It is an annual event for the Stockton Ports to battle the San Jose Giants for supremacy in the Cal League's Northern Division. Even in 2008 when the Ports won the Cal League title, they were forced to make a second-half surge for the playoffs after the Giants claimed the first-half division crown.
This year, the match-up has been one-sided in favor of the Giants. On Tuesday, the Ports were shut-out by the Giants for the fifth time this season. Stockton is 1-8 against San Jose this year and Ports' hitters are batting only .197 as a team versus the Giants. After a 12-17 month of May, the Ports are nine games behind the Giants for first and are 27-25 on the year (or 26-17 versus every other team in the league but San Jose).
Stockton will have another crack at the Giants, this time at home, over the weekend. First, the Bakersfield Blaze, who are currently tied for second with Stockton, come to town starting on Wednesday night.
Comings and Goings
It was a busy month of transactions for the Ports, who saw their roster impacted by the needs of the A's other California-based affiliate, the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Relievers Brett Hunter and Ben Hornbeck, in particular, rode the Stockton-Sacramento shuttle this month to help out the River Cats when the Oakland A's borrowed a chunk of Sacramento's pitching staff to cover for injuries at the big league level.
The biggest loss for the Ports this month was catcher Max Stassi, who underwent right shoulder surgery. He will miss the bulk of – if not the rest of – the season recovering from that procedure. Stassi had been DHing exclusively for the Ports while rehabbing the shoulder, but it wasn't responding to treatment.
Ironically, catcher Ryan Ortiz, who had to work through his own shoulder issues earlier this season, replaced Stassi on the Stockton roster. Ortiz, who was the Ports' starting catcher last season before being sidelined by right shoulder soreness, began the year rehabbing in extended spring training. He is expected to do a mix of catching and DHing as the Ports' ease him back into the everyday catching routine.
Infielder Jason Christian was assigned to Stockton from Double-A Midland on Saturday but he has yet to make his debut for the Ports.
There were a number of changes to the Stockton pitching staff this month. Starters A.J. Griffin and Jake Brown were promoted from Low-A Burlington. Both of them arrived with ERAs below 2.00. Griffin and Brown replaced Fabian Williamson and Gary Daley, Jr. in the rotation. Williamson was sent back to extended spring training to work on some mechanical changes and Daley, Jr. was promoted to Midland.
In the bullpen, the Ports lost the services of Ryan Doolittle, Max Peterson and Connor Hoehn for a time to the disabled list. Doolittle remains on the DL with a flexor tendon issue in his elbow, while Peterson has been sent back to extended spring training and Hoehn has returned to the Stockton bullpen. Relievers Jeff Lyman and Scott Hodsdon were both released from the organization. In addition to the arrivals of Hornbeck and Hunter in the Stockton bullpen, right-hander Chris Mederos was added to the mix. He was promoted from Burlington after serving as the Bees' closer at the start of the season.
It was a big power month for Michael Choice, Dusty Coleman and Mitchell LeVier, who hit seven, six and six homers, respectively. Choice posted solid numbers overall, putting up a line of .254/.353/.509 in May. Coleman struggled with the exception of homeruns and stolen bases (six in seven chances), however, batting only .171/.271/.385. LeVier hit .245/.263/.482 and had a three-outfield-assist game, as well.
Choice led the team in OPS in May (862). Finishing just behind him with an 842 mark was infielder Michael Gilmartin, who had an impressive .289/.358/.485 slashline. Conner Crumbliss also had a big month of May, helping to erase his disastrous April. Crumbliss walked a team-high 25 times and posted a .295/.448/.364 line. He also swiped seven bags in eight chances. Anthony Aliotti joined Crumbliss in wearing out the path to first. The Saint Mary's alum had 22 walks and a .389 OBP. Myrio Richard hit .275/.353/.363 in May after missing all but the final six games of April.
On the pitching side of the ledger, Murphy Smith led the way for the starters with a 3.44 ERA and a 21:5 K:BB ratio in 34 innings over six May starts. Rob Gilliam had a 3.67 ERA in five starts with 28 strike-outs and 11 walks in 34.1 innings. Daley, Jr. went 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA in four starts before his promotion to Midland. Griffin made an immediate impact for the Ports by allowing only two runs in 14 innings over his first two Stockton starts. He struck-out 15 and walked only two and flirted with a no-hitter in his first Cal League outing.
The Stockton bullpen pitched well, for the most part. Scott Deal (17 IP), Josh Lansford (16 IP) and A.J. Huttenlocker (15.2 IP) were the workhorses. Deal had a 3.71 ERA, while Lansford had an impressive 20:2 K:BB ratio and a 1.69 ERA. Huttenlocker had a 1.15 ERA and 13 strike-outs against four walks.
Hornbeck and Hunter also had a positive impact while they were with the Ports. In 8.2 innings, Hornbeck allowed only one run and he struck-out 14 while walking only one. Hornbeck induced four groundouts for every flyout. Hunter allowed two earned runs in 9.2 innings with five strike-outs and two walks. He also did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground with a 2.33 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
Jose Guzman led the team with three saves in May. The right-hander had a 1.23 ERA and 17 strike-outs in 14.2 innings. He walked six.