River Cats Outslug The 51s
Offense is often on display in Las Vegas and Opening Night 2012 was no exception. The Sacramento River Cats and the Las Vegas 51s combined for 32 hits and 17 runs in the River Cats' 11-6 win. Sacramento pounded out 18 hits and nine of those hits went for extra bases.
Every River Cats' batter except for Wes Timmons had at least two hits. Chris Carter and Michael Taylor led the way with three hits apiece. Grant Green had a lead-off homer in his regular season Triple-A debut and Brandon Moss and Derek Norris each homered in their Oakland A's organizational debuts. Norris had three RBIs, while Green, Daric Barton, Carter and Taylor each scored twice.
Travis Banwart earned the start for the River Cats. He pitched fairly well until the fifth inning, when he was touched for four runs (three earned). In total, Banwart allowed six runs (five earned) on 12 hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. He struck-out four.
The Sacramento bullpen came on in relief of Banwart in the fifth and ensured that the River Cats' offensive efforts would not go to waste. Neil Wagner, Erick Threets and Merkin Valdez combined to toss 4.2 scoreless innings to secure the win. Wagner was credited with the victory and he allowed only a hit in 2.1 scoreless frames with two strike-outs. Threets gave-up only a walk in 1.1 scoreless frames, while Valdez allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless ninth inning.
Midland Loses A Nailbiter
The Midland Rockhounds wound-up on the wrong side of a pitcher's duel on Opening Night, losing to the Arkansas Travelers by a score of 1-0. The only run of the game was unearned.
Midland starter A.J. Griffin had a breakthrough 2011 campaign and he looked every bit as good in his 2012 debut. The lanky right-hander struck-out the first five batters he faced and finished with eight strike-outs and only one walk in five scoreless innings. Griffin allowed only two hits and threw 49 of his 71 pitches for strikes.
The Midland bullpen would also pitch well, although reliever A.J. Huttenlocker was stuck with a tough-luck loss. He allowed an unearned run in two-thirds of an inning of work. James Simmons pitched the final 2.1 innings. He didn't allow a run and he scattered two hits with no walks while striking out one. It was the A's 2007 first-round pick's first game at the Double-A level since 2008. Simmons missed all of the 2010 season and the first two months of the 2011 campaign thanks to a shoulder injury.
Offensively, the Rockhounds couldn't get much going against the Arkansas staff. Midland managed only four hits and five walks and they went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Conner Crumbliss and Michael Choice each walked twice. Crumbliss also stole two bases. Midland batters combined to strike-out 10 times in the loss.
Stockton Routs Lake Elsinore
The 2012 season got off to a roaring start for the Stockton Ports. Despite an early morning bus ride down the I-5 corridor, the Ports looked lively in their 7-2 road win over the Storm on Opening Night. The Ports exacted some revenge after falling to Lake Elsinore in the California League championship series last year.
Blake Treinen, the A's seventh-round draft pick last season out of South Dakota State, got the Opening Night nod and shined in the role. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed only two runs in 6.2 innings against a prospect-laden Storm line-up. Treinen scattered eight hits and didn't walk a batter while striking out four.
The Ports' bullpen was equally impressive on Thursday night. Sean Doolittle made his full-season affiliate pitching debut a memorable one. The left-hander faced five batters and struck-out four of them en route to a perfect 1.2 inning outing. This was Doolittle's first full-season affiliate game since early May 2009, when he injured his knee playing the outfield for the Sacramento River Cats. Right-hander Arnold Leon, who missed most of the past two seasons thanks to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, pitched a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the win. Leon last pitched for a full-season affiliate in April 2010.
The Ports had plenty of offense on Thursday night. Designated hitter Josh Whitaker had a big Stockton regular season debut. He homered and doubled in four at-bats and also added a walk. Whitaker, a Midwest League post-season All-Star last year, appeared in the championship series for the Ports last year after spending the entire 2011 regular season with the Low-A Burlington Bees.
Leftfielder Eliezer Mesa, a former Colorado Rockies' farmhand, collected two hits in his debut as an Oakland A's minor leaguer. Centerfielder Myrio Richard also had two hits, including a double, and third baseman Tony Thompson had a key two-RBI double during the Ports' five-run second inning. Catcher Max Stassi and first baseman Miles Head also added doubles. Stockton totaled 11 hits, including six extra-base hits, in the win.
Bees Cruise Past Clinton
The Burlington Bees used a six-run third inning and a strong pitching performance to earn a win on Opening Night over the Clinton Lumberkings, 8-2. Designated hitter Dusty Robinson had a huge game in his Bees' debut, hitting a grandslam and going 2-4 with a walk and four RBIs. Three Bees' pitchers combined to limit the Lumberkings to six hits and two walks.
Right-hander Drew Granier got the start and he survived a rough second inning to put together a solid four-inning outing. Granier allowed one run on two hits and one walk in four innings and he struck-out three. All of the base-runners Granier allowed came in that second inning.
Nathan Kilcrease got the win with four strong innings of his own. He allowed only one run on four hits and a walk. He struck-out three in his Burlington debut. Right-hander Ryan Doolittle finished off the win with a scoreless ninth inning. Doolittle is attempting a comeback after an injury-shortened 2011 season.
On offense, Robinson was the star of the show, but the Bees had plenty of other contributors, as well. Middle infielders Zhi Fang Pan and Sean Jamieson each collected two hits. One of Pan's hits was a double and Jamieson also added an RBI and a walk, reaching base three times. Chad Oberacker, B.A. Vollmuth and Royce Consigli also chipped in with RBIs.