River Cats’ ‘Superbad’ act gets three of four
By Albert Samaha
Sports Informant Contributing Writer
The best minor league baseball team in the country should be lauded for its consistency. Apart from obnoxiously rare 19 run outbursts over offensively poor pitching teams, the Sacramento River Cats win each game the same way — quality pitching and timely hitting.
Vin “Legend” Mazzaro has been written about in this venue as if he were a chiseled Spartan warrior recently returned from heroically defeating Homer’s heinous Cyclops. Since his call-up to Oakland, I speak of Maz like a proud father speaks of a son away at an Ivy League institution. As much as I criticize ESPN’s — oops, I mean Spike Lee’s — gratuitous piece of propaganda on that supremely talented yet personally pretentious Southern California Swine, I fear I am a Legend Mazzaro complete game two hit shutout away from entitling an article “Vinny Doin’ Work.”
“Jovial” Gio Gonzalez, for his part, has been featured in my columns more than Lil’ Wayne is featured on Drake’s songs. It’s as if I am trying to see how many consecutive columns I can mention him in. This makes six by the way.
All season, the River Cats have been about Pitching, Pitching, Pitching.
This week’s match-up against the Tacoma Rainers followed the trend like an insecure 12-year-old girl from Orange County. In four games, Cats starters pitched a total of 22.1 innings, allowing just four earned runs while striking out 22, maintaining an absurd WHIP of 1.03.
That, my friends, is consistency.
In game one James Simmons went five innings, giving up just one run on four hits and a walk. Yet his strong outing was wasted as the bullpen imploded in the twilight of the game like the Orlando Magic, giving up five runs in the final two innings. The Cats lost, 4-6.
Games two and four featured respectively solid performances by Dana Eveland and Chad Reineke — both resulting in 3-2 wins for Sacramento. Reineke’s no-decision start was salvaged by the bullpen, which redeemed itself with four K’s in 3.2 shutout innings of 2 hit ball.
The pinnacle of the series was Jovial Gio’s jewel of a start in game three, a 3-0 Sac win. Six innings, no runs, eight K’s, four hits, and just one walk. Apparently his control has progressed. Gio Gonzalez’s four game hot streak is as impressive as anything Legend Mazzaro has done in his time in Sacramento. Ladies and gentlemen, your new 24 Hour Burrito Joint Pitcher.
Yet the real story of this series should be found in the other half of the inning. The Cats’ top of the order turned in a performance that would make the ’82 Cardinals proud. In SacTown’s three wins, the one, two, and three hitters were responsible for scoring all nine runs. Of the 13 runs scored all series, the 1-3 hitters scored 11. The top third of the order flaunted a scorching .435 On Base Percentage for the series and in each game the one, two, and three hitters each reached base at least once.
That, my friends, is also consistency.
Eric Patterson, the mainstay at the leadoff spot, was joined by a configuration of Pennington or Petit and Cunningham or Buck at the early third of the lineup. The unit carried the team like Dwyane Wade carried Marquette to the ’03 Final Four.
It’s like “Superbad.” Even though the film is considered one of the best comedies of the generation, the dirty little secret is that only the first third of it is actually re-watchable. All the best jokes happen within the first 30 minutes.
“So I’ve been thinking about what porn site to subscribe to…”
“What are you an Irish R&B singer?”
“The funny thing about my back is…”
“I feel like a pimp, like one of those pimps.”
“You look like Pinocchio.”
“You don’t have the technology or the steady hand to pull off a procedure like that.”
“Eff my life.”
All within the first third of the movie.
Really, everything after the liquor store scene is marginal at best. Yet in spite of this shortcoming, we all still love “Superbad.” We love the timeless jokes, the accurate portrayal of adolescent life, the endearing idiosyncrasies of the characters — all of which occur in the beginning of the movie. The first third of the movie carries the rest.
Just like the Cats’ batting order.
Sacramento has generated a successful formula for winning this year. As delicate as the strategy ostensibly appears, it has maintained throughout the season thus far. Pitching and timely hitting must carry the River Cats to their third straight Pacific Coast League title.
And that’s the truth, that’s the gospel, that’s a muthapoppin’ fact.