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Chihuahuas 1, River Cats 3: The bats just couldn’t get going today.

Good River Cats pitching plus sloppy Chihuahuas defense equals a loss.

Bucolic Raley Field in West Sacramento with the Tower Bridge in the background

Last night’s 12-innning game ran late into the night, and the guys were back at it for a 12:05 start in the third game of the four-game series. The River Cats won last night’s nailbiter 7-6, after the Chihuahuas took the series opener 7-3. Today’s 85 degree temp at first pitch was more than a little more comfortable than the 100+ from Monday’s scorcher. With the Chihuahuas wearing their black jerseys today, the milder weather was surely a welcome relief.

After two nights in the press box, I have the following observations:

  • Everyone in the booth properly observes the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
  • Nobody in the booth participates in the singing of “Take me Out to the Ballgame”.
  • Mandatory attire is khakis and a polo. Jake from State Farm would fit in great. I still rocked my Padres gear because I’m simply an impostor.
  • When the official scorer misses a play, chaos ensues until he puts it back together.
  • Press room perks: in-suite restroom, free coffee, soda, and water, and a tasty spread. Today was Dickey’s barbecue, easily topping the Togo’s and Chipotle from the last two days. Okay, now I’m just bragging.
  • The view from the press box may be the ideal place to watch a ballgame. Great angles on all plays, pretty good looks at the pitches, a TV to the side, the radio broadcast in the room, oh and there’s the air conditioning.

Before the game, I poked my head into the Control Room, where Gus “The Organ Guy” Pearson had set up shop. He was a Wurlitzer salesman and the longtime organist for the Giants in the 60’s and 70’s, and now he is enjoying semi-retirement by coming out for River Cats day games. There’s something delightful about the sounds of an organ in a ballpark.

Often times, a lineup will look dramatically different for a day game after a night game. That wasn’t the case today, as manager Rod Barajas merely shuffled the deck made of the same cards. Rocky Gale was back behind the plate after Tony Cruz got the start last night, and lefty Dillon Overton was on the mound for the Chihuahuas. Tyler Beede was his foe for the River Cats, with Trevor Brown starting behind the plate and Justin Ruggiano making his first appearance of the series in rightfield.

Nick Buss led off the game with a grounder to second baeman Ali Castillo, Chase d’Arnaud grounded out sharply to shortstop Juniel Querecuto, and Christian Villanueva grounded out to third baseman Orlando Calixte. This is probably a good time to point out that River Cats starter Tyler Beede posted groundball rates over 60% early in his minor league career and still trends that way, albeit not to such an extreme. His nemesis this year has been the home run, which is convenient because the Chihuahuas have some sluggers in their lineup.

Leadoff hitter Wynton Bernard didn’t get out of bed early to mess around. He hit the second pitch he saw into the Bell Bros. Home Run Terrace, a no-doubter to splash some water in the face of Chihuahuas’ starter Overton. Overton got Calixte to pop out to shallow center, then recently-signed Ruggiano flew out to shallow right as Nick Schulz made a nifty sliding grab. Mac Williamson was rung up to close the inning with the River Cats leading 1-0.

Both starters worked quickly. Tyler Beede throws a lot of strikes and pitches to contact. In the second, he got Ryan Schimpf to fly out to centerfield, rang Colin Cowgill up looking at strike three, and Dusty Coleman grounded out to third base. In the bottom of the frame, Overton worked a similarly quick inning with a deep flyout to leftfield for Juan Ciriaco, a groundout to third base featuring a nice pick and strong throw by Schimpf to retire Querecuto, and Trevor Brown hit a high pop fly to first baseman Christian Villanueva. The first two innings whizzed by in less than a half hour!

Nick Schulz grounded out to shortstop, where Querecuto made a nice play as he ranged to his left and threw on the run. It’s a pleasure to watch an athletic shortstop with fluid moves. Speaking of athletic defensive shortstops, Javier Guerra was promoted to AA San Antonio from Lake Elsinore. He hasn’t been lighting it up at the plate, but his improved general attitude, steadier play in the field, and signs of hope at the plate may be a sign of better things to come for the soon-to-be-22-year-old. Guerra’s promotion leaves a vacancy that some suspect could be filled by promising stud Fernando Tatis, Jr. Anyway, back to the game, Rocky Gale hit a grounder up the middle that Querecuto failed to corral for an infield single, the first hit of the game for the Chihuahuas. Dillon Overton failed to bunt him over, going down on strikes, and Nick Buss popped out to shallow left to end the Chihuahuas’ turn.

The bottom of the third inning started off on a bad note, as shortstop Dusty Coleman fielded a grounder off the bat of Ali Castillo and made a poor throw in the dirt that Christian Villanueva couldn’t handle, recording a throwing error on the play. Pitcher Tyler Beede popped a bunt up in front of the plate that third baseman Ryan Schimpf slyly allowed to fall to the ground, setting up an easy double play - but Coleman failed to cleanly transfer the ball at second base, letting Beede get to first instead of recording the second out. Dillon Overton decided he had enough of this shoddy fielding BS and strick out Bernard and Calixte to get out of the inning unscathed.

