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Relievers key as Cats comeback to scratch out 2-1 win over Bees

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Scott Emerson has a philosophy. Let’s call it more of an idea what the Sacramento River Cats pitching coach is looking for out of his pitching staff.

“You want your starter to go six or seven innings and then that cuts down on the usage of the bullpen,” said Emerson after the game. “As an organization, we do have a pitch count for guys to be able to pitch the next day, if they go over a certain number, we can’t use them the next day.”

Considering that Cats starter Bobby Cramer had reached that pitch total well ahead of schedule, it was refreshing to see all three Sacramento relievers combine to hold the Salt Lake Bees to only two more hits in the game. That allowed their timely hitting and sacrificial play to give the Cats the 2-1 victory at Raley Field on Friday evening.

Cramer only went 3 2/3 innings because of that philosophy as he had given up five hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Emerson ferreted out the problem the left-hander was having.

“He’s got to pitch a little more to contact,” said the pitching coach of Cramer. “To throw 77 pitches in that amount of time – less than four innings – we want him pitch more to contact. The strikeouts are great and all but the contact balls are going to be much better for him and he’ll be able to go much deeper in the game. That’s what starters get paid to do – to get us into the seventh inning.”

After loading the bases in the first without incident, in the second, Cramer got into trouble again. A leadoff double that bounced off the bottom of the Toyota sign in left-center by Gil Velazquez set up the first score for the Bees. A few batters later, leadoff hitter Tyson Auer’s second single in as many innings plated Velazquez to give Salt Lake a 1-0 lead.

A good sign early was seeing Cats catcher Anthony Recker increase his hitting streak to 13 games on a sharp double in his very first at-bat. Funny things is, he didn’t even know he had a steak to keep alive.

“I didn’t even know I had a hitting streak going, hopefully I can keep it going,” said a happy Recker as he walked off the field after signing for the young fans along the left field rail.

Recker is one of those guys that seems to be maturing at a very high rate. His stats and development have to be getting the attention of the big club. Especially if he keeps this up.

“I think I’m ready, it’s just a matter of getting an opportunity,” said Recker. “I just have to keep doing what I am doing and keep working hard and keep things going.”

The Cats got some trouble brewing in the fourth for the Bees when Matt Carson led off with a sharp double into left center that rolled to the wall. After a walk by Jai Miller, Carson stole third to set up runners on the corners with no outs. One wild pitch later by Scott Kazmir, who is on a rehab assignment, and Miller was on second.

That brought up Adrian Cardenas with the bases loaded and, with a little patience, Cardenas took a walk that brought in Carson from third to tie the game. A sacrifice fly by Eric Sogard brought in Miller to give the Cats their first lead of the game.

Sogard knows it’s just doing the little things right that can help you scratch out a win.

“We only had three hits, but made the most of it,” said Sogard after signing whatever memento was in every kid’s outstretched hands. “We did the small things right. Got the guys over and sac flied them in so we did what it took to get the win. It was a great win!”

After four, the Cats led 2-1.

In the sixth, Bees’ second baseman took the first pitch he saw from Cat reliever Trystan Magnuson for a ride. Carson tracked it nicely and, with a nice jump, snared the ball as it was clearing the Sutter Health sign in right field. The great catch saved a home run that would have given the Bees the lead.

On that particular play, Carson was glad he was in right and not left field.

“I had a pretty good route to it and got back to the fence,” said Carson. “That part of the fence over there is shorter than the rest of the field so it’s easier to kinda get up there. You can kind of lean back over it, whereas, the higher fence you gotta get a foot up on it and reach over the top of it. But over there, you can kinda just get your back up to the fence and lean back and that’s basically did.”

Besides the home run that Carson saved, the rest of the fifth through ninth innings sailed along like a delta breeze. Three Cats relievers – Magnuson, Jerry Blevins and Vinnie Chulk – combined to only allow only two hits over the 5 1/3 innings they pitched.

Manager Darren Bush is proud of the way his pitching staff has played as of late.

“The pitching staff did a great job,” said Bush. “They gave up a run early and then just shut them down. They’ve done it for the last three games. They did a great job of keeping those guys off-balance and attacking the zone.”




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