I am going to be honest; I am a little disappointed with myself this week because I did not fully think through how my plan for the blog this year was going to work. Initially I was planning to write a piece every Monday talking about the River Cats series from the previous week and keep you posted about other things around the league; and while I still plan to do that, I think I must change things up a little. I think focusing on the River Cats while they are out of town simply is too much for me to take on this season with my own personal schedule. Yes, I can regurgitate the nightly re-cap of games, but you too can read a box score, and there simply is not any passion in me to do that. I wrote a book this way, and I love it and hope that you will too, but my goal has always been to grow, and bring you more.
Going forward I will write my posts in the following manner. During the weeks in which the River Cats play in Sacramento, my stories will focus on that series and the players. Yes, there may be a story that comes up that I feel is a more relevant story to write, but in general that is the plan. The weeks in which the River Cats are not in town, I will write a more special interest story in which I try to merge life with baseball, because what is baseball, if not a metaphor for life? Each week I will still try to have updates about the River Cats and other goings on in the Pacific Coast League as the focus of the blog is the Pacific Coast League with a River Cats slant.
The River Cats end their series against the Reno Aces with a record of 7-5 after splitting the six-game series. Game 1 saw the River Cats take a loss in a game that included a controversial grand slam that broke it open for the Aces in the bottom of the fourth. Aces second baseman Camden Duzenak hit a ball that appeared to the umpire to have hit above the yellow line on the outfield wall that constitutes a home run. River Cats manager came out to discuss the call and would end up being ejected from the game. Video replay would later show that the ball did in fact hit below the line, but there was nothing that could be done. 4-0, Aces. Matt Davidson would also hit two home runs in the game for Reno as they beat the River Cats 11-4. Davidson, some of you might recall, is one of only four players to have hit three home runs on Opening Day when he accomplished the feat in 2018 for the Chicago White Sox.
In Game 5 of the series on Saturday night, it was like watching a home run derby as the River Cats unloaded for five of the eight home runs hit on the night. David Villar, and Luis Gonzalez each hit two for the River Cats, and Matt Davidson hit his seventh home run of the season, which is the most in all of baseball at the time of this writing, in a game that ended with a River Cats victory by a score of 18-8. The Cats were 22-50 (.440) at the plate with 18 RBI, five doubles, five home runs, and six walks.
The River Cats could only muster up three hits on Sunday’s series finale after last night’s hit parade and would drop the final game of this series by a score of 1-0 on a home run by Arizona’s #1 prospect Alek Thomas. Thomas has a six-game hitting streak going right now and has hit safely in 10 of 12 games the Aces have played this year. Sunday was also Heliot Ramos’ return to the River Cats lineup after a brief call up to the Giants last week, and he goes 0-4 on the day.
Around the league we see River Cats third baseman David Villar sitting second in the PCL leader board with five homeruns behind Davidson, and third in the Minor Leagues behind Memphis’ Nolan Gorman who has six to lead the International League. Villar’s 16 RBI also lead the PCL but fall second over all in Triple-A behind Worcester’s Franchy Cordero who has 18. Bryce Johnson, who led the PCL in steals in 2021 has five on the season, just one behind the stolen base leaders Bubba Thompson and Forrest Wall. River Cats’ pitcher Matt Carasiti is tied for most wins in the league with a record of 2-0, and Raynel Espinal leads the River Cats with 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings.
The Dodgers have most of their best prospect talent in the lower levels, but come in to this week’s series against the River Cats with three of their Top 30 on the Oklahoma City roster who are #5 Miguel Vargas, a power hitting corner infielder who is the son of longtime Cuban star Lazaro Vargas, #6 Ryan Pepiot a right handed pitcher whose change up is considered the best in all of the Minor Leagues and is among the leaders in the various pitching categories in the PCL. The Dodgers #11 prospect Andre Jackson, who made his debut with Los Angeles last season will be on the mound to start the series for Oklahoma City on Tuesday and is scheduled to pitch against Sean Hjelle for the River Cats.
The OKC Dodgers also have players who River Cats/Giants fans will be aware of starting with outfielder Kevin Pillar, pitcher Reyes Moronta, and coach Emmanuel Burriss who played for the Giants from 2008-2012. While there are other players of note on the team, U.C. Davis alum and Olympian from Team Israel baseball, Ty Kelly has come out of retirement and is playing for OKC, as well as Eddy Alvarez, Olympic silver medal winner in both speed skating and baseball has been leading off for OKC this season. Alvarez is only the sixth person ever, and third American to medal in both the Winter (2014) and Summer (2020/1) Olympics in different sports. This will no doubt be an exciting week of baseball in Sacramento as the Giants and Dodgers affiliates face off against each other accompanied by the same intensity and rivalry by their fans at any level of the game.