I am in Music City - Nashville, Tennessee. The Sacramento River Cats also happen to be in Nashville - not coincidental - and I caught the game last night at Greer Stadium a 3-2 River Cats victory. After lamenting the lack of offense in Oakland this year, Sacramento today offered a bit of poor offense for me to watch as they skated by the host Sounds (Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers) with only four hits. It was a good and exciting game and if not for the 50s temps and off and on drizzle, would have been perfect. I was really impressed by Travis Banwart who was throwing well and in his six and two-thirds innings and struck out six. My wife and I had front row right next to the River Cats on deck circle seats and Banwart really had Josh Donaldson's glove popping. Here is a photo from him earlier in the game, when we sat in the wrong seats further down the first base line (turns out we were given these still very good but incorrect seats at the will call - then the mistake was fixed by the Sounds who informed us we in fact were to be sitting right in the front row - row 2 is the front row - right there in the thick of the action).
While he was a bit wild (walking three straight to load the bases - though those were the only walks he'd surrender), he really battened down and got guys out and had a lead which ultimately was lost on a very strange error by Michael Taylor in left. Taylor Green of the Sounds hit a routine fly ball to left field, Taylor settled under it reached up and the ball just glanced off his glove. Very weird. Ultimately it came back to haunt the River Cats. But, regarding Banwart I was impressed. He was a fourth-round pick in 2007, not sure where the A's plan on putting him and what the plan for him is. He came into tonight's game with 7.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 in his 481 innings pitched in his minor league career along with an even 4.00 ERA.
Regarding Michael Taylor, first off, to sound like an eyeball guy - he looks like a ballplayer. But he was swinging at pitches terribly outside of the zone, had that very big defense lapse that at the time lost the River Cats' lead (at the very least it lost a win for Banwart). He wasn't particularly impressive playing as he was just as a physical specimen. He is a smart and articulate kid from the interviews I've heard and I just have to wonder if he is like Billy Beane as described in Moneyball where he talks about a guy like Lenny Dykstra and how he can just go out and play and not overthink things whereas Beane overthought every play and pitch. I think Taylor has some of that same problem to him.
It was also the first time I got to see Eric Sogard (pictured above on first) in person, and I like how he plays. He runs all out on even the surest of ground outs. Small guy which you can tell on television, but really in person unlike Taylor, he really does not look like a ballplayer. In this game he collided with Jemile Weeks in short center field and played the remainder of the game with two giant tears in his pants. Real gamer. Liked what I saw from him just in how he played. I think he'd be an upgrade over Mark Ellis right now, but he was playing shortstop tonight - the second baseman Weeks was impressive too. Very wiry guy, even tinier than Sogard. Either represent an upgrade right now I think over Ellis.
I was very excited to see Joey Devine come into the game to earn the save. Devine should be in the Majors right now - absolutely no reason for him not to be. He was great in this outing. He had a fourteen pitch ninth, featuring two strikeouts including one to end the game. Looked really great and had great stuff.
Aside from those guys who I have pictures of, a few more thoughts: these guys just swung and swung and swung and it showed as Sounds starter Amaury Rivas managed eight strikeouts in six and a third, then reliever Sean White added another two. Taylor, Donaldson and Steve Tolleson all struck out twice. Also like their big league counterparts, at least tonight, the River Cats were terrible with RISP. While Jai Miller had what looked like a two-run double (ruled foul by the ump - though I believe incorrectly and Josh Donaldson on deck who had the same view I did and Todd Steverson on the bench both jawed with the home plate ump about it) ultimately the team went 0-for-7 with RISP leaving an incredible eighteen men on base. Adrian Cardenas left early after being HBP, and I would've liked to have seen more of him, he was playing in left field and gave Taylor the opportunity to make the error in left as he was shifted there with Miller taking over in center following Cardenas' removal from the game.
Overall it was a fun time. Living out east I don't get to see much Pacific Coast League ball for obvious reasons and it was a fun time in Nashville despite the inclement weather. Greer Stadium is pretty dated but I love that, I am here to watch a baseball game not a baseball stadium and for me my front row seats suited me just fine.