River Cats repeat as division champs

Petit, Bankston homer; Sacramento maintains PCL dominance

(David Godinez/MLB.com)

By Steve Conley / Special to MLB.com | August 23, 2008 10:15 PM ET

Many of the names have changed over the years, but the Sacramento River Cats again have assumed their position as Pacific Coast League division champions.

Gregorio Petit and Wes Bankston homered as the defending PCL champions clinched their second straight Pacific South crown Saturday with a 7-4 victory over the Fresno Grizzlies at Chukchansi Park.

Petit's first homer of the season was a three-run blast in the fourth that gave Sacramento (79-55) a 5-0 cushion. Bankston drilled a two-run shot, his 19th, an inning later to make it 7-2.

Bankston drove in three runs and Jeff Baisley contributed two hits and a run scored for the River Cats, who won 17 of of 22 games in August to wrap up the seventh division title in their nine-year existence.

"They're all enjoying this and having a good time," said Todd Steverson, Sacramento's first-year manager. "They worked hard all year and adapted to the ups and downs and all the adversity. They deserve it."

Steverson joined the River Cats after managing Double-A Midland to a 67-70 record in 2007. He hopes to guide them to their third PCL championship in six years. Sacramento captured back-to-back titles in 2003-04.

Brad Kilby (7-2) allowed a hit and a walk while striking out one over three innings of shutout relief for the win. Bret Prinz worked around a pair of singles and a walk in the ninth to notch his fifth save.

Sacramento starter Josh Outman, who came over from the Phillies' organization in the July 17 trade involving Joe Blanton, allowed two runs on one hit and two walks with three strikeouts over four innings. The 23-year-old left-hander made his first start for the River Cats after spending much of the season in the bullpen at Double-A Reading.

Outman joined a pitching staff that leads the PCL with a 4.16 ERA and is anchored by Major League veteran Kirk Saarloos (9-4, 4.22 ERA), Dan Meyer (10-5, 4.48) and Gio Gonzalez (8-7, 4.24). Jerry Blevins recorded 10 saves and a 2.78 ERA before being called up to Oakland, where he has a 3.38 ERA in 21 games.

Steverson has enjoyed every minute of his first season as a PCL skipper.

"It's been a great pleasure," he said. "These guys have rolled with everything and are ready when their name is called. They don't worry if we're shorthanded, if there's one guy on the bench or five or nobody left in the bullpen. That's what you look for as a manager and that's all you can ask for."

The offense is paced by Bankston, Casey Rogowski (.278, 14 homers, 63 RBIs) and Brooks Conrad (26 homers, 85 RBIs). Over his last 11 games, Bankston is hitting .366 (15-for-41) with four homers, 13 RBIs and nine runs scored.

As for the playoffs, Steverson said, "We got step one, and you gotta get that before the next one. The next step is an unknown; anything can happen in a five-game series. They're prepared and ready to go. Whatever happens, happens."

Bankston echoed those sentiments.

"We're hot now and we want to keep that going," he said. "This has been a fun group of guys and we expect to keep things rolling."

Grizzlies starter Victor Santos (5-7) dropped his fourth straight decision after surrendering seven runs -- six earned -- on seven hits and three walks while striking out nine over six innings.

Eli Whiteside homered and John Bowker went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs for the Grizzlies (63-72).

Steve Conley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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