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Cats stop Yanks for Bricktown title09/16/2008 11:30 PM ET
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Dynasties in Minor League Baseball are rare these days. Sacramento, however, made a strong case to be considered one of those rarities Tuesday night at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark.
The River Cats, fresh off capturing their fourth Pacific Coast League title in nine years, won their second consecutive Bricktown Showdown, topping the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, 4-1, before 8,213 fans. It marked the third consecutive victory for the PCL over their International League counterparts in the battle for Triple-A supremacy.
Chris Gissell was named the game's Bobby Murcer Most Valuable Player, striking out four over three innings of scoreless relief.
"You know, I've played in this league for a few years and Sacramento has definitely always been one of the strongest teams," said Gissell, who was in the PCL from 2002-05 before playing two seasons in Japan. "We have a great team here. I'm very happy to be on this team. It's an outstanding group of guys.
"We kept it up all year. This is my 13th year of professional baseball and this has been the best team I've been on, personality-wise. Oakland has done a great job of putting together winning teams in Sacramento."
The Yankees had an opportunity to break the game open in the first inning, loading the bases with two outs against Sacramento starter Brad Knox. Matt Carson, however, flied out to the wall in center to end the threat.
The River Cats didn't squander their opportunity, going to work quickly in the bottom half of the inning against Ian Kennedy. Chris Denorfia led off with a double. After a wild pitch and a walk to Carlos Gonzalez put runners on the corners, Wes Bankston singled in the game's first run. Brooks Conrad followed with an RBI single of his own before Casey Rogowski brought in another run with a fielder's choice.
Kennedy settled down after the first, throwing four scoreless innings before giving way to Steven Jackson. Kennedy struck out seven and scattered seven hits in his 95-pitch effort, but the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre offense couldn't break through against Knox or the Sacramento bullpen.
Knox hadn't pitched since going 2 1/3 innings in the PCL playoff opener against Salt Lake on Sept. 3. As a result, River Cats manager Todd Steverson pulled him after two innings and 31 pitches. But Gissell and Co. proved more than equal to the task of holding down the Yanks. Gissell was 1-1 with a 6.30 ERA in 10 postseason innings before Tuesday but was sharp against the Yanks, allowing just one hit and striking out four, including fanning the side in the fourth.
"They told me before the game that I'd be coming in second," Gissell said. "Usually, my cutter is my best pitch, but tonight it wasn't working. I had the curveball today and I was locating the fastball well. I threw the cutter well warming up, but I spiked a few after going 0-2 on my first hitter. After that, I didn't think it was going to happen."
The Yanks didn't fare much better against the rest of the Sacramento bullpen, either. Ryan Wing pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two. Ramiro Pena, just called up from Double-A Trenton, accounted for the only Scranton/Wilkes-Barre run, driving in Matt Carson with a seventh-inning single off Henry Rodriguez.
Brad Kilby and Bret Prinz combined to throw the final two innings, striking out two without allowing a hit.
"Chris was unbelievable tonight," said Conrad. "He's a veteran pitcher, so he's the guy you want on the mound. He came in today and showed you why. He was getting strikes around the plate. I wouldn't have wanted anyone but Chris on the mound, and he got the job done."
As for the newly crowned Sacramento dynasty, well, Conrad had to admit, it's not a stretch to label what the River Cats have done in recent years as such. He played the last four seasons in Round Rock, so he's gotten a close look at what Sacramento has been able to accomplish.
"I guess this is as close as you can get at the Triple-A level," Conrad said. "When I was with Round Rock, these guys always had great teams year in and year out. They always seem to have a good mix of guys who play hard. It's unbelievable the success they've had. They just keep it going. It's a great organization."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.