Chase d’Arnaud opened the top of the fourth by flying out to leftfield. The Chihuahuas offense started to show signs of life as Christian Villanueva worked a walk, Ryan Schimpf lined a single into right-center, and Colin Cowgill lined a single to leftfield to load the bases. All hope was dashed though, as Dusty Coleman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the frame.

Justin Ruggiano led off the bottom of the fourth with a solid line drive single up the middle. Overton induced pop flies from Williamson and Ciriaco for two quick outs, then got Querecuto to ground out to short.

Nick Schulz got his money’s worth to lead off the fifth with a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with a pop fly back to the pitcher. The way Tyer Beede had been cruising through this start, making him work for an out was a good idea to try to run up his pitch count. Rocky Gale and Dillon Overton didn’t get the memo though, as they both grounded out within the first three pitches of their respective at-bats.

Dillon Overton hit a rough patch in the bottom of the fifth, giving up back-to-back doubles to Trevor Brown and Ali Castillo making the score 2-0 Cats. Wynton Bernard singled up the middle, putting runners at the corners with one out. Orlando Calixte hit a grounder to second base that was tailor-made for a double play, but Chase d’Arnaud booted the ball, allowing another run to score and failing to get an out. Overton flashed a quality move to second base, catching Bernard too far off the bag and picking him off. Justin Ruggiano grounded out to third base, but the crooked number made the score 3-0 after five full innings.

Nick Buss led off the sixth with a failed attempt to get a bunt base hit. Chase d’Arnaud ripped a single to left, then got pegged in the hammy in a pickoff attempt. Christian Villanueva promptly grounded into a double play, making 12 out of the first 18 outs of the ground ball variety. The River Cats got it going a little in the bottom of the sixth with singles from Williamson and Querecuto, who both advanced into scoring position on a double-steal. Overton worked through the jam, getting Ali Castillo to strike out to once again get away clean.

Beede struck out the side in order as he continued to cruise through the top of the seventh. 28-year-old righthander Logan Bawcom took the mound for the Chihuahuas after the stretch. Tyler Beede hit a sharp seed into the 5.5 hole that Coleman laid out for and caught just above the turf. Wynton Bernard hit a grouder to Coleman’s left that he booted for his second error of the game, not counting a third misplay that went down as a fielder’s choice. Three misplays to go along with an 0-for-3 at the plate with a K and a GIDP makes Coleman a strong candidate for “Goat of the Game.” Coleman did manage to cleanly field a broken bat grounder off Justin Ruggiano for the third out of the innig. Through seven innings, the River Cats lead 3-0.

Nick Schulz singled to open the eighth, and Rocky Gale fouled off eleventeen balls before hitting squibber to the 5.5 hole that was just tricky enough for an infield single. Gale would be starter Tyler Beede’s final batter of the game, as he was lifted for righty sidearmer Tyler Rogers with runners on first and second. A unocorn was sighted as Christian Bethancourt pinch-hit for Bawcom, and he ripped a single right up the middle, loading the bases with no outs. Nick Buss fouled out by the first base dugout, then Chase d’Arnaud was retired on a bloop out caught by the shortstop. Nick Schulz “drove” in the first Chihuahuas run of the contest by drawing a bases-loaded walk. Ryan Schimpf stepped in to the box in what looked like a tasty matchup for the lefty slugger, but alas he struck out to kill the rally.

Bethancourt’s appearance was a pure pinch-hit one, as 6’9” lefty Brad Wieck came in to pitch the eighth. He got Mac Williamson to ground out on a nice pick by Schimpf, then Ciriaco flew out to shallow leftfield before issuing a free pass to Junel Querecuto. Trevor Brown smashed a 94mph fastball into the Legacy Club, which thank goodness is in foul territory. A wild pitch put Querecuto on second before Wieck caught Brown fishing on a breaking ball down and away, inning over.

The Chihuahuas came into the ninth needing two runs to tie the game up. Colin Cowgill flew out to leftfield (boo!), but Dusty Coleman doubled on a long fly over rightfielder Mac Williamson (yay!). Nick Schulz grounded out to first base (boo!), but Coleman advanced to third on the play (yay!). Rocky Gale represented the Chihuahuas final hope, but he wasn’t able to get the job done as he flew out to shallow right for the final out of the game. The win goes to the Sacramento River Cats, 3-1.

The outcome wasn’t what us fans wanted, but it was a good game nonetheless. Tyler Beede earned “Player of the Game” honors with his seven innings of quality pitching for the River Cats. Dusty Coleman gets the “Goat of the Game” dishonor with two errors plus one more misplay to go along with a K and a GIDP, even though he did have a nice double in the final frame to give us some false hope.

It’s been an honor and a delight playing pressman these last few days. Many thanks to Robert Barsanti and the rest of the staff here with the River Cats. They were accomodating, helpful, and more than friendly. I look forward to my next chance to step into this booth. Until then, I’ll see you on the message boards!