Sacramento River Cats v. Oklahoma City Dodgers – Game Notes From May 30, 2016
The rivalry still goes on, even through the lower levels, as the Sacramento River Cats (Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants) took on the Oklahoma City Dodgers (Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers). There was potential here to see a lot of major leaguers today, as the Giants reliever Sergio Romo, and the Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke, reliever Frankie Montas, and starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, were all rehabbing. Van Slyke didn’t play today and Ryu was supposed to start today’s game for the Dodgers, but shoulder soreness pushed his next start back. Romo, who has been with the River Cats since the beginning of last week, was not at the ballpark today. He was supposed to make a relief appearance yesterday, but he didn’t and he wasn’t even at the ballpark today. Not sure if that means he is just taking some extra rest for his forearm, or that he is getting ready to rejoin the Giants. We shall see.
For the River Cats –
Andrew Susac finally started a game for me. Susac was thought to be with the big-league club coming out of Spring Training as the backup catcher, however set-backs from a wrist injury he suffered late last season, and the performance of current backup catcher Trevor Brown, left the Giants no choice but to have Susac start this season in Triple-A. He’s had a rough go about it here in his hometown of Sacramento, getting off to a slow start (.250/.333/.364 triple-slash with 4 Rs, 11 Hs, 2 2Bs, 1 HRs, 8 RBIs in only 13 games/44 at-bats), and serving a stint on the DL as well. His first at-bat saw him kill a rally, as the River Cats had runners on first-and-third with one out, but Susac grounded into an inning ending double-play. Susac then had an opportunity to gun a guy out on a steal of second, but he lost the ball on the transfer from his glove to hand and the runner stole it cleanly. In his second at-bat, Susac worked the count 2-1 in his favor, before grounding out into a fielder’s choice to shortstop. He eventually would come around to score after a double by outfielder Mac Williamson advanced him to third and first baseman Ryan Lollis would single him in. In his third at-bat in the bottom of the 5th, Susac had another good at-bat, lasing a 2-1 pitch down the third base line for a double. In his fourth at-bat, Susac saw a good first pitch and drove it deep into left-center, but the center fielder was able to track it down on the warning track, making a nice running grab to end the inning.
Final assessment – Susac was hitting the ball hard, squaring it up nicely in three of his four at-bats today. You get the sense that he is finally healthy and starting to put it together; ready to go on a nice streak here to get his stats back up to where they should be.
Side note – An old favorite made the start this afternoon for the River Cats. After spending a few days with the big club, starting pitcher Clayton Blackburn was back in Sacramento to make the start today, and looked like his usually self. He had his stuff working early, putting the ball in play and being very economically with his pitches. Through three innings, Blackburn threw only 29 pitches with three strike outs. Blackburn had his first stressful inning in the fourth, as he allowed his first hit of the game and then after a stolen base, he hit the fourth batter with a wayward curveball, setting up runners at first and second with two outs. He got out of the jam, making a nice play on a hard-hit ball back up the middle on him and under-handing it to first for the putout. After the stressful inning, Blackburn settled back in and motored through the Dodgers lineup, setting a career high with eight strikeouts. After giving up his first walk of the game and a single to the first two-batters he faced in the top of the 8th, Blackburn was pulled. He threw 94 pitches, 63 for strikes. Despite leaving the game in the middle of a jam, Blackburn looked dominate again.
For the Dodgers –
Micah Johnson was a highly-rated prospect who the Dodgers acquired in the three-team deal that sent former Cincinnati Reds All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox, and prospects going back-and-forth between the Dodgers and the Reds. Johnson is thought to be the future second baseman for the Dodgers, however they made a late decision toward the back-end of Spring Training and signed veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick to a two-year deal. With veteran second baseman Chase Utley already supplanted as the starter at second, Johnson’s path to playing time is limited. While his natural position in second base, Johnson was playing left field this afternoon, another position in which the Dodgers are fairly deep in with prospects. Johnson lead off today, but didn’t do his lineup mates any favors of seeing pitches, as Johnson was first-pitch swinging and grounded out to second base. Johnson also seemed to be adapting to the outfield, as he made a nice diving catch on a sinking line-drive by River Cats outfielder Darren Ford, taking away a sure hit. Johnson made a good read on the ball off the bat and with his above-average speed, he is able to cover a lot of ground to have a chance at making the catch. If the intention is too leave him there in the outfield, I guess he can’t do any worst in left than Carl Crawford. Johnson hit the ball hard in his second at-bat, going the another way with the pitch and hitting a deep fly ball to left center that was caught near the warning track. In his third at-bat, Johnson works the count a bit, ultimately striking out swinging on a nice offspeed pitch by Blackburn. In his fourth at-bat, Johnson faced a new pitcher in reliever Steven Okert, who just over-matched him with three straight fastballs (all 92 MPH) for a strikeout. Not Johnson’s best at-bat of the game.
Final assessment – This is my first time seeing Johnson, and in the box he looks like a big leaguer. He has a nice stance, displaying a good base for balance and keeping his back elbow up and hands back. He puts a nice swing on the ball, even though he had nothing to show for it, going 0-4. He needs to work on taking pitches and working counts more, especially if he wants to be a leadoff hitter, as he only has eight walks in 167 at-bats and a .295 OBP coming into today’s game. And while he handled left ok defensively, making that nice diving catch earlier in the game, he took a bad route to the ball on a liner and allowed it to get by him in the bottom of the 9th for a double that set up the game-winning run. He has the speed and athleticism to play left, but I think the Dodgers should keep him at his natural position at second base.
Side note – Also acquired by the Dodgers in that three-way trade with Frazier was Montas, who joined the club today to start a rehab stint. He came in for a relief appearance in the bottom of the 6th, the only inning he would pitch. Montas is a hard-throwing rightly who easily touches 96-97 MPH with his fastball. He gave up a couple of singles to the first two hitters he faced, but he did catch the first hitter leaning too far off first for a pickoff. After the hits however, he battled back to get a couple of strikeouts to end the inning. He’ll be a much-needed arm in the Dodgers bullpen moving forward.