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Usually, Cats’ starter Travis Banwart pitches well during the first few innings of a contest.
Banwart’s quietly had a very good season. His numbers put him near the top of several Pacific Coast League pitching categories. He ranks fourth in strikeouts, third in WHIP and third in batting average against while being the team leader in all of those areas.
On Tuesday evening at Raley Field, things went in a different direction for Banwart when he got off to a rough start as five of the first six batters got on base and the River Cats found themselves down 4-0 after one.
But after the shaky start, Banwart settled in and pitched well as he set down 13 of the next 14 batters he faced and helped get the Cats their sixth win in a row by beating the Colorado Sky Sox 8-6 in front of 11,268 jacked up fans.
Cats’ skipper Darren Bush was pleased with, not only this overall pitching performance, but the way his guys have handled the Sky Sox the entire series.
“The pitching was good all series long,” said Bush. “Banny (Banwart) had the rough first inning and then he settled down and put in five solid innings out there for us. That really helps the bullpen going into an eight-day road trip.”
The Sky Sox got off to a hot start on the strength of a couple of walks and a run-scoring single by Mike Jacobs. Included in the hit parade was center fielder Joe Mather’s three-run laser shot home run that almost hit the Premier Access Dental smiley face sign on the way out of the ballpark.
Leading off the third for the Cats, Adrain Cardenas ripped a line shot triple that just missed going out in right field as it hit the padding on top of the fence and rolled out to center. Recent call-up from Double-A Midland Dusty Coleman stroked a looping single that just cleared second baseman Matt Macri’s glove and fell into right-center field for a run-scoring hit.
Cardenas was all smiles as he stood in front of his locker space after the game. He can’t remember a time where he’s had so much fun and played with such a great group of guys.
“It’s just been fun,” said A.C. “This team, it’s awesome! All the way around with all the players that we have, all the talent we have and Bushy is a great manager. The hitting coach, I mean it’s been everybody. This has been the best team I’ve ever played for. Not only has it been the best team, but it’s been the most fun.”
Just as Kevin Kouzmanoff was strolling to the plate, I leaned over and said to Chris Biderman, editor of the up-and-coming Oakland Farm Report (a great source for A’s minor league news), that Kouz was due and this would be a great spot for a homer. About ten seconds later, he took the first pitch over the wall in right to tie the score at 4-4.
Kouzmanoff struck again in the fifth when a he hit a run-scoring bloop single that dropped in between three Sky Sox. Chris Carter was up next and hit a towering shot that would have brought rain on a spring day. The two-run homer gave the River Cats a three-run lead after five.
Kouz, as he is known by his teammates, would love to get back to the big league level. Given that, he sure appreciates being on a winner and wants to do everything he can to being another title to SacTown.
“I feel pretty good,” said Kouzmanoff. “I’m improving each and every day and I feel like all of us are. I think we are really coming together as a team and winning some ballgames. I think we have good team chemistry and a lot of guys are playing well.”
Scott Beerer got one back for the Sky Sox in the sixth on a single that scored Mather. In the bottom of the frame, Michael Taylor singled and scored on a Cardenas sacrifice fly to get the run back and keep the three-run lead for the Cats.
The Sky Sox would etch one more run on the board in the final frame but it wasn’t enough as Fernando Cabrera settled in and got his fifth save of the year.
Kouz sees the pieces to winning a title already here in Sacramento.
“Defense, pitching and hitting,’ said the 30-year old from Newport Beach, CA. “If you can combine all of those things together, I think you you have a pretty good chance of winning.”
Cardenas, a guy that’s high on the A’s radar and a terrific guy in the clubhouse, put everything in perspective as I was leaving the facility.
“The running joke is that we’re the Sacramento A’s. But it’s been a lot of fun here. It’s just a testament to our players. I’m learning from guys like Kouz. We have so much big league experience that if you’re fortunate to be a young guy like I am, you don’t slip up. You see what they do. Kouz, unfortunately for him, has come down here and was sent to Triple-A and never once has he complained and look at what he’s doing now. He’s showing us that someone that’s up in the big leagues and been there for five years - his first time in Triple-A - is not going to pout, is not gonna cry. There’s no chance that we (the younger guys) are going to pout and cry.”
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