That’s right, we did it! We came back from an 0-2 deficit against Salt Lake City to win the opening series in 5 games. Then we carried that momentum to a 3-game sweep of New Orleans in the PCL finals.
We gave up late leads in the first 2 games of the Salt Lake series, losing both of the first 2 games in walk-off fashion at their place. But despite the disappointment, our clubhouse stayed loose as we eagerly returned to our home field. Sacramento fans came out in droves, and they provided an absolutely electric atmosphere all 3 games. Brad Knox gave us a good performance in game 3, and that 7-3 victory gave us some hope. Then game 4 put us over the top...
We were in a tight, neck-and-neck battle the whole game, and you just had a feeling it would come down to who could get one clutch hit. Well, we got it: Danny Putnam hit a walk-off, 3-run homer in the 10th to give us a 7-4 win and put the series into a 1-game showdown. Game 4 was the absolute most-fun game I’ve been a part of in pro ball. Incredible. Great atmosphere, very well-played game, and phenomenal ending. Still get goosebumps thinking about it...
Then, on Sunday, Daric Barton’s 3-run homer was the big blow in a 4-2 win in game 5, sending us to the PCL Championship Series. We got strong pitching, fantastic defense, and the timely hitting needed to win a close series like that. Thrilling, to say the least...
We fed off the excitement from the 1st series, taking the momentum down to New Orleans for games 1 and 2 of the championship series. We played a very solid game in the series opener, coming away with a 5-3 victory. Jorge Piedra had the big hit, breaking a 2-2 tie in the 7th with a 2-run single.
Then in game 2, we trailed 2-1 going to the 9th inning. With 1 out, Piedra came up huge again, hitting a solo homer to tie the game. That was followed by a 2-out single by Brant Colamarino and a clutch double off the left field wall by Brian Stavisky that scored Brant all the way from 1st. After closing out the 3-2 victory, we headed home, needing just 1 win out of a possible 3 games at home.
Sacramento fans were incredible on Friday night, filling the stadium to capacity in anticipation of a league championship. A pitching duel ensued early, as the game was scoreless going to the bottom of the 4th. It was then that we took advantage of a couple New Orleans miscues and put up 4 big runs to give us a comfortable lead (esp. the way Brad Knox was throwing). Knox took a 1-hit shutout into the 8th inning, but gave way to Jerry Blevins after giving up a 3-run homer with 2 outs. Blevins proceeded to strike out 3 of the last 4 hitters, including the final batter in the 9th, setting off a wild celebration.
As a team, we flexed our muscles in the playoffs, hitting 15 homers. Leadoff hitter and PCL Playoffs MVP Nick Blasi was the table-setter for us, just as he was all year. He had hits in all 8 games, finishing 16-for-35 (.457) with 12 runs scored. Blevins was fantastic in the post-season, striking out 20 batters while giving up just 4 hits and 2 walks over 9 scoreless innings of work.
Most of the fans stuck around to celebrate with us, which I hope they enjoyed as much as we did. And I hope we, as players, were able to express through our gestures of gratitude just how much we appreciated the support all year long, and especially at the end when it really mattered. We led the PCL in attendance for the season, averaging just over 10,000 fans a game, and we definitely had the best fans in all of minor league baseball.
I've been very fortunate in my short pro career. This is the 3rd championship team I've been on in 4 years of playing (Modesto '04, Midland '05). I think that's a HUGE tribute to the coaching staffs and players the A's have put in their farm system recently. And with class A, AA, and AAA championship rings, I think we all know what the next step is for '08. :)
We’re now in Oklahoma City, ready to play in the PCL Championship on Tuesday night...the Bricktown Showdown! We play the Richmond Braves (champs of the International League) in a 1-game playoff for AAA bragging rights. The game’s televised on ESPN 2, and it starts at 7 PM central time (5 PM pacific).
If you didn’t notice, I’m not going to answer any questions in this entry. I still have all the Q’s from the last 2 blogs (#’s 22 and 23) ready to go for the start of the off-season. I’ll probably try to get to all of those in the next entry, as well as give a brief re-cap of the Bricktown Showdown. I hope everyone has a great week!
River Cats record: 6-2 (now 9-0 all-time in the PCL championship series)
My stat line: 5 G, 1-1, 2 SV, 2.45 ERA, 7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB
FINAL REGULAR SEASON STATS...
River Cats record: 84-60 (PCL Pacific Southern Division Champions)
All-level Cumulative: 12-3, 2 SV, 2.41 ERA, 78.1 IP, 26 R, 21 ER, 65 H, 62 K, 18 BB
AAA stats: 8-3, 2.96 ERA, 54.2 IP, 20 R, 18 ER, 46 H, 44 K, 14 BB
AA stats: 4-0, 1 SV, 1.14 ERA, 23.2 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 19 H, 18 K, 4 BB