strong season on the brink after just two games in the playoffs. They responded in a big way, winning three consecutive elimination games at home to advance to the California League Championship. Lenn Sakata's team broke out early and cruised to victory.

The Blaze started James Allen, who had not pitched in the California League all season, and the Nuts took advantage of his nerves. Joey Wong singled and Rafael Ortega doubled quickly. Dallas Tarleton walked to load the bases, and Allen walked Jared Clark on four pitches to plate a run. With that, Allen's night was done after just 11 pitches. Tim Smalling the doubled on the tenth pitch of his at-bat, and Modesto continued to pile on the offense with a Juan Crousset RBI single a run-scoring double play off the bat of Delta Cleary (2008, 37th round). Cristhian Adames (2007, DR) singled in the second, advanced to third on two wild pitches and scored on a Tarleton sacrifice fly to give the Nuts six runs. Their offense would stall there, but it would prove to be plenty.

Tyler Matzek (2009, 1st round) was very effective again, especially early, as he retired 9 of the first 10 men he faced, including striking out the side in the third inning. He extended his scoreless inning streak to 17 until two walks, a single and a run-scoring single in the fifth broke up the shutout. Matzek exited after 5.1 IP with that one run allowed, six strikeouts, four walks and three singles over 99 pitches. His exit earned a standing ovation for the second time this week from the home Modesto crowd, the same crowd that suffered through his 0-3, 9.82 tenure with the Nuts in 2011.

There were two major keys in this series. Once the Nuts fell behind two games to zero, they got three consecutive home games, and three consecutive strong pitching performance, from Jorge de la Rosa, Christian Bergman, Josh Mueller and Tyler Matzek and the bullpen. The staff held Bakersfield to 5 runs on 18 hits over three games in large part due to 13.1 IP of relief with just one run allowed. Also, Kyle Parker's replacement Juan Crousset recorded a hit in all five games, going 8-for-18 with a home run and two doubles in the series.

Modesto now advances to the California League Championship in search of their first league title since becoming a Rockies affiliate. They will be the "road" team against the Lancaster JetHawks (Astros), who own a big-time offensive park, but Modesto will open the series tonight at home at 8:05 MDT. After home games Thursday and Friday, the final three games of the series are scheduled for Lancaster. Of note: Modesto is 5-0 at home and 0-6 on the road in September. It's that time of year where travel carries more weight.

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The Asheville Tourists hit the road to continue their playoff series in Greensboro. Game 3 of the tied series will feature Tyler Anderson on the mound for Asheville at 5 MDT. You can listen to six straight hours of playoff baseball!

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