Flores, Quakes force Game 5, where pitching will be key again

Manny Flores pitched eight shutout innings and he combined with Nick Pugliese on a six-hitter as the Quakes blanked San Jose 4-0 in Game 4 on Sunday night at the Epicenter, evening the best-of-five Championship Series at two games apiece.

The pitching matchup for Game 5 will decide whether the Quakes win their first league title since 1994 or San Jose repeats as league champions.

On one hand, is Quakes right-hander Kyle Hurst, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 3. The Quakes haven’t needed him to pitch since they swept High Desert in 2 games and ousted Lake Elsinore in Game 4 of the best-of-five South Finals.

Hurst’s overall numbers aren’t impressive. He had a 5-3 record and a 5.31 ERA in the regular season. But, he was 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in his final four starts in the regular season. His one appearance against San Jose? Don’t ask. It was June 1 at San Jose and he allowed eight earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in a spot-start. But that was long before he started to figure things out.

San Jose right-hander Justin Fitzgerald, who pitched seven shutout innings in Game 1, will pitch on three days rest in Game 5. That’s almost unheard of in the minor leagues, even in the playoffs.

Fitzgerald was 10-6 with a 3.45 ERA in the regular season, but never even pitched with as few as four days off between starts in the first half. In the first half  he had at least five or six days off between each of his starts. In the second half, it was four or five. Between his first two playoff starts, he had four days off.

This is the 24-year-old Fitzgerald’s third pro season and the first pro season in which he started. So he has never started on three days rest as a pro.