Minor League Notebook: The Playoffs Continue - 9/9

The A's minor league affiliates continued their playoff runs on Thursday evening. One affiliate saw their season come to an end, while the other two lived to see another day. Find out what happened in this edition of <i>Minor League Notebook</i>...

Sacramento River Cats

Pitching phenom Joe Blanton pitched a gem for the River Cats, as they recovered from Wednesday's drubbing to beat the Portland Beavers, 7-3. Blanton was nearly flawless through seven full innings, allowing only four hits and one walk before tiring in the 8th inning, In total, Blanton struck out nine, walked one and allowed only one earned run (three total) in 7.1 innings pitched, as he out-dueled Padres' prospect Dennis Tankersley.

Blanton received ample run support early. The River Cats scored in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Mike Edwards. Sacramento added three more runs in the bottom of the third, upping the lead to 4-0. The runs scored with two-outs, as Matt Watson singled in John Baker. Mike Rose walked to load the bases and then Graham Koonce knocked a two-RBI single into left centerfield.

The four runs would be all Blanton would need, however, the River Cats added some insurance runs when they scored an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth inning and then added a two more on a Koonce homerun in the bottom of the 7th.

Blanton took the shutout into the top of the eighth, where he ran into some trouble, allowing two doubles and a single while only getting one out. 2004 A's draft pick Huston Street came in to relieve Blanton and struck out the first batter he faced. However, a Mike Edwards' fielding error at third base allowed two unearned runs to score before Street could finally record the last out. Street pitched a scoreless 9th to finish off the game and preserve the 7-3 score.

Graham Koonce was the offensive star of the game, as he drove in four runs with a single and a homerun. John Baker scored twice despite not recording a hit and Matt Watson scored twice and drove in a run.

The River Cats will battle the Beavers again tomorrow in Portland. The best-of-five series is now even at one game a piece.

Kane County Cougars

The Kane County Cougars bounced back from Wednesday's extra-inning disappointment and staved off elimination with a 6-1 victory over the Peoria Chiefs. Starter Brad Knox, who was arguably the best pitcher in the Midwest League this season, picked up the win going six innings and allowing only one run. Knox wasn't particularly sharp, as he walked four and allowed eight hits. However, he escaped major damage by inducing two double-plays and a pick off.

Knox had a rough beginning to the game, as he allowed a single and two walks to load the bases with only one out in the first inning. However, he was able to escape the trouble unscathed, as he induced Jarrett Hoffpauir to ground into a third-to-first double-play. Knox was able to dance out of trouble again in the third inning when he escaped a bases-loaded, no-out situation with a double-play and a strike-out.

Knox and Peoria starter Chris Lambert traded zeros until Peoria broke through with a run in the top of the fourth inning. The Chiefs could have had a bigger inning, but Christopher Patrick was picked off of first base before John-Paul Davis doubled and Steve Sherman singled Davis home.

The Cougars grabbed the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth inning, with the help of some shoddy Peoria defense. Luke Appert began the inning with a single and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Vasili Spanos struck out, but was safe at first on a passed ball. Appert also moved to third on the play. Danny Putnam was hit by a pitch to load the bases and David Castillo tied the game with an RBI single. Eddie Kim broke the tie with a sacrifice fly.

The 2-1 lead held until the bottom of the 7th inning when Kane County busted the game wide-open. Appert again was the instigator of the rally, as he walked to start the inning. Spanos and Putnam followed with RBI doubles and Kim singled a run in one out later, but was cut down trying to stretch the single into a double. David Harriman followed with a solo homerun to up the score to 6-1.

Justin Crowder (1 IP) and JR Pickens (2 IP) combined to toss three scoreless innings, securing the win for the Cougars. They continued a trend of strong pitching out of the Cougars' bullpen. The league's best pitching staff was 66-0 when leading after 7 innings this season.

Kane County will meet Peoria again tomorrow evening at 4:30 PST. Lefty Dallas Braden will get the nod for Kane County. The winner of tomorrow's game will move on to the next round of the Midwest League playoffs.

Vancouver Canadians

Vancouver's post-season dream came to an end on Thursday night, as they dropped their third straight game to Boise, this time by a 5-3 score. The game was tied 3-3 going into the top of the 7th inning, when Boise rallied for two unearned runs that scored on a fielding error by centerfielder Richie Robnett.

Boise jumped out to an early lead, as Vancouver-killer Ryan Harvey homered for the fourth time in the series, giving Boise a 2-0 lead off of starter Ryan Ford. Vancouver cut the lead in half when Gregorio Petit doubled with two outs and then scored on a Nick Blasi single. Boise got the run back on an RBI single by Bobby Deeb in the top of the 5th inning.

The score remained 3-1 Boise until Vancouver rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game. With two-outs, Tom Everidge singled home Landon Powell. The game was tied on an RBI single by Wes Long. However, the rally died there, as Long was thrown out trying to steal second base, leaving Everidge stranded at third base.

Reliever Dan Acevedo, who eventually was tagged with the loss, came in to start the top of the 7th inning. He struck out the first batter of the inning, but then allowed a single and a walk before being lifted in favor of Jeff Gray. Gray retired the first batter he faced on a groundball to the pitcher. Ryan Harvey was intentionally walked to load the bases. Gray seemed to get out of the inning unscathed, but Robnett was unable to field Ken Boyer's fly ball and the two winning runs came in to score. The Canadians were retired in order in each of the last three innings of the game, ending their season quietly.

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