In a must-win game for the Sacramento River Cats, Brad Knox delivered.
Knox (1-0) battled through 7 1/3 innings Friday, helping the River Cats avoid elimination with a 7-3 victory over the Salt Lake Bees in Game 3 of their Pacific Coast League first-round series.
The 25-year-old right-hander threw 115 pitches and allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts. Julio Manon escaped a dramatic eighth, then closed it out in the ninth to force a fourth game on Saturday at Raley Field.
"They definitely had the momentum coming in here, but this is our house," said Knox. "It's tougher to beat someone at their own park. The fans had a big part in it and we stopped their momentum for sure."
Knox walked to Greg Porter in the eighth before Manon took over and ran into trouble. Brandon Wood singled and Matt Brown followed with an RBI double before Manon fanned Thursday's hero, Adam Pavkovich, and Nick Gorneault.
"I knew the pitch count was coming in, but with Porter hitting, I wasn't going to give into him," said Knox. "I wanted to stay in there, didn't feel fatigued at all. I was pretty fired up. Manon came in and he did his job and got out of the inning."
Manon recorded the final five outs, fannning four, to keep Sacramento's season alive.
"The fans really came out to support us tonight, and it made a huge difference with this club," said River Cats manager Tony DeFrancesco. "When [Raley Field] is loud like that, it gives us a huge advantage."
The River Cats, who lost the first two games of the series on dramatic walk-off hits, took the lead in the second when Lou Merloni smacked a solo shot, his second of the series.
"The Bees surged in front in the fourth, but Sacramento answered when Jorge Piedra led off the bottom of the inning with his first playoff homer. Daric Barton led off the fifth with his third postseason blast and Danny Putnam hit a two-run drive, his first of the series, in the sixth.
"Home runs in this series have been the key," said Knox, who served up a two-run shot in the third. "But here, they were clutch home runs for us. The one I gave up, I tip my hat to him [Tommy Murphy], I thought it was a great pitch."
Knox escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting Casey Smith to fly out and survived big trouble in the sixth when, with the bases packed, Tim Duff bounced into a inning-ending double play.
"Fastball, sliders, I kept them off-balance in the clutch situations," said Knox, who threw a slider to Duff to escape the sixth. "We got out of a big jam there. My slider was working very well tonight."
Bees starter Henry Bonilla (0-1) was rocked for seven runs -- five earned -- on eight hits and two walks while fanning four in 5 1/3 frames.
"We're all hungry, it fires you up a little more," Knox said of the possible elimination. "It could be the last game of the season, tomorrow we could be going home. Everybody battled, even the fans were in into it. I think they were a big part of it."
Salt Lake's Jonathon Rouwenhorst (10-10, 4.96) will oppose Kaz Tadano (5-5, 5.20) on Saturday in Game 4, another possible elimination game for the River Cats.
"Tomorrow is another day," said Knox. "They have to battle just like we have to battle, but they'll do it in front of our fans."
NOTES: Tadano went 1-1 in two starts against Salt Lake this season, allowing seven earned runs over 9 2/3 innings. ... Home teams are 6-0 in the PCL playoffs thus far. ... Sacramento drew 11,908 fans to Game 3. ... Blasi is 7-for-14 in the three games. ... Salt Lake manager Brian Harper immediately ran out to argue with first base umpire Jason Kiser following Gorneault's strikeout to end the eighth. ... Piedra has five RBIs in three games and Barton has driven in seven runs. ... The teams split their regular-season series, 8-8. ... Salt Lake outhit Sacramento, 10-9. ...Wood went 3-for-4 and is hitting .500 in the series. ...Petit was 3-for-4, scored twice and is hitting .308 in the playoffs. ... Gourneault is the Bees' all-time leader in home runs and RBI.