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This time around, a slightly re-tooled Graham Godfrey was ready.
Ready to show that the changes he made in the offseason were paying off. Ready to pop the glove with the hard stuff.
And after striking out the side in the first inning, he knew that he couldn’t let this great start go to waste.
“It sets the tone for the rest of the game,” said Godfrey. “I think the guys playing behind me picked up on that and they feed off that. It’s a good way to start things off.”
On a sunny and warm Thursday evening at Raley Field, the sombreros were out and the margaritas were flowing as the fans in attendance this Cinco de Mayo witnessed a great pitching performance as the Cats cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Salt Lake Bees.
As for Palmer - Godfrey’s counterpart - he had given up two walks, two wild pitches and one run on a hit in just the first two innings! Palmer pitches were everywhere.
Immediately, a contrast in starting pitching was evident.
The theme would continue the entire game as the Cats would garner a baserunner in each inning and were constantly putting the Bees on the defensive.
Graham Godfrey came out throwing darts and Manager Darren Bush was quite impressed.
“He did a great job,” said a smiling Bush. “He attacked the strike zone, he went at hitters and he made them swing the bats. He had command so he was able to get them swinging and then move the ball around. Great job!”
For the Cats, Eric Sogard lead off Sacramento’s part of the first with a walk. One wild pitch later, he’s on second. After a Steve Tolleson ground out moved Sogard to third, he scored on another wild pitch by Bee starter Matt Palmer to get the Cats out to an early lead.
In the second, Adrian Cardenas ripped a sharp single down the first base line that just got under Efren Navarro’s glove and into right field. Anthony Recker, who had walked to lead off the inning, had to pull up at second as he wasn’t looking at third base coach Darren Bush who was waving him around.
At first glance, it appeared that it would have been easy for Recker to get to third and then have runners on first and third with no outs. Recker knew that the first baseman was an excellent fielder and thought there was a chance he had fielded the ball and was throwing to second to get him out. Adding to that, the shortstop - Andrew Romine - was moving towards second as if he had a play on Recker.
Bush understood why Recker played it safe.
“He went into the bag and looked at the middle infielders to see what they were doing,” said Bush, “and the middle infielder was coming towards the bag so he thought the throw was going to come in there. I’d rather him do that than not go into the bag and try and make a round and get tagged out.”
Moments later, Recker would get caught at third in a rundown on double steal attempt. The Bees caught a break and Sacramento would go quietly the rest of the inning.
In the third, Matt Carson torched a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left center that hit the top of the field house. The rocket must have gone close to 450 feet and gave the Cats a 3-0 lead after three.
“It worked out pretty good you know, I haven’t been swinging the bat real well lately but to get a couple across the plate today, it felt good,” said Carson.
After a quiet fourth, Josh Horton lifted a flailing fly ball that dropped in front of left fielder Chris Petit for a single. He would later score on a sacrifice fly by Carson, who got his third RBI of the day.
The first damage by the Bees occurred in the sixth as Paul McAnulty lifted a shot that drifted over Cardenas in left and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. The well-placed hit scored Willits, who had walked to lead off the inning.
The Cats tried to etch some more runs onto the big board in the sixth. Two are out when Peterson walked, took second on his first steal of the season and then scored on a single from Horton. Again, Bush was being very aggressive on the base paths as he waved Peterson home on what appeared was going to be a very close play at the plate. The throw from the third baseman was just enough off-line that Peterson could slide his way around the tag and slide safely into home for the score.
Josh Donaldson, who had been struggling at the plate and already had struck out three times, capped the scoring with a two-run single in the eighth.
Godfrey was pulled after six very strong innings of work. Final line: 6 IP, 2 H, 1ER, 2BB and 7 K’s. As his stats are piling up, he seems to be getting better each game.
Sacramento's bullpen pitched well also as Fautino De Los Santos and Willie Eyre pitched three scoreless innings
Godfrey acknowledged that the coaching staff and the teammates that are playing behind him have attributed to his early success. He also noticed that his delivery was not what it should be and worked on his mechanics in the off-season. The extra work is paying off.
“My mechanics were a little off last year and it affected all my pitches,” admitted Godfrey. “This year, I’ve worked with Emo (pitching coach Scott Emerson) and our pitching coordinator to raise my arm slot a little bit and everything is coming out a little bit better, a little bit harder and that’s definitely helping.”