Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 18, 2012
The Sacramento River Cats (10-3) were able to extend their winning streak to four as they defeated the Tacoma Rainiers (4-8) 5-1 at Raley Field Tuesday night.
Right fielder Michael Taylor continued his strong start to the season, recording two doubles and a walk on four at-bats. Taylor entered the game batting .413 with one home run and 11 runs batted in. Taylor's .413 batting average heading into Tuesday night's game was ranked seventh in the Pacific Coast League.
“I feel good at the plate,” he said. “I feel comfortable with everything I’ve worked on in the offseason coming into this season, and I’ve stuck to that plan and process, and right now things are going well. I’m swinging the bat, and the balls are finding the grass, so as long as I keep doing that, things will be alright”
Taylor’s offensive outburst has not gone unnoticed and is welcomed by the River Cats pitching staff, who appreciates run support.
“He’s seeing the ball well, and I think other teams are noticing that,” starting pitcher Bruce Billings said. “When he comes up to the plate, he’s not someone to mess with. He definitely puts a big bat in the lineup, and it’s definitely nice to have on your side.”
Right-handed pitcher Billings got his first start for the River Cats on his first day in the locker room after being called up by AA Midland. Billings was part of the Oakland Athletics trade that sent longtime second baseman Mark Ellis to the Colorado Rockies and allowed former River Cat Jemile Weeks to make his major league debut.
Manager Darren Bush was pleased with Billings' work on the mound, tossing 67 pitches in 3.0 innings of work, allowing one run on four hits and one walk while recording four strikeouts. Billings was unable to record the win though, as the score was still 1-1 when he was relieved.
“He did a good job,” Bush said. “He came in, attacked hitters. He went at them and did exactly what we wanted them to do. He got some foul balls and things that drew the pitch count up a little bit, but it’s what we wanted.”
Tacoma’s only damage came in the first inning when their designated hitter Mike Carp reached first and then stole second before Vinnie Catricala drove him in to give them the 1-0 lead after one inning. Catricala is a Sacramento native and former Jesuit High School Marauder baseball player.
But that was the only run the Rainiers would score. Billings and the rest of the River Cats pitching staff were outstanding, allowing only one run on nine hits.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that throw real hard,” Taylor said after the game. “Our bullpen is fantastic. Everyone pretty much runs it up there 94 mph-plus. We have some veterans who have had some success at this level, guys with a lot of experience and guys who know how to pitch at this level.”
Sacramento first got on the scoreboard in the second inning with shortstop Adam Rosales hitting a single to bring Taylor across home plate following his first double of the day.
The River Cats gained the lead in the third inning and didn’t relinquish it from there on. Rainiers starting pitcher Mauricio Robles gave up a single and then walked two consecutive batters to load the bases with one out. But the River Cats would only capitalize for one run when Brandon Moss hit a sacrifice fly to score Jermaine Mitchell, followed by catcher Derek Norris flying out on the infield.
The only other scoring for the River Cats came in the bottom as the eighth as they earned three more insurance runs. Moss began the rally with a single but then was advanced to third base on a double by Norris, with only one out. Rosales hit a double of his own before scoring when Rainiers right fielder Chih-Hsien Chiang dropped a routine fly ball that would have ended the inning.
Sacramento prevented any chance of a Rainiers comeback as they preserved the lead to earn a 5-1 win, giving the River Cats a 10-3 record early in the season.
“We are just playing good baseball,” Bush said. “We have good pitching and timely hitting. So far it’s working out.”