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In the first two series of the year the Sacramento River Cats won both of them by winning three of the four games played in each. In the third series of the year, it was a close one, but the Cats beat the Reno Aces 2-1 in a classic pitchers’ duel on Monday night at Raley Field.
The Aces were the first to scratch a run onto the huge Raley Field scoreboard when Ryan Wheeler ripped a 3-0 pitch from Cats starter Jarrod Parker that went screaming over the right field fence on a rope for a solo home run.
Parker was solid though three innings of work. One-third of the way through the game, he had four strikeouts, three hits and a walk.
In the bottom half of the third, Cats left fielder Grant Green smoked a line drive down the right field line for a clean triple. Hopes were raised when the 244-pound Chris Carter strolled to the plate with a man on and two outs. Carter tapped a roller to the third baseman, but Wheeler threw the ball up the line and pulled first baseman Randy Ruiz off the bag. Ruiz’s tag missed Carter as he ran by on his way to first. The play scored the Cats’ first run as Green easily made his way to home plate.
Even though he was working deep into counts, Parker was still dealing. Through five, he had seven strikeouts and had only given up four hits.
His counterpart, Chris Jakubauskas, was having a great game himself. He had given up only three hits through five.
A scare came in the sixth. After a couple of singles off of Parker, Coach Bush decided to have a mound chat with him in an attempt to settle him down.
After a fly out, Taylor Harbin hit a 1-1 pitch to the left side of shortstop Adam Rosales. Rosales scooped it up and threw it home. Cats catcher Derek Norris was ready for the throw at the plate and tagged David Winfree as he tried to score from third on the play. The next hitter grounded out to end the frame and the game remained tied.
In the bottom half of the sixth, with one out, designated hitter Brandon Moss scorched a double into right field. Michael Taylor walked to the plate and promptly took a 2-0 pitch into right for a seeing-eye single that put runners on first and third with only one out.
That’s when Norris stroked the pitch into deep enough right field that Moss could score from third. On the play, Taylor was thrown out at second as he tried to get the extra base.
Norris said he’s motivated by playing with such a great group of guys this season.
“We have a really good hitting team and a really good pitching team,” Norris said. “You see the guy in front of you get a base hit, your confidence goes up that you can get a hit as well, so I think that is a big part of it. I’ve hit behind (Michael) Taylor most of the year and I don’t even know - he’s batting like .900 or something. When I see him up there and he gets a line drive base hit, that gives me all the confidence in the world to go up there and do the same exact thing.”
“With a group of great guys, it makes it easier to come out here and play. A great manager, great coaching staff, makes everything so much easier when everything goes smooth like it is.”
The aforementioned Michael Taylor is killing it early this season. Taylor is the team leader in hits with 19, runs batted in with 11, and an outstanding .413 batting average.
On this night, he went 3-for-4 with all three hits being solid line drives.
Even though Taylor didn’t have an awe-inspiring spring training, he was hard at work refining his swing like he does every year.
“I came into this year focused on my process and what I wanted to do,” started Taylor. “Spring training and whatnot, I kind of went back to how I always look at spring training, which is getting ready for the season, kind of building your swing and learning what you need to do so you can be consistent on a day-in day-out basis. I went to the spring and might have got five hits all spring, but I knew I was right where I wanted to be. I’ve rolled that over to here and luckily some of the balls I’ve hit hard are falling.”
Taylor believes the future is bright for the team.
“This might be the best team I’ve been on in the last three years I’ve been here… I think we have a really great bullpen. It might be the hardest throwing bullpen I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone seems to up there around 95 or 96,” Taylor said.
“Anyone on any night can come in and shut the door for us and that’s fantastic. Overall, we have a really solid team with young prospects and older guys that have been here before. So far, it’s been a recipe for success!”
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