Sacramento pitchers did not allow a hit after the fourth inning, and the River Cats scored two runs in the top of the 10th with the aid of an error and a bases-loaded walk in a 4-3 victory over New Orleans on Sunday in Metairie.
Sacramento (32-31), which entered tied with Fresno for the Pacific Northern Division lead, took a 2-1 series lead with the final game Monday.
“We've got to find ways as a ballclub to finish games,” said Baby Cakes manager Keith Johnson, whose team committed three errors. “We gave them extra opportunities, and they took advantage of them, as well.”
Isan Diaz and Yadiel Rivera hit back-to-back, one-out solo home runs in the first inning. That staked Zac Gallen, who has the PCL's best record and earned-run average (8-1, 1.57), to a 2-0 lead.
After that, however, the Baby Cakes' only hits were Lewis Brinson's double leading off the fourth and Tyler Heineman's single two outs later, after Brinson was caught attempting to steal third.
Gallen was relieved to start by sixth by Joe Gunkel, who has been on the injured list and made two starts since April 14, both with Miami, who are trying to get him ready to go back.
Gunkel allowed two runs on three hits in three innings Saturday. Sacramento loaded the bases in the 10th against Mike Kickham, and one run scored on a walk to Chris Shaw and another on a sacrifice fly by Abiatal Avelino.
A weight lifted
Baby Cakes third baseman Deven Marrero was 0-for-his-last-30 when he doubled to left field with two outs in the fourth inning Friday against Sacramento.
It was Marrero's first hit since May 27.
“I just trusted my process, and it was good to be rewarded, especially after a tough stretch like that that I'd been going through. I just tried to play hard every day, tried to win every day, and help the team, especially when you don't think you're helping the team with your bat.”
The hitting slide began after Marrero sprained his right ankle while working out 1½ two weeks ago, he said. A right-handed batter, the injury made it difficult to shift his weight to his back foot. Sometimes, Marrero's swings looked like he was all arms.
“The thing that the casual observer doesn't see is that Deven's been sucking it up,” Johnson said. “We were short on our roster for quite a bit of time, and he's been playing on a bum ankle.”
J.T. Riddle's call-up on May 31 left the infield thin. Magneuris Sierra came up from Jacksonville, but he's an outfielder.
“The 0-for-30, you go through that in baseball,” Marrero said. “But (in the field), it was hard going laterally or up and back. I just tried to do the best I could. But we have a great club house that makes playing the game fun.”
Then, there's the name. Marrero found out there's a West Bank town with his surname.
“Everyone was telling me that when I first got here,” he said. “I'd go to use my credit card, and someone would ask, 'Are you from Marerro?' I'm Cuban; my ancestors came from Spain. It's cool when you go somewhere and a town has your name.”
Gallen struck out River Cats lead-off hitter Mike Gerber to start the game. It was Gallen's 100th strikeout this season, coming in his 13th start, the quickest in franchise history. Scott Elarton (1998) had the record, having gotten his 100th in his 14th start. … Gabriel Guerrero started at first base in place of Matt Snyder, who is on the injured list. It was Guerrero's second time playing first with the Baby Cakes, the only time he has played the position in his career.