West Sacramento, Ca.- So far the showdown for first place in the Pacific Southern Division has lived up to its billing. In a game that came down to the tying run at third with two outs in the ninth, Sacramento sneaked a 6-5 win over Fresno at Raley Field on Wednesday night. The River Cats are now one game back of first place Fresno.
The River Cats almost let a 5-1 sixth inning slip away over the course of the final four innings. A two-run homer to left field by Grizzlies third baseman Jesus Guzman, his team-high 17th, cut the lead to 5-3. Then in the eighth, down 6-3, the Grizzlies got busy in what turned out to be a very tense inning. Eugenio Velez led off with a homer to right fielder against River Cats reliever Michael Benacka to trim the lead to 6-4. Following Velez, left fielder Brandon Belt walked. Guzman struck out but Belt stole second. Shortstop Ryan Rohlinger walked and Benacka was removed from the contest in place of reliever Justin James. First baseman Brett Pill greeted James with an RBI single to center, scoring Belt to cut it to 6-5. A wild pitch by James then moved the runners up to second-and-third. Meanwhile designated hitter Joe Borchard was walked intentionally to load the bases. However, James bore down to get center fielder Ben Copeland on a pop up to third and got pinch hitter Steve Holm on a full-count comebacker to end the inning.
In the ninth, Fresno lead-off batter Emmanuel Burriss was hit with a pitch on an 0-2 count but could only get as far as third. Guzman flied out to right to end the game.
It was a game of home runs- five in total. Sacramento first baseman Chris Carter belted a second inning homer to left- his team-best 31st- while catcher Anthony Recker swatted his sixth of the season on the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth.
In addition to Guzman, Brandon Belt belted a solo homer just to the right of the center field fence in just his second Triple-A at-bat. It was Belt's 20th home run overall this season and his 103rd RBI. He had 10 homers with High-A San Jose and nine at Double-A Richmond.
Fresno starter Eric Hacker suffered his first loss since June 18th vs. Reno. The right-hander (16-6) went 5.0 innings, allowing up seven hits and five runs, walking a season-high six, and striking out two while allowing two home runs.
Sacramento right-handed starter Travis Banwart matched his season-high in strikeouts with seven as he upped his record to 3-2. He went six innings, givin up three hits and three runs, walking three. He also allowed two home runs. James pitched 1.1 innings to earn his fourth save.
Game two of this scheduled five-game series will be Thursday night at Raley Field with the first pitch at 7:05pm. Right-hander Henry Sosa (7-7) will pitch for Fresno against Sacramento lefty Bobby Cramer (2-1).
Belt is the second Grizzly this year to homer in his first game in a Fresno uniform. Pat Burrell did it on May 30th at Salt Lake. Meanwhile, Belt is the first Grizzly to homer in his first Triple-A game since Nate Schierholtz on April 5th, 2007 versus Portland at Chukchansi Park.
Fresno leads the season series 7-5 over Sacramento. The RiverCats have a 3-1 edge over the Grizzlies at Raley Field in 2010.
The Grizzlies are now 21-19 in one-run games.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.