Got a late start out of San Diego, about 9 AM. Dropped the dogs off at the boarding place and headed up I-5 toward Los Angeles. Made it through LA pretty much without incident before stopping for gas and lunch at Castaic. Cheeseburger and fries: the official food of road trips.
Despite a few pockets of traffic, courtesy of road work and a nasty accident, we made good time through the browns and occasional greens of central California, through the orange trees and cattle, and arrived in Sacramento just in time to meet my buddy Theron at the ballpark.
Raley Field opened May 15, 2000, and seats, well, I’m not sure, but there were over 12,000 last night. We sat in the lower deck, off the first-base side, just beneath an overhang and behind the Krispy Kreme donut stand. I took some pictures but unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, I won’t be able to post those till I return home.
The matchup featured an up-and-comer versus a former top prospect trying to make it back to the bigs. The River Cats of Sacramento sent LHP Mario Ramos to the mound; RHP Jason Grilli toed the rubber for Calgary. Ramos, whom I’d seen pitch in college, was in command early and got into a good rhythm, keeping hitters off balance by changing speeds and moving the ball around the plate.
Grilli was less sharp but pitched well, allowing only a monster two-run homer to left by Jason Hart, who later hit another, even more majestic blast to left. The guy has some serious power. Sacramento’s other runs came via a Mark Bellhorn grand slam to right-center. Third baseman Eric Hinske, swindled from the Chicago Cubs, also looked solid at the plate, if a bit rough in the field.
But none of this was the story. Ramos was the story. While I was working on a fully loaded polish sausage, garlic fries, a giant cup of Mr. Pibb, and conversation with Theron, the young southpaw was working a no-no through five. And that’s when we started paying attention. Ramos was mowing down the opposition, working with a lethal efficiency.
The no-hitter remained intact until two outs in the eighth, when Cannons’ catcher B.J. Waszgis knocked a clean single to the right of shortstop Mark Ellis. After receiving a standing ovation from the home crowd, Ramos proceeded to strike out the next batter to finish the inning. That turned out to be the last batter he faced, and he left with a 9-0 lead.
After an adventurous outing from RHP Jon Adkins, the River Cats held on to win, 9-2. No no-hitter, no shutout, but still a win for the home team and one heckuva performance from Ramos. We said goodbye to Theron and headed off to find our hotel so we could get some rest before making the drive up to Ashland the next day. Good baseball. Good company. What could possibly be better?