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River Cats fall short

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Friday night your Sacramento River Cats hosted the Tacoma Rainiers in the second game of their season-opening four-game series.

Though the air was warmer than it had been during Thursday night’s opener, the home team’s bats were much, much colder. Blake Beavan and four Tacoma relievers combined to hold the River Cats to just four hits while striking out 13 in a 3-1 Rainiers victory. Cesar Jimenez (1-0, 1.2 IP, 3Ks) picked up the win.

The Rainiers wasted no time getting to Sacramento starter Guillermo Moscoso. Dustin Ackley led off the game with a single to right, Greg Halman reached base on a fielder’s choice, and then Matt Tuiasosopo crushed a ball that center fielder Matt Carson couldn’t quite get to. Halman scored on what ended up being a triple for the Tacoma first baseman.

Moscoso minimized the damage by striking out the next two batters he faced, stranding Tuiasosopo at third.

In the bottom of the first, it looked for a moment like the home team might be in for another hot night. Jamile Weeks and Eric Sogard walked, then Chris Carter knocked a full-count fastball right back up the middle for an RBI single. The game was tied at 1-1, and more importantly the River Cats had a good shot to put up a crooked number with runners on first and third with nobody out and the meat of the order coming up.

It was not to be, as Carson took a backward K, Josh Donaldson continued his early season struggles with a forward K, and Steve Tolleson was unable to pick them up, flying out harmlessly to right.

The only play of note during the vast nothing that was innings two through five was a third-inning drive by Weeks that Tacoma right fielder leaped for at the fence, possibly saving a home run (it ended up being a double) and disappointing the heck out of those of us (me) who had pulled Weeks’ name in the game of "Home Run Cup" in the press box.

Gabe DeHoyos (0-1, 1.2, 3H, 2R) relieved Moscono to start the sixth and promptly retired the first two batters he faced. It was the third out that proved to be elusive, however. Alex Liddi smoked a two-out double past an outstretched (but certainly not diving) Carter in left, then Paguero smacked a single to right, driving in Liddi from second with what turned out to be the winning run.

Carter led off the Cats half of the inning with a base on balls, but then Carson (0-4, 3Ks) struck out looking for the third straight at bat. The unproductive out was mitigated a bit when Carter stole second base, putting himself in scoring position with only one out and the 5-6 hitters coming to the plate. Unfortunately, Carter remained stranded at second when Donaldson (0-3, 2Ks) and Tolleson (0-3, 2Ks) both struck out swinging.

DeHoyos once again had no trouble securing the first two outs in the top of the seventh, making quick work of Josh Bard and Sean Kazmar. He would have had a perfect outing were there only two outs needed per inning. Unfortunately for him, this was neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, and Ackley followed with a two-out single back up the middle, ending DeHoyos’ night.

Joe Bateman came in to face Halman, who promptly stroked a line drive to left field. Carter’s uneven outfield play continued as he took a step in before breaking back out and watching the drive sail over his head. I’m not certain he would have caught the ball had he read it correctly off the bat, but he certainly would have improved his chances. Ackley scored on the play, giving the visitors a 3-1 lead.

Carter had a chance to put his uneven performance in the field behind him when he came up to the plate with two outs and the bases juiced in the bottom half of the inning. He struck out swinging.

In the bottom of the ninth, Carter again had a chance to be the hero when Weeks (2-4, BB, R) hit a two-out single and Ackley misplayed a Sogard sky-high pop-up into a runners-on first-and-second situation. The crowd was as loud as they had been all night when Carter strode up and grounded the first pitch he saw to Ackley, who redeemed himself by getting the force out at second.

Carter’s night, much like his pro career thus far, was uneven. It’s hard to call him the goat considering he drove in the only run of the game and later singlehandedly manufactured a runner in scoring position with fewer than two outs. On the other hand, he stranded six runners on base and played a shaky left field that contributed to two of the three Tacoma runs.

If Carter can be a little more consistent, he will be a really special player. And he won’t be long for Sacramento. Enjoy him while he’s here.

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