Sacramento, CA - It was a Welcome Home party of sorts for the Sacramento River Cats (44-56) as they took care of the El Paso Chihuahuas (57-42) 7-3 in front of a packed Orange Friday crowd at Raley Field. The River Cats pounced first on the Chihuahuas, scoring a season-high six runs in the first inning while starter Joan Gregorio kept the best offense in the Pacific Coast League at bay the rest of the way.
Sacramento started off hot, as the first three hitters of the order all reached base safely setting up the veteran catcher Miguel Olivo with bases loaded and no outs. The 13-year-old MLB veteran did not let his opportunity go to waste, clearing the bases with a 389-foot grand slam home run. Olivo, who came in hitting just .208 at home this season, registered his eighth home run and the first grand slam for Sacramento this season.
The first inning saw another first for the River Cats this year. Four batters later, shortstop Rando Moreno launched his first home run this season, a two-run shot that brought the score to 6-0. The shortstop has been on a tear of late, hitting .500 (6-for-12) over his last four games while bringing his average to .307 for the season. Moreno's home run was his third in 1,917 career plate appearances over six minor league seasons.
From then on, the right-hander Gregorio shut the door on El Paso over his next six innings, giving up just one run on four hits. The 6'7" fireballer came into tonight with a 1-1 record in three starts against the Chihuahuas, having allowed 13 earned runs over 12.2 innings against them. In tonight's victory, not only did he earn his third win on the season, but he also picked up his 500th career strikeout in the first inning.
Gregorio had all his pitches working tonight, striking out a season-high nine El Paso hitters, six of which came in the first 10 batters he faced. The 19th ranked prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization, Gregorio threw 99 pitches, 67 of which went for strikes en route to shutting down the best offense in the league.
Despite being outscored 62-49 by El Paso in their first 12 meetings, Sacramento was unfazed tonight and have now outscored the Chihuahuas 14-6 in their last two meetings. Of the River Cats' nine hits tonight, four came courtesy of the top four hitters in the lineup, who also scored four of the team's seven runs.
Sacramento will seek to win their fourth straight game tomorrow night, a feat they have only accomplished twice this year. Right-hander Austin Fleet (0-1, 4.15) will make his second start for Sacramento this season. He will square off against El Paso's southpaw Frank Garces (4-3, 4.41), who is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in two starts against the River Cats. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. (PT) and the game can be heard live online at rivercats.com and on the air on ESPN 1320.
The Sacramento River Cats are the Triple-A affiliate of the 2014 World Champion San Francisco Giants. The team plays at Raley Field in West Sacramento, consistently voted one of the top ballparks in America. River Cats Season Tickets, Mini-Plans, and Flex Plans can be purchased for the 2016 season by calling the River Cats Ticket Hotline at (916) 371-HITS (4487). For more information about the River Cats, visit www.rivercats.com. For information on other events at Raley Field, visit www.raleyfield.com.