Nearly nine thousand fans were on-hand at Raley Field to witness the Sacramento River Cats battle the Tacoma Rainiers. Early on, it appeared that runs would be at a premium, as Knox and Shoemaker each had their good stuff. Shoemaker pitched around some early base-runners and didn't allow a run until there were two-outs in the sixth inning. He would finish with six innings pitched, having allowed two runs on nine hits and one walk.
Knox was even better than Shoemaker on Sunday, as he was only two bad pitches away from throwing eight shut-out innings. As it was, the right-hander allowed only two solo homeruns by Jon Nelson and Craig Wilson in his eight innings. He struck-out a season-high nine and didn't walk a batter, while allowing only four hits.
"It was one of his better performances this season," Sacramento manager Todd Steverson said after the game.
"Knox has been solid for us all season. He had all of his pitches working tonight, his curveball, his change-up, his cutter and his cutter-change were all working."
Knox was helped by some solid Sacramento defense, especially from third baseman Jeff Baisley, who made three outstanding plays on hard groundballs down the line.
On offense, it was second baseman Gregorio Petit who had the big hit early on. Petit singled home two runs with two-outs in the sixth inning to give the River Cats a 2-1 lead. Petit, who had been struggling coming into the game, went 4-4 with a double and three singles on Sunday night. He had been only three for his last 34 before his big night.
"Petit had lost his way for a little bit, but he is a better player than he had been demonstrating on the field," Steverson said.
"I was glad to see him put it back together tonight."
Thanks to Petit's two-RBI hit and the two solo homeruns by Nelson and Wilson, the game was tied 2-2 going into the ninth inning. In the top of the ninth, reliever David Shafer took over for Knox. He struck-out the first two batters he faced before allowing a long, tie-breaking homerun to the veteran Victor Diaz. Shafer would wind-up striking out the side, but he stood to be the losing pitcher in the game before some late-inning heroics by Conrad.
In the bottom of the ninth, Tacoma sent right-hander Jared Wells to the mound to close out the game. River Cats' lead-off man Chris Denorfia got the inning started with an opposite field single to right. He was then bunted over to second by Danny Putnam. After Matt Murton grounded out to third, however, the River Cats were down to their final out. Conrad came to the plate having gone 0-4 in the game with three strike-outs. He erased that bad evening with one swing. On a 2-0 change-up from Wells, Conrad hit a long homerun that just stayed fair down the right-field line. It was his team-best 24th homerun and 80th RBI of the season.
"I was just hoping for a chance to do something," Conrad said.
"I wasn't necessarily looking for the change-up, but he left it up in the ‘zone. Hitting a walk-off homerun is the best feeling in the world."
With the win, Sacramento reduced its magic number for the PCL's Southern Division title down to four. The River Cats are now 76-52 on the season.
News and Notes… A's DH/1B Mike Sweeney arrived in the Sacramento clubhouse just after the end of the River Cats' game with Tacoma. He is expected to begin his rehab assignment with the River Cats this week…Outfielder Travis Buck is making progress in his recovery from a head injury. He has been battling headaches, but Buck has been able to take batting practice over the past few days and could return soon…Raul Padron was sent up from High-A Stockton to replace Landon Powell on the Sacramento roster. Powell was placed on the seven-day DL with inflammation in his left knee.
Below are photos from the River Cats' thrilling win over Tacoma. All photos by Chris Lockard/Scout.com.