The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes were celebrating on and off the field on Sunday night after they clinched the wild card spot with an exciting walk-off win in the bottom of the tenth inning against the Lancaster JetHawks. The Quakes (who are now an overall 65-75 on the season and 34-35 in the second half) were able to defeat the first-place Lancaster team in order to move on to the playoffs. The Quakes have not reached the Cal League postseason since 2011.
It was a pitcher’s duel for most of the game which was tied 1-1 until the bottom of the tenth. Lindsey Caughel pitched quite
well for the Quakes, and the ace only allowed one run through seven innings. The only Lancaster run came on a solo homerun by Brandon Meredith in the fourth inning. The Quakes tied up the game in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Corey Seager. Vince Velasquez, the JetHawk’s starter, looked like he had some great stuff. He only allowed one run as well through six innings.
We talked to pitching coach Matt Herges after the win, and he had great things to say about pitcher Lindsey Caughel:
“I got him being a big league pitcher someday. He showed me this second half not only is he our ace, but he’s got the intangibles. He has a slider that’s big league ready.”
When asked how he’ll prepare his staff for the postseason:
“For most of these guys it’s probably pretty new to them. I just encourage them to enjoy this. It’s something-it’s a privilege. It’s something you’ll never forget. Enjoy it. There’s no need to press. Just have fun. Be loose and compete.”
Chris O’Brien and Noel Cuevas made stand out plays in the game. With Craig Stem pitching in the top of the tenth inning after the two teams had locked horns in a 1-1 tie, Cuevas made a strong throw from right field on a two-out single by Dan Gulbransen. Chris Epps, who was at second base, got a bad jump while attempting to score on his teammate’s base hit and was thrown out at the plate in the key play. Not only was Cuevas’s throw right on the money, but O’Brien was able to handle the throw on a hop and tag out Epps to give the Quakes the opportunity to win it in the bottom half of the inning. The home crowd exploded on what was the second great play by the Quakes to throw out a JetHawk at the plate in the game.
Then in the home half of the tenth, O’Brien and Cuevas helped their team end it in walk-off style as well. Cuevas hit a lead-off double which bounced off the top of the center field wall. At first look I thought he had hit it out. Corey Seager, who was attempting to bunt Cuevas over at first, got the job done by hitting a grounder to the right side which allowed Cuevas to advance to third. O’Brien then singled off Lancaster closer Travis Bellew to bring in the winning run and clinch the Quakes a postseason spot. The Quakes ran on to the field to celebrate their postseason berth as the crowd celebrated along.
We talked with Chris O’Brien after the game and when asked about his big hit which brought in the winning run and he had this to say:
“I just needed a good pitch to hit. It was elevated, and I did something with it.”
O’Brien also explained how the team turned things around:
“The first half it was looking real bad. We were a lot of games out. The second half we turned it around.”
I asked O’Brien if beating the first-place JetHawks with this walk-off win will help if the two teams should meet again in the playoffs:
“It gives you a good feeling when you beat them like that. It just tells you you can compete with anyone at anytime.”
The playoffs will begin for the Quakes on Wednesday as they host the Inland Empire 66ers at LoanMart Field in a best of three
series. Monday will be the Quakes final regular season game before they begin their postseason play.
My first trip to LoanMart Field was an exciting one, and the beautiful stadium is a site to see. The outfield is back dropped by the San Bernardino Mountains, and the field and stadium are delightfully clean and welcoming. The connection with the Dodgers (the Quakes are the Dodgers Advanced-A affiliates) is spread throughout the stadium, and there is a mix of Dodger fans and Quakes fans who both enjoy the game. In fact, I saw a lot of Matt Kemp jerseys tonight, although he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in his third rehab game with the Quakes. This night belonged to the Quakes and not Matt Kemp. Even though Kemp’s presence drew fans from around the Los Angeles area to Rancho Cucamonga, his game did not affect the Quakes in this their special night. I will be looking at Matt Kemp’s night and rehab progress in a subsequent post.
My final thoughts on the Quakes is that there are some excellent pitchers on the team who may be wearing Dodger Blue in the future. Lindsey Caughel looked solid and polished, and Edwin Carl and Craig Stem (who collected the win) pitched three scoreless innings collectively as well. Corey Seager, the youngest player in the league, will need some time to adjust to the tougher pitching in the league. Seager looks quite big for his position, but he seems comfortable and natural at shortstop. The Quakes also have some prospective catchers in Pratt Maynard and Chris O’Brien. Having catching depth in the farm system is always a good thing.
Overall my experience in Rancho Cucamonga was great, and I look forward to attending more games. It’s intriguing to watch what could be future Dodgers take the field at LoanMart. We wish the Quakes good luck in their postseason!