Blasi had another big game in the tough loss.
Sacramento won their division with good pitching and good defense, but those aspects of the River Cats' game went south in Game Two of their Divisional Playoff Series. Sacramento lost in a walk-off fashion for a second consecutive night, this time by a score of 11-10.
They say that pitching and defense win championships, and Sacramento will have to get a whole lot more of both in Games Three through Five to advance to the PCL Championship Series. In Game Two of the Divisional Series, the River Cats committed five errors that led to six unearned runs. The River Cats also blew leads of 5-0 and 10-6 en route to a heart-breaking 11-10 loss to Salt Lake. Sacramento will need to win three straight to avoid going home early.
Game Two got off to a great start for Sacramento. Through three innings, the River Cats looked to be in control of the contest. Sacramento was up 5-0 thanks to homeruns by Kevin Melillo and Lou Merloni and an RBI single by Daric Barton. River Cats' starter Mike Madsen was also hot early, striking out seven in three scoreless innings.
The wheels fell off a bit in the fourth inning for the River Cats. Madsen faced five batters in the inning and retired none of them. The first two batters reached on errors, one by Gregorio Petit and the other by Nick Blasi. Then Madsen allowed a single, which was made worse by a throwing error by Jorge Piedra. After a walk and another single, Madsen was done for the night. He would eventually be charged with four unearned runs in three innings of work.
Jerry Blevins relieved Madsen in the fourth. He struck out the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-run single. He then struck out the next batter to end the inning. Blevins worked the next two innings without allowing a run. His final line score was impressive: three innings, two hits, no runs, one walk and seven strikeouts.
Sacramento would gain some breathing room in the top of the sixth inning when Piedra singled home two runs, giving Sacramento a 7-4 lead. That cushion would disappear in the bottom of the seventh, however, when Jermaine Van Buren allowed two runs in one-third of an inning to make the game 7-6.
The River Cats' offense was resilient all night long and they came back swinging in the eighth inning. Melillo began the inning with a walk and a stolen base. Barton then singled him home, and then scored himself on a Piedra double. After a Jeremy Brown single moved Piedra to third, J.D. Closser brought him home. That made the score 10-6 and it looked like the River Cats were on their way to evening up the series.
It wasn't to be. In the bottom of the eighth, Salt Lake scored three times to bring the game back to a one-run affair. Ron Flores, who had retired the final two batters in the seventh, began the eighth by striking out a batter. However, he allowed a walk and then a run-scoring double and he was pulled. Brad Ziegler came on and he allowed Flores' run to score and one more run, bringing the score to 10-9 Sacramento. Brown made the second of his two errors in the inning.
Ziegler stayed in for the bottom of the ninth with Sacramento clinging to a one-run lead, and he immediately got into trouble. Ziegler allowed a single to Brandon Wood and a double to Matt Brown, moving Wood to third. Jeff Gray relieved Ziegler at this point. Facing Adam Pavkovich, Gray worked the count full, but then allowed a single and both runs scored, ending the game.
Ziegler was stuck with the loss, having allowed three runs (two earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Sacramento pitchers allowed 11 runs on 15 hits, although only five runs were earned. The River Cats struck out 17 Bees batters in the game.
Blasi was the offensive hero of the game for the River Cats, going 4-6 with three runs scored out of the lead-off spot. He has six hits in 10 at-bats thus far in the series. Melillo had two runs scored, two RBI and he reached base three times. Barton had three more hits and two RBI, raising his RBI total to six in two games. Piedra had two hits and three RBIs, and Merloni had two hits and two RBI. Brown had three hits in five at-bats.
Sacramento will return home to try to fend off elimination on Friday, sending Brad Knox to the hill.