If you go to Minor Lines every morning, as you should, then, uh, first of all, your mornings are going to be a little short on content until April. Sorry. All but one Giants affiliate played their last game of the year yesterday (make us proud, Rookie League Giants!), so Roger’s gonna have a lot less work to do around here.
Also: man, Roger does a lot of work. Give it up for Roger, everyone.
However, as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, if you went to Minor Lines this morning, you saw that the Sacramento River Cats played a wild game against the El Paso Chihuahuas yesterday. And let me just put it this way, so you understand how entertaining of a game it was: It was the most un-2017 Giants game possible.
It didn’t always seem like it was going to be that way. The very first batter of the game, Franchy Cordero, homered off of Matt Gage to start the day off, and after watching 8-1 and 7-3 losses the previous two days, it was hard not to think, “Here we go again.” The Chihuahuas extended their lead to 3-0 in the top of the fourth, the River Cats got it back to 3-2 with back to back homers from Austin Slater and Chris Shaw in the bottom of the inning, and then there was a lull. If you’ve watched a lot of Giants games this year, you know that lull. It’s the “We almost did our jobs, so let’s all chill out for a while and not hit” feeling that’s been pervasive in San Francisco all summer.
El Paso busted the game open in the top of the 6th, scoring six runs off of Matt Gage and DJ Snelten in another inning whose form is very familiar to Giants fans this year. The Chuhuahuas had the bases loaded and a run already in with no one out, and then in classic Giants fashion, Snelten got two outs just to make us all think he’d get out of the inning and minimize the damage, and then he, uh, didn’t minimize the damage. It’s grossly unfair for this to be the only main page mention of DJ Snelten, who’s had a very nice year for Richmond and Sacramento, but them’s the breaks, kid. El Paso had two RBI singles off of Snelten and capped off the inning with a bases clearing double off the bat of Ryan Schimpf, it was a 9-2 game, and the rout was on.
I mean, isn’t that what you would think too? You’ve no doubt watched dozens of Giants games this year, and as someone who’s been to many, many River Cats games, I can assure you, they’re not that much better. I mean, they are better — it’s really hard to be as bad as the Giants have been this year — but a 7 run deficit is basically hopeless. Even after Sacramento scored a couple runs in the eighth on a Ryan Lollis single, who would expect them to win?
Jeff Arnold led off the bottom of the ninth, and as a hitter, Jeff Arnold can best be described as an excellent defensive catcher. He’s stuck with the organization because of his pitcher whispering skills, and good for him, but he’d spent most of the year in AA and had a .646 OPS there, and in his limited time in AAA, his OPS was under .400.
Juniel Querecuto was up next, and even though he did briefly make it to the majors last year with Tampa, he didn’t do it with his bat. His career AAA slugging percentage is under .300, and he came into the at bat with one home run on the year.
Then it was Slade Heathcott’s turn. On the one hand, Heathcott was a late season promotion to Sacramento after having a successful year in AA Richmond, so you’d expect that if anyone could have a good AB, he could. On the other hand, you can never really expect back-to-back-to-back homers. It’s just not plausible.
The River Cats were now only down 9-7, and after Chihuahuas pitcher Jason Jester seemed to settle down, getting groundouts from Steven Duggar and Ali Castillo. With two outs, pinch hitter Wynton Bernard came up and singled into left field, which was his fifth consecutive pinch hit at bat in which he’d gotten a hit, which is pretty dang impressive.
Now, with Chris Shaw coming up, the Chihuahuas decided that it might be a good time to change pitchers, what with all the dingers and whatnot. So with the game on the line, they went to Eric Yardley, a submariner who had had a very good year across the top two levels of the Padres minor league system. And for as much power as Shaw has, it would be silly to expect him to complete a five run comeback against a nasty submariner who he’d never faced before with his second homer of the day.
Shaw’s first homer of the day was a no doubter, a majestic shot to right field. There’s video of it in Minor Lines, just like there’s video of this one. This was an opposite field homer, and it had a little more drama to it, and if I’m being honest here, it’s still hard to believe it went out. The River Cats were retired without scoring any more runs in the inning, and a game that had been 9-2 with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning headed to extra innings.
Dusten Knight pitched a scoreless top of the 10th, and the same three hitters that had led off the bottom of the 9th led off the bottom of the 10th. But this time, Jeff Arnold struck out looking and Querecuto grounded out to second. It was Slade Heathcott who came up again, and Slade Heathcott who crushed a ball to left center, and Slade Heathcott who hit a walk off homer to win the game in the 10th inning. It was certainly the best River Cats game I’ve ever been to, and probably the best baseball game at all since Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS.
Also, since it was the last game of the season, per Sacramento tradition, River Cats players greeted fans at the gates. Here’s a picture of me with Jae-gyun Hwang.
There is also a photo of me with Chris Shaw, but he’s so handsome that I look like a cave troll next to him, so I’m not putting that one up.
I guess the main takeaway from the game is this: if you have a chance to go to the last River Cats game of the season, meet multiple players, see the home team hit seven homers, and watch an incredible 7 run comeback, you should probably do it.