The Sacramento River Cats blew a lead late, but they saved a little magic for the bottom of the ninth and walked off winners, 8-7 over Tacoma at home. Second baseman Kevin Melillo was the hero in his Triple-A debut. Melillo reached base five times and walked in the winning run with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth. He also scored a run, drove-in three and stole a base.
The game went back and forth early. Tacoma jumped out to a two-run lead in the top of the third off of starter Jason Windsor. The River Cats answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs of their own on a Daric Barton run-scoring single and a Kurt Suzuki sacrifice fly.
Tacoma jumped out ahead again in the fifth, scoring two more runs in the top of the fifth off of Windsor. Windsor would finish his Opening Day start having allowed four runs in six innings pitched. He walked two and struck out four and he allowed a homer.
The River Cats didn't waste too much time going back in front. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Sacramento exploded for four runs. The inning began with Barton launching a homerun off of former A's reliever Justin Lehr, who had just come on in relief. Sacramento would add three more runs in the inning, all scoring with two-outs. With two outs, Melillo came to the plate with the bases loaded and he singled home two. Lou Merloni then followed that hit with a run-scoring single of his own.
Sacramento added another run in the seventh inning and seemed poised to cruise to victory. Ron Flores relieved Windsor and he retired all four batters he faced. Connor Robertson then took over with one-out in the eighth and he recorded the final two-outs in the eighth. However, he was unable to shut the door, as he allowed a game-tying, three-run homer in the top of the ninth to Adam Jones. Erasmo Ramirez recorded the last two outs of the ninth to send the game to the bottom of the inning tied.
Suzuki began the game-winning rally with a lead-off single. DH Jeremy Brown followed Suzuki with a walk and left-fielder Brian Stavisky dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move up the runners. Tacoma elected to walk Donnie Murphy intentionally to load the bases and set-up the double-play. Charles Thomas came to the plate with a chance to win the game with a fly ball, but he was unable to deliver, as he struck out swinging. It was left up to Melillo, who was probably the guy the Rainiers least wanted to see at that moment. Melillo had already walked twice in the game when he worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to win the game.
Melillo, Barton, Suzuki and Hiram Bocachica each had two hits for Sacramento, which had 12 in total. The team also drew 10 walks.
The River Cats announced before the game that infielder Antonio Perez had cleared waivers and that he was joining the team. Jason Perry was sent to Double-A Midland to make room for Perez.
Braden Sparkles As ‘Hounds Cruise
After losing most of his 2006 season to injury, starter Dallas Braden is off to a much better start in 2007. The left-hander threw six solid innings in Midland's 7-1 win over the Springfield Cardinals at Citibank Field.
Braden allowed only two hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out six. The only run Braden allowed was a solo homerun to Jeff Mather. Andrew Shipman threw two scoreless innings in relief, allowing three hits and striking out a batter. Jeff Gray finished off the game by striking out two in a scoreless ninth.
Braden had plenty of run support, as the Rockhounds pounded out nine hits. Left-fielder Danny Putnam had the biggest blow, a three-run homer in the seventh inning. Centerfielder Vince Faison also had a big game at the top of the order, going 2-4 with a double, a run scored and three RBI.
Midland received production from the bottom of the order, as second baseman Brian Snyder and shortstop Gregorio Petit each had two hits. Catcher Landon Powell walked twice and third baseman Jeff Baisley collected a double and an RBI.
Ports Bats Silent In Loss To Giants
The Stockton Ports got off to a slow start to their 2007 season, falling quietly to the San Jose Giants at home by a score of 7-0. The Ports managed only three hits in the game. Right-fielder Chad Boyd had the Ports only extra-base hit, a double.
Starter Jared Lansford was hung with the loss. Lansford allowed a single run in the first, two in the second and another run in the third. He threw a scoreless fourth inning before being lifted for reliever Trent Peterson. Peterson allowed two runs in the sixth.
He was relieved by Brad Sullivan, who worked the final three innings of the game. Sullivan allowed a run on two hits. He walked one and struck out one and he recorded six of his nine outs on the ground.
Cougars Swarmed by the Bees In Opener
The Cougars got their season off to a fast start, but they weren't able to sustain the momentum and fell to the Burlington Bees by a score of 6-3.
Kane County scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run double by first baseman Greg Dowling. However, Kane County couldn't hold the advantage for long, as starter Scott Deal had a rough first frame. The young right-hander allowed three runs on a walk and four hits. He settled down after that, however, throwing three subsequent scoreless frames. He allowed only three more hits the rest of his start and finished with a line of three runs allowed on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in four innings.
The Cougars tied the game in the top of the fourth inning when second baseman Isaac Omura drove home catcher Jake Smith with a sacrifice fly. The game remained tied until the bottom of the seventh, when reliever TJ Franco gave up three runs in only two-thirds of an inning.
This is the first time in five seasons that the Cougars have dropped their season opener. The Cougars managed only five hits during the game, and three of those hits were doubles. In addition to Dowling, DH Haas Pratt and Smith also doubled.