After 27 games in the Pacific Association the Sonoma Stompers have claimed the title “team to beat” posting a 21-6 record. Pittsburg Diamonds (15-12) sit six games back with 12 games to play in the first half. With nine head-to-head matchups between the clubs things could change quickly in the chase for the first half pennant.
On paper the teams seem to match up well; both have players atop the league leaders in every category. Pittsburg has the top two hitters in the league in triple crown candidate Vinny Guglietti (.433 avg, 5 HR, 33 RBI) and Wes Wallace (.350). Three others, Jose Garcia, Yiecok Calderon and Javier Marticorona, are amongst the top nine.
Marcus Bradley is the top Stompers hitter posting a .323 average. Four of his teammates can be found in the top 12 in hitting which has contributed to the brilliant start of the season in Sonoma.
Starting pitching is another spot where the teams are seemly strong with seven of the top eight in ERA leaders from either Sonoma or Pittsburg. Tyler Stirewalt leads all pitchers with a 2.68 ERA in a league-high 40.1 innings, but his tough luck win-loss record at just 2-3 after six starts. Corey MacDonald (2.88) and Skyler Shaw-Fuss (3.85) have also each won two games for Pittsburg so far.
Leading the Stompers starters has been Juan Espinosa (2-0; 2.83 ERA) who has struck out 28 batters while walking just 12 in 28.2 innings. Tyrelle Harris (2-1; 3.07 ERA), Tyler Garkow (4-0; 3.75 ERA) and Scott Plaza (3-0; 4.45 ERA) give Sonoma four of the top eight league ERA leaders.
With six games separating the two clubs the difference might be found in the bullpen. Sonoma has had consistent performances while Pittsburg have seen many large leads disappear later in games. DJ Sharabi and Ryan Richards have nine appearances each for the Stomper with an ERA under 2.00 and excellent strikeout-to-walk ratios.
Pittsburg relief pitcher Justin Lawrence has been solid so far is striking out seven while walking two, posting a 1.92 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched. Other middle relief has been good at times, while poor at others. Dylan Hecht (0-1; 6;13 ERA) and Wes Tramble (5.58 ERA) have shown they can do the job when called upon, as has closer Jordan Brink, who does have four saves, but a 5.72 ERA. Recently re-signed Joe Lewis, who began the season in the American Association, could help this group once he finds his form.
“It’s the biggest series of the year so far and we definitely need a sweep for a realistic shot at a first half title,” said manager Aaron Miles. “We have the pitching lined up for a run at the sweep.”
With so many games between the two teams coming up fans will find out soon if the Diamonds are indeed contenders.
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday at Sonoma, 6 PM
Wednesday at Sonoma, 6 PM
Thursday at Sonoma, 6 PM
Friday vs San Rafael, 6:30 PM
Saturday vs San Rafael, 5 PM
Sunday vs San Rafael, 1 PM