WEST SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento River Cats drew one of the largest crowds they’ll see this season with their Fourth of July-themed festivities on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for those in attendance, the Cats were unable to put on a performance befitting the occasion. In front of a sellout crowd of more than 15,000 at Raley Field, Sacramento fell, 3-0, to the Fresno Grizzlies.
The River Cats (50-37) struggled to convert their hits into runs and committed an error on defense that essentially gave Fresno a free run.
Even their brightest star, left fielder Shane Peterson, wasn’t his usual self. Peterson, who recently became the only Sacramento player to earn a spot in the 27th annual Triple-A All-Star Game, did not get a hit in his four at-bats.
“We really aren’t a high-scoring club,” Cats skipper Steve Scarsone said afterward. “We’ve had some success at home coming back late in the game and getting things done. Their starting pitcher (Mitch Lively), we’ve faced him several times. He’s gotten us and we’ve gotten him before, but he kind of had our number (Thursday).”
Lively, who struck out five in 6 1/3 shutout innings, felt comfortable on a mound that wasn’t far from Sacramento State, where he played both baseball and football — he was the Hornets punter — in 2004-07.
The Grizzlies also had Jesuit graduate Andrew Susac in their lineup. The designated hitter had a tough night, striking out three times.
Two of those strikeouts came against River Cats starter Zach Neal, who got off to a good start by retiring the first nine batters he faced.
But Neal, who finished the night with eight strikeouts, couldn’t contain Fresno (43-45) forever. In the top of the fourth, Gary Brown doubled to set up a two-run homer by Travis Ishikawa that gave the Grizzlies a 2-0 advantage.
Fresno scored its third and final run in the sixth, when a Sacramento throwing error allowed Adalberto Santos to beat the ball home.
All the while, the Cats tried in vain to respond with a couple of runs of their own. They notched six hits, but were never able to score against Lively or Grizzly relievers Dan Runzler and Eric Cordier.
The punchless local offense was paced by Josh Whitaker and Anthony Aliotti, who each recorded two hits.
While Sacramento struggled on Thursday night, the team has had a productive season so far this year. The River Cats hold the best record in the PCL’s Pacific North Division and are running neck-and-neck with Las Vegas for control of the entire Pacific Coast League.
The River Cats also experienced the joy of seeing Peterson receive some recognition for his efforts. Peterson, an outfielder who was drafted by St. Louis out of Long Beach State and has spent the better part of four seasons on Sacramento’s roster, is hitting .309 in the first half of the season. Entering Thursday, he led the PCL in hits (106), games played (84) and at-bats (339).
“It’s been a few years in this league (for me) and I know it’s tough to make the all-star team in this league,” Peterson said.
Added Scarsone: “Shane’s been doing a great job all year. He’s tops in the league in base hits and at-bats and games played and all that type of stuff, so he’s been our core guy throughout the summer.”
The Cats play head to Reno to face the Aces on Friday at 6:35 p.m. and Peterson will make his All-Star appearance on July 16 in Durham, North Carolina.