The highly anticipated five-game series between the Sacramento River Cats and Fresno Grizzlies concluded Sunday afternoon with the River Cats taking a 2-1 victory and four of the five games.
With the win, the River Cats move into first place in the Pacific Coast League’s South division and also hold an important playoff tiebreaker should The River Cats and Grizzlies finish the season with identical records.
The series finale was decided by an unlikely hero for the River Cats. Outfielder Jermaine Mitchell was called up from Single-A Stockton on Aug. 28 and started just his second Triple-A game on Sunday.
Mitchell took the roster spot of outfielder Chris Carter, who was placed on the disabled list with a thumb injury. Mitchell’s first hit as a River Cat also resulted in an RBI as he knocked in the game winner.
The Grizzlies jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead to start the afternoon. The second batter of the game, shortstop Ryan Rohlinger, doubled on a ball hit up the middle and scored when third baseman Jesus Guzman reached second base after hitting a ground-rule double.
River Cats right fielder Travis Buck prevented further scoring when he made the first of two spectacular diving catches on the afternoon.
Designated hitter Joe Borchard hit a fly ball into shallow left field toward the line that Buck was able to reach to end the inning.
The River Cats recorded just two hits over the first five innings before finally getting on the scoreboard in the sixth inning.
Following back-to-back strikeouts by River Cats designated Dallas McPherson and first baseman Jeff Baisley, Buck singled to center field.
Outfielder Michael Taylor, who was already two for two and tripled in the fourth inning, was hit by a pitch on the left elbow to reach base and advance Buck to second. The next batter, Adrian Cardenas, singled to left, and Buck raced home to tie the game at a run apiece.
The Grizzlies threatened to retake the lead in the seventh inning when center fielder Tyler Graham and catcher Johnny Monell each singled to center field to put runners at the corners. But with two outs, second baseman Emmanuel Burriss popped out to end the inning.
Leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, Taylor drew a walk and stole second base to move into scoring position.
Cardenas followed up with a line drive back to the pitcher for the first out.
Catcher Anthony Recker was then intentionally walked to preserve a force-out situation. However, Mitchell took advantage of the opportunity and hit a looping fly ball that dropped into center field and scored Taylor on a close play at the plate.
Grizzlies outfielders Eugenio Velez and Tyler Graham each struck out to start the ninth inning, and Monell hit a fly ball down the left-field line that would have kept the inning going, but Buck made another diving catch to end the game.