Allergies have been brutal in the Sacramento valley this week and River Cats bats are being affected as they appear to be allergic to barreling baseballs. After averaging 59 runs the first two weeks of the season, the River Cats found themselves scoring only 24 runs during this six game homestand against Round Rock during which they lost four. Credit is due to Round Rock who are the second-best team in the Pacific Coast League behind the Oklahoma City Dodgers who the River Cats face this upcoming week in Oklahoma.
Since we last saw the team two weeks ago, the River Cats headed into their series against Reno with a record of 4-5 but won their first series of the season by taking four of six games against the Aces before returning to Sacramento. In Reno, Aces first baseman Phillip Evans continues to tear up the league with his .439 batting average, and teammate Buddy Kennedy is second in the league with a distant but still amazing .393 average. Reno has four batters in the top 10 in batting average as they sandwich the rest of league at one, two, nine and ten.
The Express came into Sacramento with Pacific Coast League’s best pitcher at the moment, Cody Bradford, who pitched game three of series and went seven innings allowing one run on five hits while striking out five and walking two. The lone run was only the second run that Bradford has allowed all season and came off the bat of Gary Sanchez who knocked in Austin Slater for the River Cats only run of the game in the bottom of the third. Bradford’s ERA and WHIP are both 0.77, as he improved to 4-0 on the season and leads the PCL in all three categories. Combined with Cole Winn, the Express really have some tough pitching, and their lineup is stacked with both former Major Leaguers such as Clint Frazier and Yoshi Tsutsugo, as well as Texas prospects, Jonathan Ornelas, and Justin Foscue the Rangers’ 2021 first round draft pick selected 14th overall. Foscue had a good series going yard twice. I’m not sure what to expect from the River Cats this year, but for as much of a hitter’s league that the Pacific Coast League historically has been, there is an amazing crop of young pitchers in the league right now that are challenging that notion.
River Cats third baseman/shortstop Casey Schmitt was honored this past weekend by receiving his 2022 Minor League Baseball Gold Glove Award, and then continued to shine at the plate. He is tied for most hits in the PCL with 30, and second on the team in both average and RBI but has also been prone to striking out this year.
Clint Coulter continues to lead the River Cats offensively and is top 10 in the PCL with his 25 hits, 19 RBI, .352 average, and .465 on base percentage.
Giants’ top prospect Kyle Harrison is starting to look a lot better having his best outing of the season last week, but Ryan Walker continues to be the most effective pitcher on the staff with 13 strikeouts in 13.2 innings and an ERA of 1.32, and WHIP of 0.88. He also leads the team with a 2.6 strikeout to walk ratio.
Opening Day starter Tristan Beck also got the call on Tuesday the 18th and made his Major League debut two days later pitching 5.1 innings of relief and striking out five against the Mets and their powerful lineup. As of this writing, Tristan hasn’t appeared in another game and will most likely make a return to Sacramento for the time being, but overall, a good debut.
Mitch Hanigar made his Giants organization debut this week starting a rehab assignment with a home run in his first game with the River Cats and blasting another later in the series. Austin Slater also finally got to see some playing time as he too returns from injury and spent the past week with the River Cats. Both players were activated and made their 2023 debuts yesterday (April 24) in the Giants lineup. During the game, Joey Bart did leave Monday night’s game with a groin tightness after hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Cardinals. Depending on how serious the injury is, this could be the opportunity that Gary Sanchez needs to make the roster before May 1st. . This must be a hard decision for the Giants because Gary is not only not hitting in Sacramento, but he doesn’t even look like he wants to be there. I get that he, along with everyone else, would much rather be in the Majors, but he’s not producing, and he looks horrible behind the plate and shows little to no effort. While Patrick Bailey is having a hot start in Double-A Richmond, I don’t think the Giants pull him up to the Majors at this point so if necessary, it seems the job goes to Sanchez if Bart goes down.
Hello Cal Stevenson, and after two years, goodbye to Sacramento native Sammy Long. Having burst onto the scene back in 2021 with the River Cats when he struck out the first eight batters he faced setting a new record to start a game, Long has been traded to the A’s for cash consideration. Although Long and Stevenson were each traded to each other’s team for “cash”, it turned out to be like a Stevenson for Long deal didn’t it? Its great that Sammy will have the opportunity to stay with a local organization, but you can’t really beat playing in your backyard.
The River Cats debuted two new alternate jerseys this past week. The first was a revamp of the Dorados uniforms that remind me a little of the Astropop uniforms the Houston Astros wore in the 80s or maybe a Taco Bell box. Either way I actually like them a lot.
This is the third incarnation of the uniforms that I can remember going back to their inception in 2018. Originally a black body with yellow sleeves, the previous jersey consisted of the light blue with yellow of the Ukrainian flag, having alternating triangular shapes pointing inward toward blocked letters that read “Dorados”, and the uniforms looked horrible. The new jersey still has a primary blue and yellow design but darker with added orange and white. The upper half is the blue and now the bottom half has the orange, yellow and white go around the body of the lower half and on the lower portion of the sleeves.
The River Cats also debuted their throwback uniforms to commemorate the Sacramento Solons who were one of the original teams of the Pacific Coast League back in 1903 and were in the league on and off until 1976 with its longest stretch from 1918-1960. The Solons were the last professional team in Sacramento until the River Cats moved from Vancouver for the 2000 season.