For I-Cubs, First Time For Everything

Heading into Wednesday night, the Iowa Cubs were a perfect 69-0 when leading after eight innings this season. That streak came to an end as four ninth inning walks and missed opportunities at the plate gift-wrapped a 5-4 victory by the Sacramento River Cats in game two of the best-of-five Pacific Coast League Championship Series.

Renyel Pinto tossed six solid innings of three-hit ball, striking out 10. It was the fifth time this season that the left-hander reached double digits in strikeouts in a start. Donny Leon and Russ Johnson homered for the Cubs to help build a 4-2 Iowa lead. Bill Selby hit an RBI double to right center in the third inning and Gookie Dawkins followed with a run-scoring hit to left.

In the sixth, David Kelton hit what appeared to be a two-run homerun down the left field line, which would have given the Cubs a 5-2 lead. After a brief delay, home plate umpire John Samuels ruled the ball had went foul, which set off a lengthy argument from Iowa skipper Mike Quade.

Quade was soon given the heave-ho and spent the rest of the evening in the Cubs clubhouse. Kelton, rattled by all the hoopla, was then caught looking on an 0-2 pitch from Sacramento starter Joe Blanton.

Iowa still lead 3-2 at that point, and the score would remain that way until two outs in the seventh, when Johnson sent a 1-2 pitch from Blanton out to left. Blanton went seven innings, but allowed all four Cub runs on 10 hits. He gave up both Cub homeruns, only the third time all season the right-hander has allowed more than one homer in a game.

Left-hander Kevin Tolar worked a scoreless eighth inning in what would soon become known as the calm before the storm.

Iowa left the bases loaded in the ninth as Micah Hoffpauir singled to open the inning and Trenidad Hubbard was given the intentional pass one out later by River Cats reliever Eric Cammack. Cammack then walked Cubs left fielder Denny Hocking on four straight pitches to load the bases with only one away.

Ron Flores became the third Sacramento pitcher in the inning and got Johnson to fly out to shallow right before Selby lined to third to end the inning.

The gameplan in the bottom of the ninth was simple enough for the Cubs. Just as the team has done so often in the last two weeks, the Cubs relied on right-hander Jermaine Van Buren with the game on the line in late innings.

Van Buren (0-1) walked game one MVP Graham Koonce on four straight pitches to open the inning. He then walked pinch-hitting John Baker before another pinch-hitter, Jon Weber, laid down a bunt to move the runners into scoring position with only one away.

River Cats shortstop Mike Rouse then hit a grounder to the right side, scoring pinch-runner Adam Morrissey to cut the lead to 4-3. With two outs, Cats center fielder and leadoff batter Steve Stanley singled to left center to tie the game at 4-4 and put the winning run on base.

Van Buren then allowed a single to second baseman Mark Kiger to move the winning run over to third. That's when left-hander Nate Bland was summoned from the Iowa bullpen. Bland walked 2004 league MVP Dan Johnson on only five pitches to load the bases, and then lost Mike Edwards on a 3-2 pitch to give Sacramento the victory.

Flores (1-0) picked up the win, working one inning of scoreless ball in relief.

The River Cats now lead the series 2-0 with game three moving to Iowa on Friday night. Right-hander Shawn Sedlacek will go for the Cubs against Sacramento's Britt Reames at 7:05 CT from Principal Park.

Game Notes: Pinto allowed just three hits and got a no-decision. It was the eighth time this season that he has allowed three hits or less in a start. Van Buren had not given up a hit in four innings of relief in the playoffs prior to Wednesday night. He has allowed only three runs or more in a relief appearance only three times this season.

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