Monday was a good day for Sacramento in its suddenly burgeoning rivalry with that Disney-and-sun-soaked menace to the south, Anaheim.
First, there was the morning announcement that the Sacramento Kings would remain in town for another year, an unexpected cup check to supporters of the would-be "Anaheim Royals," which just a few short weeks ago was considered a fait accompli.
Then, to add salt to the wound, your Sacramento River Cats smoked the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s AAA affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees, 5-1 on a pleasant evening at Raley Field.
I don’t even like writing the "A" word. Never again.
Sacramento-2, Orange County’s second largest city in terms of land area- 0.
River Cats starter Yadel Marti (1-0, 4.05) went seven strong innings, scattering eight hits and allowing just one unearned run.
Marti was matched most of the way by Bees starter Eric Junge (0-2, 5.01), but the wheels fell off in the bottom of the seventh.
The River Cats (15-10) plated a run in the second inning when struggling catcher Josh Donaldson led off with a double into the right field corner, advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by scorching hot DH, Anthony "Home" Recker, and scored on a Shane Peterson single to center.
The Bees (13-11) answered in the fourth when Jeremy Moore stroked a one-out single to right that Matt Carson misplayed into a three-bagger. Moore scored moments later on Efren Navarro’s dribbler to third.
The score was still knotted at 1-1 when we hit the seventh inning stretch.
The home half of the ending started innocuously enough with a Donaldson flyout to left before the bottom of the order went to work. Adrian Cardenas smacked a single to center and Recker extended his hitting streak to six games with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single to center. Peterson walked to load the bases before number nine hitter Josh Horton put the Cats in the lead to stay with a sac fly to center, scoring Cardenas from third.
At this point, Bees manager Keith Johnson came out for a conference at the mound. It was a 2-1 game, two men on and the top of the River Cats order was coming to the plate. Junge had thrown 106 pitches in his 6 2/3 innings, and the Bees had a pitcher ready in the bullpen. It was so obviously time for a change that I wrote "pitching change" down in my notes.
Inexplicably, Johnson left his starter in to face Eric Sogard.
It took exactly one pitch for the River Cat shortstop to make the Bees manager rue the decision. Sogard deposited the first offering he saw into the bullpen beyond the right field fence, the very same bullpen that Johnson had decided not to call on moments earlier. Coincidence? Probably, but either way, the tight game was suddenly far less so as the home team took a 5-1 lead into the eighth inning.
Willie Eyre came on to throw two shutout innings in relief of Marti and preserve the victory.
The first place River Cats have three more games against the Utahan affiliate of the major league team from the birthplace of Rebecca Black, beginning tonight at 7:05 when Ryan Ketchener (1-0, 3.60) will start for the Bees against recent Oakland Athletic Bobby Cramer (0-0, 18.00).