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River Cats win seventh in a row and on a roll as playoffs loom

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It was the last regular season game of the year.

A chance for the team to thank the fans for being such great guests all year long and an equal chance for the River Cats diehards to cheer one last time during a great campaign.

From the Sacramento players greeting loyal guests at every entrance to Raley Field to the pre-game fireworks booming from center field to the River Cats own regular season player awards – all of it took place before the contest in front of the fifth sellout of the year – 14,014 roaring fans. Everything fell into place on Thursday evening for the Cats to win their last home game of the regular season 7-1 against the Las Vegas 51’s.

The game started out as a pitcher’s duel through the first two innings with 51’s starter Chad Beck matching zeros with Cats starter and team pitcher-of-the-year Graham Godfrey.

In the bottom of the third, Cats first baseman Chris Carter ripped a ball into left field for a clean double with one out. After Josh Donaldson put runners on the corners with only one out with his single, Michael Taylor, who was selected by his teammates as defensive player-of-the-year, torched a shot well over the left field wall that bounced off of the top of the Jackson Rancheria “Home Run Terrace” roof.

Forget the minors – that ball would have cleared any fence in the majors!

Las Vegas would get one back the following inning when the three of the first five batters singled. Chris Woodward was the last of the trio and garnered an RBI in the process.

The Cats threatened again in the fifth when Carter doubled for the second time, then Donaldson and Taylor walked to load the bags with no outs.

Cats home run leader and offensive player-of-the-year Jai Miller strode to the plate. The seventh pitch to Miller was a wild pitch that allowed Carter to score from third. With Miller still batting, he lifted the tenth pitch he saw high into right-center field for a sacrifice fly.

One more run would score when Las Vegas right fielder Adam Loewen’s throw was a little offline as it came into the infield and arrived at third base. The ball got away from Jayson Nix at third and rolled into the Cats dugout for another run in the frame.

After five, the Cat led 6-1.

In the sixth, Wes Timmons, this writer’s favorite River Cat player, extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a long single. Timmons has been on fire since being recalled from Midland 11 games ago by hitting well over .400. He also has three home runs, 15 RBI and 11 walks since returning to Sacramento.

Timmons, who was voted the teams’s most improved player, as always, first thanks the man upstairs.

“I’m blessed,” said the 10-year veteran. “I’m blessed to back here and to be healthy. We battled that ankle injury for the first half of the season so finally feel like I’m healthy enough to play at a level that I know I’m capable of playing.”

“And I have to thank Bushy for fighting to get me back up here. I easily could have ended the year there and missed out on all the fun here. So I’m fortunate to be back and to have Bushy in my corner.”

Manager Darren Bush was in his corner the entire time, it’s just that certain circumstances dictate who must play where sometimes during the season.

Nonetheless, Bush was just as happy to have Timmons back in the fold for the playoffs.

“Wes was deserving to be here the whole time,” said the Cats’ skipper. “Having him back here – he pushed his way back here, I mean he was hitting .380 or something. I’m real happy for him and it’s been great to have him back in the clubhouse for sure.”

Godfrey handed it over to Jordan Norberto and Vinnie Chulk – who was named the teammate of the year – to finish the game. He threw 97 pitches, 73 of them being strikes in another fine performance for the man that started the season at Double-A Midland. Godfrey was his normal self by throwing six innings, giving up only six hits and one run while striking out five. Just another day at the office for one of the best pitchers in all the minors.

Godfrey told me how much it meant to receive his pitcher-of-the-year award before the game, but reminded me in the process that he thought he was ready to have that breakout year.

“It means a lot,” said Godfrey, who ended the regular season with a record of 14-3. “It means so much, especially, like you said, where I started off the year. I knew I was going to have a good year this year. Once I was able to come to Sacramento, I knew that things were going to take off from there.”

“Just being with this group of guys, this coaching staff – I kind of held onto something and enjoyed the ride. It’s easy to have a great year like this when you are surrounded by a bunch of guys that work as hard as they do. Our defense is outstanding, the offense is probably the best in the minors right now so it just makes my job so much easier.”

Bush can’t say enough about his most consistent pitcher throughout the season.

“He takes the ball and goes out there and dominates,” said Bush. “He did it again tonight. Graham’s always been ready for the baseball, always been prepared. Thank goodness he’s had some opportunities to go up there and help that club (A’s). When he comes down here, he has one thing on his mind – take the ball, compete and win. It’s paid off for him.”


Here is a list of the team’s regular season awards:

Graham Godfrey – Pitcher of the year
Michael Taylor – Defensive player of the year
Josh Donaldson – Most exciting player of the year
Wes Timmons – Most improved player of the year
Adrian Cardenas – Most versatile player of the year
Vinnie Chulk – Teammate of the year
Jai Miller – Offensive player of the year
Jai Miller – MVP



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