Giants affiliate Sacramento River Cats win Triple-A National Championship

Giants affiliate Sacramento River Cats win Triple-A National Championship

While the Giants were busy breaking a record and beating the Red Sox 7-6 in 15 innings Tuesday night, their Triple-A affiliate was winning another title. 

The Sacramento River Cats already took home the crown of Pacific Coast League champions this season. Now, they can add an even bigger trophy to their mantle. 

Instead of a series, one game decides who is the king of Triple-A baseball. That title now belongs to the River Cats after they beat the Columbus Clippers, 4-0, in the Triple-A National Championship. 

Sacramento became the first franchise to have three Triple-A National Championship titles. It's the first time the River Cats have done so as an affiliate of the Giants. 

“It feels great,” River Cats manager Dave Brundage said to the Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson after the win. “They played their hearts out.”

Brundage deserves all the credit in the world for the title. This season was a marathon, to the say the least, for him and his entire staff. The River Cats played 146 games and dealt with 319 player transactions. 

That's right, 319. 

In a world where Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is willing to make any move and use a player's minor league options whenever necessary, the River Cats will have to deal with plenty of changes to their roster as long he's in charge. Caleb Baragar, the game's winning pitcher, is a prime example. 

When the Richmond Flying Squirrels -- the Giants' Double-A affiliate -- saw their season end without a trip to the playoffs, Baragar thought he could finally take break. Wrong. Baragar was added to the River Cats' roster for the playoffs and ended up being a hero. 

The 25-year-old right-hander pitched five shutout innings Tuesday night while allowing just two hits and striking out five batters. He was named MVP of the game for his valiant effort.

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"I saw a young man who wasn’t scared,” Brundage said to Baseball America. "Sometimes you’re not sure. Is the moment too big? The moment wasn’t too big against Vegas. He was even better tonight.”

In a year of constant shuffle for San Francisco and Sacramento alike, the River Cats came out on top with a ring. The Giants hope they too can soon do the same.

Sacramento River Cats, Giants' Triple-A affiliate, win 2019 PCL title

Sacramento River Cats, Giants' Triple-A affiliate, win 2019 PCL title

The Sacramento River Cats had the fewest wins of any division winner in the Pacific Coast League this season. But that didn't matter on Friday night.

The Giants' Triple-A affiliate beat the Round Rock Express 7-5 to sweep the Pacific Coast League championship series.

The 2019 PCL title is Sacramento's first since 2008 when the River Cats were affiliated with the Oakland A's.

The achievement also ended a long, long drought for Giants' Triple-A affiliates.

Infielder Abiatal Avelino and outfielder Mike Gerber came through in the top of the eighth inning to give the River Cats a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Avelino drove in the game-tying and go-ahead runs with a single to right field, while Gerber added an insurance run with an RBI groundout.

Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte threw a scoreless inning and was credited with the win.

Now, the River Cats will face the International League champion Columbus Clippers in the Triple-A Championship game on Tuesday in Memphis, Tenn. It's a one-game, winner-take-all clash for the Triple-A crown.

While the Giants have fallen on hard times at the major league level, things are starting to look up in the minors. In addition to the Sacramento's PCL title, the San Francisco has a handful of promising prospects making their way through the system.

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Things are starting to look up for Farhan Zaidi and Co.

Why Giants, A's in tough spot when it comes to Triple-A power numbers


Why Giants, A's in tough spot when it comes to Triple-A power numbers

Tim Tebow hit four home runs for the Syracuse Mets this season, and somehow that's not even the craziest story of the power surge across Triple-A baseball this year. 

The regular season ended in the minors Monday, and there are some absurd numbers across Triple-A. Folks, the ball is juiced. 

Last season, there were 3,652 home runs hit in Triple-A. One year later, that number jumped to a ridiculous 5,749. What changed? One thing: Triple-A began using MLB baseballs this year. 

This has nothing to do with launch angle or a philosophical change in coaching. Sure, teams are using as much data and technology as they can, but the numbers clearly correlate to the change in baseballs. 

The numbers from across the minors, which didn't adopt MLB's ball, are on par with those of last season. Baseball America's JJ Cooper broke down how stark of a difference the power numbers in Triple-A were this year compared to across the rest of the minor leagues. 

What makes this such a problem is that it's made scouting nearly impossible at Triple-A, especially for the Giants and A's.

Home run totals are up 59 percent this year in the Pacific Coast League, the league of the Giants and A's Triple-A affiliates. The A's Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators, ranked second in the regular season with 245 homers, while the Giants' Triple-A Sacramento River Cats ranked fourth with 224 long balls. 

One executive of a team who has a Triple-A affiliate in the PCL, told The Athletic's Jayson Stark that there's "no good reason to send guys to the Pacific Coast League right now." 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to the baseball next year,” the same exec said to Stark. “But I do know this is affecting development decisions. … It’s a real problem, what’s happened in the PCL. And it significantly affects the ability to develop.”

Las Vegas had four players hit at least 20 home runs in the regular season this year. Sacramento was right behind with three of their own. 

Aviators outfielder Mark Payton hit .334 with 30 homers this season. Who's Mark Payton you might ask -- he's a 5-foot-8 27-year-old who never has played in the majors and hit six long balls last year. 

Remember Mike Gerber? He hit .308 with 26 homers for the River Cats this year. Oh yeah, he's 27, a .088 career hitter in the majors and went 1-for-15 in a short stint with the Giants this season. 

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Baseball needs to face the facts when it comes to the juiced ball. Admit the facts and only one use one throughout the minors. All the sport is doing right now is hurting itself.