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Chihuahuas 6, River Cats 7: Long games can be fun, too!

Why do night games before day games tend to drag on?

Sacramento can be a hot hot place, and thankfully the temperature was about ten degrees cooler than it was yesterday. It was a beautiful night for some AAA baseball as the El Paso Chihuahuas looked to take a second game from the Sacramento River Cats.

Tonight’s lineup saw a few changes from last night as the Chihuahuas faces righty starter Albert Suarez. Franchy Cordero went to Colorado with the “taxi squad”, so Colin Cowgill manned centerfield. Nick Buss, who came off the bench last night, got the start in leftfield. Chase d’Arnaud and Dusty Coleman switched spots with Coleman at short and d’Arnaud at second base. Tony Cruz was behind the dish in place of last night’s starter Rocky Gale. The starter for tonight’s game was Zach Lee.

El Paso Chihuahuas vs. Sacramento River Cats lineups for Tuesday, July 18th.

Suarez opened the game by striking out leadoff hitter Rafael Ortega. Chase d’Arnaud got the action started with a single up the middle, and Christian Villanueva moved him to third base with a double that deflected off the mitt of first baseman Ryan Lollis. Ryan Schimpf, who’s been struggling lately, popped out to shortstop Orlando Calixte. Nick Buss, fresh off an appearance in the AAA All-Star game, grounded out to leave two stranded.

Zach Lee was once a top prospect in the Dodgers organization, but he’s been chasing the shadows of his former glory for quite some time now. He took the rock for the Chihuahuas tonight, bringing his over-the-top delivery and varied repertoire as well as his 6.80 ERA to the mound. With a fastball that barely enters the 90’s, he relies on breaking stuff and command to generate outs. He induced a 1-3 groundout from leadoff hitter Calixte, but Jarrett Parker smoked a ground rule double over the left-center fence. Chris Shaw lifted a fly to straightaway leftfield and Mac Williamson popped out to second. Lee didn’t look sharp to start the game, but he kept the damage at bay.

Suarez struck out the side in order in the top of the second. Zach Lee gave up a walk to former Padre farmhand Tim Federowicz, and undersized Juniel Querecuto made him pay with a bloop to shallow left, which brought Federowicz around to score. No crooked number, but it was a shaky inning for Lee. In the bottom of the inning, Rafael Ortega got on base with a sharp single through the right side of the infield, and then he stole second by swimming around Querecuto’s tag. Christian Villanueva popped out to leftfield to strand another runner.

Lee issued a leadoff walk to Jarrett Parker, a very Padres way to start an inning. Chris Shaw then drove a ball to the deepest part of right-center to bring Parker around to score. Once again, Lee stranded the straggler and put a non-crooked number up, and once again it was an adventurous inning.

Lefthander Matt Gage took the mound for the River Cats in the fourth inning. Suarez pitched well, but he was just called up from double-A and must have been on a short leash. Gage got Schimpf to go down swinging and Buss grounded out to first base. Veteran catcher Tony Cruz poked a single over the second baseman, Colin Cowgill reached on a swinging bunt that third baseman Ryder Jones failed to cleanly bare-hand, and Dusty Coleman drew a walk. Of course the Chihuahuas would load the bases with two outs for the pitcher, but Zach Lee came through with a single to leftfield, scoring two and putting runners at the corners. A wild pitch let Coleman score, and Federowicz was too busy pouting to get the ball quckly, letting Lee go from first to third on the play. Nick Schulz, straight off the plane from AA San Antonio, pinch hit for Ortega and struck out to kill the run, but the Chihuahuas put three runs on the board to take the lead 3-2 after four full innings.

Tim Federowicz hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Dusty Coleman laid out for and made a beautiful snag, only to have first baseman Christian Villanueva fail to dig the fairly easy throw. Score the play E-3, putting the leadoff runner on for the first time. Ryan Lollis singled, and Fed-X went first-to-third on the play. Juniel Querecuto lifted a sacrifice fly to rightfield, scoring Federowicz and tying the game. Pitcher Matt Gage dropped a sacrifice bunt that Villanueva bobbled but still got the out at first base. Orlando Calixte flew out to end the inning, and once again Lee left a digit on the scoreboard.

Chase d’Arnaud led off the fifth with a double ripped right over the third base bag, and then he swiped third after getting a huge jump. Villanueva ripped a double over the third baseman, scorig d’Arnaud. Pitcher Matt Gage walked Ryan Schimpf, visibly laboring to find the strike zone. Nick Buss hit a dying quail into shallow leftfield, bringing Villanueva around from second base and leaving runners on first and second, still with no outs. Gage induced an infield fly from Tony Cruz and he got Nick Schulz to ground into a double play, but when the dust settled the Chihuahuas held a 5-3 lead in the middle of the fifth.

The River Cats started the bottom of the fifth with hard-hit singles from Jarrett Parker and Chris Shaw. A grounder to Ryan Schimpf off the bat of Mac Williamson got the lead runner out, but the throw was too late to get the double play. A walk to Ryder Jones brought pitching coach Bronswell Patrick out to the mound as Tyrell Jenkins warmed up in the bullpen. Lee got Federowicz to pop out in front of the mound, and after a tough at-bat he got Ryan Lollis to strike out swinging. Lee put up his first zero since the opening frame.

