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Even though half of the River Cats starting lineup began their season with Oakland, it was a former River Cat that helped make the difference in the game.
Steve Tolleson and the other top three hitters in the batting order in the Tucson Padres lineup collected 12 of their 18 hits in a 12-7 win over the River Cats on Thursday evening at Raley Field.
Tolleson’s not sure about the Padres plans for him. Whether he gets the call or not, he’s just happy to be playing everyday.
“I don’t really know too much,” said the 27-year old from Spartanburg, South Carolina. “At the time of the trade, they were struggling up there as a team with their utility players, but I’m just here having a good time and playing well and I’m sure things will work out.”
One look at the starting lineup for the Cats and one would think that they were watching the A’s for a moment as five players that started the season with the big club are now either rehabbing in Sacto or have been sent down to get a firmer grip on their game.
Daric Barton, Andy LaRoche and Kevin Kouzmanoff were all sent down and Tyson Ross and Josh Willingham are in Sacramento on rehab assignments.
Ross got off the a rough start when the Padres first three hitters ripped singles straight up the middle to lead off the game and gave Tucson an early 2-0 lead.
After leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera stole second, the next two hitters - Logan Forsythe and former Cat infielder Steve Tolleson - hit sharp singles and reached second on throws to the plate by Cat center fielder Jai Miller. Miller must have thought he had a play at the plate because he never made an effort to hit the cutoff man.
Miller made another run-costing decision when cleanup hitter Matt Clark took a 1-0 pitch deep into centerfield. Miller got a bad jump on the ball and got turned around which allowed the ball to drift over his head for a run scoring double.
After sending eight batters to the plate in the opening frame, the Padres led 3-0.
Unfortunately for the Cats, Miller wasn’t done making mental errors just yet.
In the second, Tolleson laced a sharp liner into center. While making a play on the ball, Miller had the ball bounce off his glove, then after quickly retrieving it, overthrew the cutoff man again which allowed Tolleson to take second. Forsythe scored on the hit and it widened the lead to 4-0.
Sacramento would etch their first runs on the board in the bottom half of the second when Michael Taylor led off with a single to center and later scored on a throwing error by Padres shortstop Cabrera as he completely missed the first baseman while trying to turn a double play.
Daric Barton would get his first RBI since being sent down when his good eye allowed him to walk with the bases loaded. The two runs in the inning got the Cats cut the Padre lead in half. After two, Tucson led 4-2.
Sacramento would plate another run in the third when Anthony Recker who, along with Eric Sogard and reliever Willie Eyre made the Triple-A All Star team, plated Kevin Kouzmanoff on a ground out to the catcher.
Tucson would increase their lead to 7-3 in the fourth when Clark torched an 0-2 pitch from Yadel Marti, who came in to start the inning, over the Jiffy Lube sign in left-center field wall for a three-run homer.
Clark, who’s taken over the cleanup spot since Anthony Rizzo has been called up, had a great game. He went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, a home run and four RBI.
“Whenever I get a chance to do something good, I just try and take advantage of it,” said Clark.
The wheels came off in the sixth when, after coming in with two runners on base, Eyre gave up a walk and then a bases loaded double by Luis Martinez that extended the lead to 12-3.
A small amount of hope arose in the seventh when Willingham crushed a liner over the Bell Brothers sign in left center that bounced off the field house for a two-run dinger.
Willingham is coming back from a strained left Achilles. He said he really didn’t get to test it this game, but it was nice to get the home run.
“I really didn’t have to leg out a double or anything to test it out, but I felt good and it was good to get some at-bats and get back in the swing of the game a little bit.”
The River Cats are known for their never-say-die attitude and it paid off again in the eighth when Matt Carson clocked his fifteenth homer of the season - a two-run shot that brought the score to 12-7 and tied him with Miller for the team lead in that category.
Alas, Sacramento would not come back in the ninth and Tucson took the first game of the four game set that goes through the Fourth of July.
Steve Tolleson, who was 3-for-6, with two runs scored and three RBI, has hit around .340 since the trade just over a month ago.
Even though he misses his old teammates, he seems to be making the most of it since the deal went down and was grateful that the Padres thought enough of him to make the swap.
“I kind of found my stroke,” said Tolleson. “I’m kind of back to the form I was last year when I was here with Sacramento. I got off to a little bit of a slow start here in Sac, but things have got going and I’m very appreciative to the San Diego Padres for trading for me and putting me in a good position. We’ll see what happens from there.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
SARA MOLINA - RIVERCATS.com