Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on July 18, 2011
The Sacramento River Cats ended their home losing streak on Sunday at Raley Field, defeating the Fresno Grizzlies 8-7 in a thrilling fashion with a walk-off home run from center fielder Jai Miller.
The River Cats avoided being swept by the Grizzlies by overcoming a five run deficit after the Grizzlies added four runs in the top of the eighth inning to take a 7-2 lead.
Sacramento’s Miller led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a walk and was moved to second when shortstop Adam Rosales singled to center. After both Josh Donaldson and Andy LaRoche failed to advance the runners, outfielder Michael Taylor doubled to right field, scoring Miller and advancing Rosales to third.
Left fielder Jermaine Mitchell kept the rally going with a single to left field, scoring Rosales and advancing Taylor to third base. With Sacramento’s Matt Carson facing Grizzlies southpaw Dan Runzler, Taylor scored on a wild pitch, which also advanced Mitchell to second base. A couple of pitches later, Carson doubled to deep right-center field, scoring Mitchell and bringing the River Cats to within one run.
River Cats third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff concluded the eighth inning rally when he hit a high chopper to Grizzlies shortstop Ryan Lormand who bobbled the ball, allowing Carson to tie the game at seven runs apiece while Kouzmanoff reached base safely because of the error. River Cats first baseman Chris Carter struck out swinging to end the rally, keeping the game tied heading into the ninth inning.
With the game tied, Sacramento handed the ball to right-handed reliever Justin Souza. With one out, Fresno’s Tyler Graham reached on a single to right field and then stole second base for his 45th steal of the season. Souza then got the next two batters, one of them being San Francisco Giants’ big prospect, Brandon Belt, to fly out to left field to end the inning.
With Ronnie Ray on the mound for the Grizzlies, Sacramento’s Miller led off the bottom of the ninth by swinging at the first pitch he saw, soaring it over the right-center field wall for a walk-off home run and his 23rd home run overall of the season.
Miller also tripled in the fourth inning before scoring when Rosales hit his first home run as a River Cat to deep left field.
Right hander Travis Banwart was the starting pitcher for Sacramento, allowing three earned runs on seven hits while striking out four before the River Cats went to their bullpen after five innings.
The River Cats go on the road for four games against Salt Lake City before returning home for another four game series against the Reno Aces starting on July 22 at 7:05 p.m.