Oakland A's MLN: Sacramento/ Stockton Round 1

STOCKTON, CA - The minor league regular season is set to start on Thursday. On Tuesday, the Sacramento River Cats traveled down the freeway to Stockton to take on the Ports at Banner Island Ballpark in the first of a home-and-home exhibition series. Paul Muyskens brings us a report from the scrimmage.

Tuesday night's Sacramento River Cats versus Stockton Ports game at Banner Island Ballpark was a fine display of an exhibition game at work. The River Cats used a 10-man lineup with two DHs, twice innings ended with three outs never being recorded, multiple pitchers pitched against their own teammates with the opposing coach making the pitching change, and the game ultimately ended in a 3-3 tie.

Shortstop Josh Horton made the defensive play of the game in the first inning as he made a leaping snag on a Brooks Conrad line drive and doubled off Gregorio Petit at first, who reached on a four-pitch walk to lead-off the game.

The Ports scored the first run of the game in the second inning, taking advantage of a Petit error. Matt Sulentic grounded a two-out single to left scoring Jed Morris, who led-off the inning with a walk. The River Cats' portion of the second inning was ended after a bases-loaded, one-out strike-out by Justin Knoedler.

Brad Knox would pitch 5.1 innings before making way for the Ports pitchers to pitch against their own teammates and allowed three hits, two runs - one earned run - two walks, and struck-out three in an effective outing. Trevor Cahill got the starting nod for the Ports and allowed just three hits in five shutout innings. He struck-out seven but also walked six and was aided by two innings ending before three outs were made.

Once the starters left the game, the ball started to find its way out of the ballpark as the batters seemed to be much more effective hitting the ball against their own teammates than the opposition's starter. Carlos Gonzalez got the homer display underway with a two-out shot to right off of Brad Kilby in the sixth inning after Kilby had struck out Petit and Conrad.

Wes Bankston welcomed teammate Ryan Wing into the game in the seventh inning with a tape-measure shot to center to tie the game briefly before a pinch-hitting Larry Cobb led-off for Stockton after stretch time with a shot to left-field off of the newly entered Graham Godfrey.

Capping off a perfect 4-for-4 night at the plate, Gonzalez put the final run on the board with a nearly identical shot to right into the back porch to tie the game at three. Gonzalez made three putouts in center, including an impressive running grab preventing a possible extra-base hit for Archie Gilbert and was clearly the best player of the night.

Sean Doolittle was 1-for-4 with a double off of the left-center wall showing some decent power and had several nice scoops at first base on low throws for Stockton. Chris Carter struggled at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Besides Gonzalez's performance, the River Cats had a nice performance from Eddie Cornejo at the plate, as he was 1-for-1 with two walks, while Justin Knoedler was deserving of the 10th spot in the batting order with an 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, including one with the bases-loaded and grounded into a 5-4-3 double play in his final at-bat.

Other Notes
-By Melissa Lockard

* Former Stockton reliever Jason Ray is scheduled for surgery on his throwing elbow.

* Infielder Alexander Valdez, who was expected to play with Stockton this season after a strong year with Kane County in 2007, is being held back in the Dominican Republic with visa problems.

* Stockton will travel to Sacramento on Wednesday for the final tune-up before the start of the regular season. The Ports begin the year at home, while Sacramento will be on the road in Tacoma to start the season.

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