At this point, the River Cats must be able to conjure up a pretty detailed image of what Trevor Bauer looks like pitching from the stretch. Bauer, the Reno Aces' quirky, hard-throwing right-hander, threw 11 innings this season against the River Cats in which they put 18 runners on base.
What they had to show for it, though, was three runs and, after a 3-1 loss to Bauer and the Aces on Wednesday night, a 1-0 series deficit in the opening round of the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
The River Cats will attempt tonight to split their two games at home before the best-of-five series shifts to Reno. If the even-keeled nature of manager Darren Bush isn't enough, they may want to re-examine the opening series of last year's playoffs, when they fell behind Reno 2-0 and came all the way back.
"It's still early, and obviously we don't plan on getting to that point," said outfielder Shane Peterson. "We've lost a game before and come back and won. So for now, it's just kind of clear our heads, go home, and it's only one game."
Before the game, infielder Grant Green recalled having Bauer "on the ropes almost every single inning" when he faced the River Cats in May, but that they couldn't deliver the big hit that would serve as a knockout blow.
With Green the lone holdover from that day's starting lineup, the River Cats encountered much the same problem Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 7,105 at Raley Field.
Bauer, who throws with a contortionist's motion that helps him hide the ball until late in his delivery, put runners in scoring position in the first, fourth and fifth innings. But Taylor, who singled to start the fourth and moved to third on a single by catcher Blake Lalli, was the only one to cross home.
Bauer bounced a pitch and Taylor, who had crept halfway down the line toward home, froze long enough to draw a throw from catcher Ryan Budde. Taylor then pivoted for home, and third baseman Tyler Bortnick's return throw sailed over Budde's head, allowing Taylor to score.
"We left some guys on base, but most of the guys we left in scoring position were with two outs," Bush said. "Bauer did a very good job of making the pitches that he needed to when he needed to make them."
Right-hander Bruce Billings struck out five of the first eight Reno hitters he faced and finished with a season-high 10 strikeouts. A one-out error in the third led to the only two runs he allowed, both unearned.
Wladimir Sutil hit a slow chopper that Green, charging from third, couldn't pick up. A.J. Pollock singled, Tyler Kuhn flipped a shallow fly ball down the right-field line for a double, Josh Bell drew a walk and Mike Jacobs drove in Pollock with a sacrifice fly.
Just like that, Reno led 2-0. Billings and two relievers kept the game within reach, holding the Aces scoreless until Tyler Bortnick's home run off Arnold Leon in the ninth.
"(Billings) was locating his pitches all night long," Bush said. "He threw the ball great, gave us a chance to win."
Sacramento will try to even the series tonight behind right-hander Jesse Chavez. Bush said he wasn't sure how his rotation for the series might be affected if the A's lose right-hander Brandon McCarthy for an extended period. McCarthy was struck in the head by a line drive during his start Wednesday in Oakland.
If the A's need to call up a starter, a strong candidate is Dan Straily, who made three starts in Oakland this season during a brief call-up and is slated to start Game 3 against the Aces on Friday night.