Live From Sacramento: River Cats v. Iowa Cubs

Juan Dominguez threw 6.1 solid innings on Wed.

SACRAMENTO -- In a battle of two talented hurlers with major league experience, Juan Dominguez and the Sacramento River Cats came out ahead against the Iowa Cubs and their promising right-hander Angel Guzman. In arguably his best start of the season, Dominguez mixed his fastball, slider and change-up effectively all night. We have the details inside...

Before the season started, a match-up of Juan Dominguez and Angel Guzman would have created quite a lot of buzz. Both right-handers came into the season with high expectations, but both have been inconsistent thus far. Dominguez has been especially inconsistent in his first season with Sacramento, mixing in an occasional good start with a number of poor outings.

Dominguez has been better of late, however, and he earned his third win over his last four starts with a strong 6.1 inning performance on Wednesday. The sometimes mercurial right-hander showed good poise on the mound early on. In the first inning, Dominguez allowed a single to I-Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot and a bloop double to right fielder Buck Coats to put runners at second and third with only one out. Dominguez bore down on the I-Cubs at that point, however, striking out former Minnesota Twin Michael Restovich and prospect Micah Hoffpauir on a pair of nasty off-speed pitches to end the threat.

Dominguez would go on to strike out seven batters over his 6.1 innings of work. He showed good command throughout the game, allowing only two walks, one of which came when Dominguez was tiring in the seventh. Of his 100 pitches, 66 were strikes.

The only real blemish on Dominguez's evening came in the second inning when the newly acquired I-Cubs left fielder Luis Montanez hit an opposite field solo homerun. The ball initially appeared to be a medium-deep fly-out, but it kept carrying in the warm Sacramento air right out of the ballpark. Dominguez would allow one-out doubles in the third and fourth innings, but in both instances, he was able to retire the next two batters without the runner even advancing to third.

For most of the game, the I-Cubs right hander Guzman was matching Dominguez dominant inning for dominant inning. He struck out the first two hitters he saw in the game and worked through the first two frames with relative ease. He ran into some trouble in the third inning when John Baker led off with a single and advanced to second on Charles Thomas' seeing-eye base-hit up the middle on a hit and run. Both runners moved up a base on Doug Clark's sacrifice bunt and Baker came home on Keith Ginter's long sacrifice fly which tied the game at one.

Guzman would run into more trouble in the fifth inning and once again Thomas was in the middle of it. With one-out, the River Cats' centerfielder singled and then advanced to second on a balk. He moved to third on a single by Clark and the bases were then loaded when Ginter walked. Guzman, who had had good control for most of the game, got wild at this point and plunked Hiram Bocachica on the upper-back/neck area to force home a run. Nate Espy followed with a sacrifice fly and the River Cats had a 3-1 lead.

The score would remain 3-1 until the seventh inning when, with reliever Jerome Williams on the mound, Sacramento would pounce for two more runs. Ginter began the inning with a walk and he advanced to second on a single by Bocachica. Espy then singled to load the bases and Scott McClain would deliver the big blow of the game, a two-run ground-rule double. Sacramento would add one more run in the eighth inning, when Thomas came home on a wild pitch by I-Cubs reliever Mark Watson.

Matt Roney worked 1.2 innings of scoreless relief to bridge the gap between Dominguez and the ninth inning. The final frame would get a little hairy for the River Cats, however. John Birtwell came on with a 6-1 lead, but he couldn't finish out the inning. He allowed a walk, a run and two hits before recording an out. After another walk loaded the bases, Birtwell was pulled in favor of sometimes closer Jason Karnuth. Karnuth snuffed the I-Cubs rally immediately, striking out Geovany Soto and getting Augie Ojeda to bounce it back to the pitcher to end the game.

Stars Of The Game

Juan Dominguez: Dominguez showed why the A's coveted him this off-season with an outstanding performance on Wednesday. He had his plus off-speed pitch working, and he kept his fastball low in the strike zone for most of the game. He worked both sides of the plate well, keeping hitters off-balance all night.

Charles Thomas: Thomas reached base four times, going 3-3 with a walk and two runs scored. He also threw out a runner trying to advance from first to third on a base-hit and made a nice play on a drive over his head in center.

Hiram Bocachica: Bocachica was a catalyst for Sacramento for most of the night. He singled and stole a base in the first inning, drove in a run by being hit with a pitch in the fifth, singled and scored in the seventh and walked in the eighth.

Mike Fontenot: Fontenot had a single, a double and a walk in three official plate appearances and he helped turn two double-plays and made a strong throw home to force a runner at the plate in the seventh inning for the I-Cubs.

Scary Moment, part 1: Guzman was hit in the upper-body by a rocket off the bat of Jeremy Brown with two-outs in the fourth inning. It looked at first like it hit him in the head, but it later appeared that it just grazed his head and hit him in the cap. Guzman stayed down briefly, regained his composure and got back on the mound to pitch after two practice tosses. He recovered to strikeout Mike Rouse on a nasty off-speed pitch to end the inning.

Scary Moment, part 2: With the bases loaded and one-out in the fifth, Guzman hit Bocachica on the upper back/neck with a pitch. Bocachica stayed down for awhile, but then trotted to first with a painful RBI. The utilityman has had a lot of bruises from being hit by pitches lately. He has been battling wrist problems since being beaned in spring training 2005, and he was hit in the elbow with a pitch last weekend while with Stockton. He shook off the effects of this beaning and stayed in for the rest of the game, contributing another hit and a walk by the end of the night.

Strange Play of the Game: Guzman threw an 0-1 pitch to Doug Clark in the fifth and he went through his whole motion – but forgot to throw the ball. It squirted out of his hand and hit him on the knee. Thomas ran from first and was thrown out, but after an umpires' conference, Thomas was awarded second on a balk call. He would later come around to score.

Defensive Play of the Game: With two-on and two-out in the fifth, Scott McClain rocketed a hard groundball down the left-field line. Third baseman Casey McGehee laid out and smothered the ball, then got up and threw out McClain by an eyelash to end the inning.

No Pie for You: After collecting five hits on Tuesday, Cubs prospect Felix Pie went 0-4 with two strikeouts on Wednesday. He swung at the first pitch in both his second and third at-bats and made outs both times on those swings.

Good Relief: Matt Roney came on with runners at second and third and one-out in the seventh and he kept the runs from scoring, He then worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Of his 18 pitches, 14 were strikes.

Jason Karnuth came on with the score 6-2 and the bases-loaded with one-out in the ninth. He struck out I-Cubs' catcher Geovany Soto and then induced Augie Ojeda to hit into a groundout to the pitcher. He earned his seventh save of the season.

Bad Relief: Jerome Williams allowed two runs in one-third of an inning. He walked two, allowed three hits and left with the bases juiced and nobody out. Mark Watson made his line look better by inducing a force-out at home and a double-play in relief of Williams.

John Birtwell allowed his first run of the season in the ninth. He allowed three hits and a walk before departing with a run-in, one-out and the bases loaded.

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