River Cats left-hander Lenny DiNardo could have used a cold beverage after a rough first inning on Miller Lite Thirsty Thursday at Raley Field.
Despite the slow start, DiNardo rebounded with a spectacular 4.0 innings to help the River Cats cruise to an 8-5 victory over Salt Lake.
DiNardo struggled in his previous two appearances, allowing six earned runs in each game while holding a 54.00 ERA. However, after Thursday’s first inning in which he allowed five runs, he was as cool as the $2 Miller Lites fans were sipping on in the stands.
In his first start, DiNardo made it through 1.1 innings, walking three batters and allowing eight runs (six earned). The left-hander started things on a similar note Thursday, but saw four more innings on the mound. In those four innings, DiNardo allowed just two hits while striking out two.
The River Cats scored two runs in the first and third innings before Scott Sizemore tied the game in the seventh on a play that knocked the catcher Kevin Richardson out of the game.
Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson was unable to watch the comeback from the bench as he was tossed in the middle of the game after arguing a call with the home plate umpire.
A bunt by Adrian Cardenas turned into the tying run for the River Cats in the seventh inning. Salt Lake reliever Bobby Cassevah threw the ball over the head of first baseman Efran Navarro. After the throw, Cardenas tried to go to second, putting himself in a pickle. Sizemore took advantage of the situation scoring the tying run after jarring the ball loose from Richardson’s grasp at the plate.
The River Cats didn’t stop there as Shane Peterson sent a three-run go-ahead home run to the Salt Lake bullpen in the eighth inning, bringing in Matt Carson and Eric Sogard.
“With the situation I was in I just wanted to get my barrel on the ball,” said Peterson, who admitted he hasn’t been hitting up to his standards recently. “I wanted to make sure I put together a good at bat and at least give myself a chance to get a hit. Hopefully, I can take the last few at-bats and run with it tomorrow and get back to where I was a few weeks ago.”
Five River Cats had two hits Thursday, while two of them (Sizemore and Jai Miller) combined for five of Sacramento’s eight RBIs. Sizemore, who scored four runs Monday, scored three runs Thursday. Miller, who has five home runs during his current seven-game hitting streak, had three RBIs and two runs.
Pitching coach Scott Emerson chose to leave DiNardo in despite the rough first inning, and it turned out to be a good decision.
“You want your starters to go as deep as you can,” Emerson said. “With nine innings of baseball, one inning isn’t going to hurt you but over the next four (innings) he went out there, battled and kept the ball at the bottom of the strike zone.”
The River Cats are 8-1 on Miller Lite Thirsty Thursday’s and close the series Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Sacramento moves to 35-20 on the year and is currently three games ahead of second-place Las Vegas.
Friday’s pitching matchup includes two pitchers who have spent time in the majors. Left-hander Bobby Cramer (0-0, 4.34) of Sacramento faces off against fellow left-hander Scott Kazmir (0-2, 36.00).