Bad news for California League hitters: Todd Stottlemyre of the Ventura County Gulls has developed a good curveball.
He gave a preview to the Fresno Giants on Tuesday, striking out 11 batters as the Gulls won, 4-3, at Ventura College.
Ventura County Manager Glenn Ezell called it Stottlemyre's best outing of the season. "His curveball had not been real good, still in a developmental stage," Ezell said. "Normally, he had to rely on his fastball and just a couple of curves, but he's really made strides with his curve in the last three or four games."
Stottlemyre (9-2) gave up just four hits in pitching nine innings for the first time this season. The 21-year-old right-hander had earlier completed a seven-inning game.
Stottlemyre, who is in his first professional season, retired the first nine batters he faced before running into trouble in the top of the fourth. After Tod McDonald reached base on an infield single, Stottlemyre struck out the next two batters. But Ty Dabney, second in the league in both hitting and runs batted in, followed with a little chopper in front of the plate.
"I didn't get off the mound well, so I tried to rush and lost my footing," Stottlemyre said. "I didn't get much on the throw. I slipped and hit him on the back. Then I kind of lost my concentration for a second and didn't bear down on the next few batters."
Stottlemyre threw a fastball down the middle to Scott Thompson, who drilled it to center field for a two-run double, and Tom Mathews followed with a double inside the first-base bag that scored Thompson and gave Fresno a 3-0 lead.
Fresno's Joe Olker, who had held the Gulls to two singles in the first four innings while striking out six, was roughed up in the bottom of the fifth, when the Gulls sent eight batters to the plate.
With two outs, a run in and runners at first and third, Eric Yelding singled up the middle to score Luis Reyna. Santiago Garcia followed with a double down the third-base line to score Jim Bishop and Yelding and put the Gulls ahead, 4-3.
Once the Gulls took the lead, Stottlemyre was nearly flawless.
"When I get a lead toward the fifth or sixth inning, I bear down a little extra," said Stottlemyre, who lowered his league-leading earned-run average 1.77.
"He was moving the slider real well outside," said Gull catcher Greg Myers, who returned to the lineup after missing a game with a bruised shoulder. Myers was 3-for-3, stole a base and threw out a runner attempting to steal second.
Olker (3-4) also settled down, allowing no runs on one hit before being relieved by Dave Hinnrichs in the eighth inning. But Stottlemyre was even better. After Gary Jones doubled to lead off the fifth inning, he retired the final 12 batters in order.
For Stottlemyre it was something of a return to form after his last outing against Salinas last Wednesday. He gave up two earned runs in five innings and did not stay in the game long enough to earn the victory in a 4-3 Gulls win.
"When they scored the runs, I said to myself, 'Oh no, here we go again,' " Stottlemyre said. "But once we got out of that inning, I was OK."
The Gulls came from behind to win for the 24th time in their last 30 games and cut the Palm Springs Angels' lead in the California League's Southern Division to three games. "It seems we get ourselves in a situation where we're down, and then we get base hits here and there and come back," said Gull Manager Glenn Ezell, whose team improved to 38-20. "I don't know if it's a trait I like but I have to commend them for it. They're never down and never out.". . . . Gull cleanup hitter Darryl Landrum struck out swinging in all four plate appearances. Landrum had been leading the league in home runs in early May when he suffered a broken thumb. But he has cooled off since being reinserted into the lineup three weeks ago. Landrum was batting .351 with seven home runs at the time of the injury and has batted only .197 with three home runs since.