Sunday, September 9, 2012

River Cats knocked out of playoffs in Reno - Sacramento Bee

RENO -- For just the second time in six years, the Pacific Coast League's championship series will not feature an entrant from Sacramento. The River Cats saw their season end today with a 7-4 loss to the Reno Aces in the decisive fifth game of their opening-round playoff series.

Reno's Mike Jacobs broke open a tied game in the bottom of the seventh with a three-run homer off reliever Merkin Valdez. The River Cats had walked Josh Bell with a runner on second and one out to set up a potential double play with Jacobs, the cleanup hitter, coming to the plate.

After falling behind Reno two-games-to-one, the River Cats forced the series to the limit Saturday night in extra innings. But they couldn't fully re-create the magic of last year's opening round, when they came all the way back from a 2-0 deficit against the Aces.

Instead, Reno advances to play for its first PCL title.

The River Cats finished the regular season with the best record in the league for the second year in a row under manager Darren Bush and won their league-record sixth consecutive division title.

Bush deftly handled a barrage of roster moves, guiding a team that seized control of first place for good on June 21 and did not lose more than two consecutive games on the road all season.

The River Cats jumped out to an early lead Sunday. Jermaine Mitchell drew a one-out walk in the first inning, advanced on a groundout and scored when Kila Ka'aihue lined a double to the wall in left-center field off Reno starter Brett Tomko.

Michael Taylor then shot a single into right field, his eighth hit of the series, to score Ka'aihue. Tomko settled down until the fifth, when Josh Horton singled to lead off the inning and scored when Grant Green blooped a single into center with two outs.

With River Cats starter Sonny Gray in the midst of a stretch where he retired 11 hitters in a row, the three-run lead felt big. But in the bottom of the fifth, Reno's Taylor Harbin hit a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left field to break up the shutout.

Gray then issued his first walk of the day to Tyler Bortnick and gave up a single to Ryan Budde. Both came around to score on two-out singles by Tyler Kuhn and Josh Bell.

The score stayed tied until Jacobs came up in the seventh.

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