Padres’ Depth Pays Off In California League Playoffs

Image credit: San Diego Padres

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — The depth of the Padres’ system was a huge reason it ranked as the No. 1 farm system in baseball coming into the year.

Six months later, that depth propelled their high Class A affiliate into the California League championship series.

Adrian Martinez pitched five scoreless innings, Tucupita Marcano had three hits and three RBIs and Lake Elsinore beat Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers), 11-2, in Game 4 of the California League semifinals Saturday night. Lake Elsinore clinched the series three games to one and will face Visalia (D-backs) in the California League championship series. Game 1 is Tuesday at Lake Elsinore.

Martinez, 22, and Marcano, 19, spent most of the season at low Class A Fort Wayne and only joined Lake Elsinore within a week of the playoffs.

Despite their lack of experience at the level, both delivered. Martinez allowed only one hit in his five scoreless innings while Marcano broke the game open with a two-run double in the fifth.

“I think it says the world about the depth (of the system),” Lake Elsinore manager Tony Tarasco said. “And I think it says the world about the staff below us preparing those guys to come up a level and help out.”

Martinez surrendered a single to Jeren Kendall in the first inning and didn’t allow another hit the rest of the evening. He walked one and struck out six.

The Mexican righthander came out sitting 95-96 mph on his fastball and held his velocity the whole way while mixing in a late-breaking, mid-80s slider and deceptive, low-80s changeup with cutting action. He retired 13 of his final 14 batters, including the final two on swinging strikeouts.

Padres’ No. 9 prospect Luis Campusano opened the scoring with an RBI single in the third inning, and the Storm blew it open with a two-out rally in the fifth. Gabriel Arias and Eguy Rosario worked two-out walks against Rancho Cucamonga reliever Jose Martinez, and Tirso Ornelas, Lee Solomon and Olivier Basabe strung together back-to-back-to-back RBI singles to make it 4-0.

Marcano, the Padres’ No. 21 prospect, struck the final blow with a chopper down the left-field line for a two-run double.

“One thing you can say about this team is they’re relentless,” Tarasco said. “All year they’ve been getting better.”

Basabe added a bases-clearing double in the ninth, and Marcano singled him home to cap the scoring.

Righthander Henry Henry, another recent promotion from Fort Wayne, struck out six in two innings of relief. Five of his strikeouts came on his slider.

Kendall went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs to lead Rancho Cucamonga, the defending league champion and winner of both the first and second half Cal League South Division titles this year. Kendall notched the Quakes’ only hit against Martinez with a single through the left side in the first inning and added a two-run homer off of Henry in the sixth, his second home run in as many nights.

Michael Grove, the Dodgers’ top draft pick in 2018 and No. 24 prospect, got the start and pitched two scoreless innings. His fastball velocity ranged from 90-95 mph, an increase from 89-93 mph earlier this year as he moves further away from Tommy John surgery. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out three.

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