EUGENE, Ore.-When the Ducks can’t get hits—and Tuesday they couldn’t—the next best thing is stopping the opponent from getting any either. Oregon (7-1) held the Portland Pilots to just six hits, while striking the in-state opponent out 15 times, in a 3-1 win at PK Park.
The Ducks opened with Christian Jones—making his first start since the 2011 campaign— allowing just two base runners, while striking out five batters.
Jones had been relegated to the bullpen in his first three outings, in an effort to gauge where he was arm was at after undergoing Tommy John surgery just over a year ago.
“I’ve got to get back to really letting the ball go,” he said. “I’m kind of back that mental block of ‘is it hurting or not?’ It was cold and it was a little stiff tonight. So I was kind of questioning it. I need to realize that it’s healthy and just let it go.
From there the Ducks turned to another previously ailing pitcher, Jeff Gold, who took a hard-hit liner to the ankle versus Hawaii. Gold said the training staff had determined that nothing was broken and that the injury was just a bone bruise.
Gold appeared to be more than OK, allowing only one runner on—a hit batter—while turning a career-best seven Pilots away on strikes.
“I felt good in the pen and it translated out there,” Gold said. “I had all four for strikes I could throw and Horton just called pitches well and I executed.”
“He was awfully sharp tonight. They had a lot of right-handers in there, because we started a left-hander, so it ended up being pretty good match-ups for Jeff. He did a nice job of mixing his pitches. He had a nice fastball,” head coach George Horton said.
Unlike their past two wins, Oregon got on the board early, when Scott Heineman reached base on a walk and was knocked in on a Ryon Healy single in the bottom of the first.
It was Heineman again in the third, drawing a hit-by-pitch and then advancing to third on a wild pitch. Brett Thomas hit a shallow fly to left to bring the speedy Heineman in.
Altobelli scored in similar fashion in the fifth inning, off of a Heineman sac fly.
The Ducks center fielder was held without a hit, but managed to be effective by drawing two hit by pitches, scoring two runs and knocking in one runner.
“I was just battling at the plate, I happened to get hit by a couple of pitches,” he said. “I got some good opportunities on the base path to do something. It was just a hard-nosed night.”
For the third straight game, the Ducks had the equal to or less hits than runs, this time totaling three hits to go with three runs. On Saturday and Sunday they were held to four and two hits in wins over Loyola Marymount.
“We need to get on track offensively. Their guys did a good job of mixing their pitches. I didn’t think our bats were solid, a lot of lazy fly balls. But, when we’re not hitting and you can find the way to win in other ways and create runs… we’ll take it.
“Our offensive coaches will get that fixed. Like I said, it’s not if, it’s when,” Horton said.
The strikeout proved the Ducks’ best weapon against their own offensive woes, as each of the first three Duck pitchers put two or more batters away via the ‘K’. Garritt Cleavinger struck out two in the eighth.
Cleavinger came out for the top of the ninth, but gave up a lead-off single to Cody Lenehan, bringing in Jimmie Sherfy for a save opportunity. Sherfy struggled to begin the inning, giving up a single to Jeff Melby, and followed that up with an RBI-double from Caleb Whalen.
Sherfy closed out the inning, with a strikeout, fly out and a line out. Giving him his third save of the season.