Cats Clawing Back

At one point considered left for dead in their quest to reach the post-season for the sixth time in their seven-year franchise history, the Sacramento River Cats just won't quit.

With five consecutive wins, the A's AAA affiliate finds themselves only five games back of first-place Tucson in the Pacific Coast League's Pacific Southern Division at 75-57 overall. Not bad for a club that was 40-42 on July 1.

The team proceeded to go 19-9 in July. The only problem was, Tucson did even better by going 20-6.

Since August began, the Cats are once again playing competitively with a 16-6 record through 22 games this month. As it stands, the Sidewinders are playing below .500 at 9-13 for the month.

Overall, the Cats have won six of their last seven contests and have winning streaks of five and six games, respectively, this month. A big reason for that has been pitching. Only Oklahoma, Tucson and Las Vegas have better staff ERA's down the stretch than the A's 3.57 mark for the month, at 2.91, 3.32 and 3.56, respectively.

At the plate, the Cats have struggled somewhat. The team is hitting .259 for the month, which places in the bottom half of the league. None of that mattered too much against one of the league's worst pitching staff's on Wednesday, however, as the Cats topped last place Fresno, 8-3.

Primarily a veteran team, it was the veterans that led the attack as second baseman Keith Ginter hit a bases-loaded, two-out grand slam in the second inning, and OF Hiram Bocachica followed with a solo shot. The Cats scored seven runs in the inning en route to the victory.

The 30-year-old Bocachica's home run was his 18th of the season, five behind his career high of 23 set in 2000 as a Dodgers prospect for Triple-A Albuquerque.

OF Charles Thomas, meanwhile, singled and has hit safely in six of his last seven games. The 27-year-old is batting .377 (20-for-53) for the month with six home runs. Entering August, he had only one home run all season. Thomas and Bocachica have led the Cats all month as the only regulars batting over .300 since August began.

Starter Adam Pettyjohn won his third straight decision, allowing three runs and five hits in a season-high eight innings. Over his last five appearances, he is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.

Pettyjohn and Jason Windsor continue to lead the Cats starting rotation. Windsor hasn't lost since being moved up from Double-A Midland in May. The 24-year-old right-hander is 12-0 in 100 innings and has a 3.60 ERA. He remained undefeated in July despite a 5.65 average and has gone 3-0 in his last four outings with a 2.51 ERA, including a complete game, nine-inning performance against Fresno in his last outing.

With Wednesday's win, the Cats moved to within five games of Tucson in the division with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. Best of all, the team still has four games remaining with the Sidewinders Aug. 28-31. Sacramento took three of four from Tucson in a series earlier this month.

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