Pickles look to snap skid
The Portland Pickles went down hard Saturday before 1,977 fans at Walker Stadium.
The Pickles suffered their fifth loss in a row.
The Gold Sox tightened the Great West League playoff race with an amost wire-to-wire, 8-3 victory.
It was their second defeat in two nights to Marysville.
The finale of the three-game series is 5 p.m. Sunday.
Things have been rough on the Pickles on the field and on the injury front, too. A knee injury has shelved outfielder Joey Cooper for the rest of the season. Cooper, who also played for the Pickles in 2016, was a fan favorite. He was typically the team's leadoff batter and center fielder, and he was hitting .297, with 19 RBIs in 25 games.
Manager Jeff Lahti tried putting slugging outfielder/first baseman Zander Clarke at the top of the order on Saturday, and Clarke had two hits. But Lahti said having the GWL's home run leader bat first wasn't going to solve whatever is ailing the Pickles.
"We're not doing something right, and we need to change it," said the former St. Louis Cardinals reliever from Hood River. "And they've got to do it. I can't change it. The coaches can't change it. We can't throw for them, can't catch for them, can't hit for them."
Fourth-place Portland entered Saturday night 1 1/2 games ahead of fifth-place Marysville in the Great West League standings.
With the top four finishers slated to make the GWL playoffs, the game took on added meaning, even with 26 games still remaining in the regular season.
Marysville made the most of the opportunity.
Down 1-0 after giving up a run in the first inning, the Pickles did take a 2-1 lead in the second. Matt Hardy led off with a double and scored on a double by Koty Fallon, who came home on Clarke's two-out single.
But Marysville batted around in the third and scored three runs to lead 4-2, although the Gold Sox left the bases loaded.
The Pickles left Tate Budnick on third base in the third.
In the fourth and with two out, Bobby Kinne walked and Clarke singled for Portland. But they were stranded on first and second.
Fallon, from Western Oregon University, doubled in a run in the eighth, but that was all the Pickles could get out of their eight hits in the game.
On the mound, Portland starter Max Jones (2-2) allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits and one walk in five innings. He struck out three.
Andrew Eppenbach came on in relief to open the sixth, and the Gold Sox jumped on him for a couple of hits and then a three-run home run by Jason Dicochea, boosting the visitors' lead to 8-2.
Dicochea finished the game with five RBIs.
Reliever Nick Torres, from the University of Jamestown (North Dakota) made his Pickles debut in the eighth and was relatively effective, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.
On Sunday, the Pickles will start 6-4 Aussie left-hander Josh Hendrickson, who has been their ace. They'll have a rested Dustin Redish, who has been their most efficient reliever of late.
It's a big game.
"The baseball gods have not been happy with us — losing five in a row at home isn't good," Lahti said. "But that's baseball. Every team goes through a stretch like this that makes you think about what you're doing and what you need to do better."
In other GWL games on Saturday, the Medford Potters fell 6-4 at home against the Lincoln Potters, and the Chico Heat won 6-4 at the Yuba City Bears.
Medford (25-11) now has a only a 1 1/2-game lead on second-place Lincoln (23-12). Chico (21-16) is third, with a six-game edge now on Portland. Yuba City (10-25) is in sixth in the six-team league, 3 1/2 games behind Marysville.
The 60-game regular season continues through Aug. 5.