After Dusty Coleman led off the top of the fifth with a sharp single to left, Lee came on to hit and he laid down a beauty of a sacrifice bunt. It was all for naught, as Nick Schulz grounded out to first base and Chase d’Arnaud popped out to right. Interesting that Lee would bat for himself, as righty Tyrell Jenkins took the mound in relief of Lee in the botom of the fifth. Jenkins got Querecuto to pop out to short, and Wynton Bernard came on to hit in the pitcher’s spot, who struck out. Orlando Calixte singled on a tough chopper to third. Jarrett Parker grounded out to first base, and Tyrell Jenkins hung a goose egg on the board.

Roberto Gomez came into the game in the top of the seventh for the Cats, and Christian Villanueva welcomed him with his 18th homer of the season, an absolute bomb just inside the leftfield foul pole. Ryan Schimpf grounded out to second base, and Nick Buss hit a broken bat groundout to third base. Gomez pumps high-90’s gas but was having trouble finding the plate against catcher Tony Cruz. Cruz grounded out on a chopper to third base, but the damage was done. At the seventh inning stretch, the Chihuahuas led 6-3.

Tyrell Jenkins’ night was done after one inning, as lefty Keith Hessler took the ball for the bottom of the seventh. The journeyman lefty made some appearances for the Padres last season, but he’s struggled enough in AAA this year that the big league club hasn’t been calling. This was evident when Chris Shaw smoked a double into the leftfield corner to open the inning. He made Mac Williamson look silly, striking him out by climbing the ladder. Hessler plunked Ryder Jones with the first pitch he saw, bringing the tying run to the plate. Tim Federowicz hit a loopy fly up the first base line that evaded Villanueva and bounced just inside the line before bouncing out of play for a ground rule double. Shaw scored on the play. Ryan Lollis followed with a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield, scoring Jones. Juniel Querecuto grounded out to end the inning, but the River Cats closed the gap to one run at 6-5.

Roberto Gomez retired the side in order in the top of the eighth. Jason Jester came on to face the River Cats in the bottom of the eighth. Jester has a similar profile to Phil Maton - lots of mid-90’s fastballs with the occasional breaking ball mixed in, albeit without the legendary Maton spin rate. Jester induced a weak grounder frm pinch hitter Carlos Moncrief and then got a loud out from Orlando Calixte, who hit a high fly to deep leftfield. Jarrett Parker got on base with a squibber to the hole at third base vacated by the shift. Chris Shaw blistered a ball to the right of Christian Villanueva, who fielded the ball on one bounce and got the force out to end the inning.

Tyler Rogers opened the ninth for the River Cats with a submariner delivery reminiscent of Dan Quisenberry. Nick Schulz was clearly baffled as he flailed away and went down swinging. Chase d’Arnaud wasn’t so easily fooled, lining a single to rightfield. D’Arnaud tried to steal second but was gunned down by a great throw from Federowicz. Villanueva worked a walk, but Schimpf grounded weakly into the shift, as Calixte fielded the ball from the second baseman’s position.

Jester stayed in the game to try to save the one-run lead for the Chihuahuas. Jester struck Mac Williamson out looking, then Ali Castillo, who came into the game after Ryder Jones was ht by a pitch, ripped a single down the first base line. Jester put himself in a bit of a jam by walking Tim Federowicz, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out. A broken bat single from Ryan Lollis scored Castillo, tying the game and putting the winning run 90 feet away. Jester drilled Juniel Querecuto in the back, loading the bases for pinch hitter Juan Ciriaco. Ciriaco hit a broken bat bouncer right back to Jester, who started a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning with the score tied, 6-6.

Derek Law entered the game in the top of the tenth. Nick Buss lifted a flyout to left-center. Tony Cruz placed a bloop single into right-center, and then Colin Cowgill smoked a ball into right-center that was tracked down by Jarrett Parker. Dusty Coleman singled into leftfield, putting runners at first and second with two outs for pinch hitter Diego Goris. Goris gounded out to short, taking forever to get down the line to the disappointment of the Padre fan in attendance.

Adam Cimber was next up for the Padres pitching staff. He’s a 6’4” sidearmer who verges on the submarine and looks like he could use a good meal. He retired Calixte on strikes, then did the same to Parker, then got Shaw to fly out down the leftfield line.

Derek Law sent Nick Schulz packing with a swinging K. He did the same to Chase d’Arnaud. Christian Villanueva popped out right in front of home plate. This is starting to feel like one of those games where both teams post zeroes for like five straight innings.

Cimber came back out for the eleventh, and quickly got Mac Williamson to fly out to shallow center. Ali Castillo hit a grounder off Cimber’s foot for an infield single, which is one of those lucky breaks that generally stinks. Perhaps kharma paid him back with a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Fenderowicz to close the inning. Onward to the 12th.

Trevor Brown, typically a catcher, came in to play second base for the River Cats, with Querecuto moving to shortstop and Calixte moving to third. New pitcher DJ Snelton, a lefty moved into Castillo’s spot in the order. I quit keeping score two innings ago, so do with that info as you wish. Snelton got Ryan Schimpf to go down swinging. Nick Buss grounded out to short. Tony Cruz grounded out to third. The beat goes on.

Ryan Lollis led the bottom of the 12th off with a double in the right-center gap off Cimber. Querecuto grounded out to second base, moving the runner over to third with one out. Trevor Brown ended it all with a single just inside the third base bag, bringing Lollis home for the walk-off win, 7-6.

Four-hour games can get a bit trying, but this was a fun game nonetheless. Tomorrow’s game starts at noon, and I’ll be here bright and early to keep this train a-rolling!