Mark Hamilton belted a home run to lead off the sixth inning and the Memphis Redbirds' pitching staff held to its stellar postseason form Wednesday night, leading the home team to a 3-2 victory over the Sacramento River Cats and a 2-games-to-none lead in the best-of-five Pacific Coast League Championship Series. The win places the two-time defending champions firmly on the ropes, though the River Cats will host all remaining games in the series, starting with Game 3 Friday night at Raley Field in Sacramento.
Adam Ottavino struck out nine in his six innings of work, with the fifth inning his only blemish. With the Redbirds up, 1-0, Ottavino threw wildly to first base on a come-backer, which loaded the bases before a two-run single by the River Cats' Chris Denorfia. Having scored 26 runs in the last two games of its first-round series with Tacoma, Sacramento tallied but those two in 18 innings this week at AutoZone Park.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Redbirds loaded the bases with no outs against River Cat starter Chad Reineke. David Freese's ground-out scored Jon Jay to tie the game before Jarrett Hoffpauir hit into an inning-killing double-play. All of which set the stage for Hamilton's heroics in the sixth inning, his 400-foot homer to right-centerfield providing enough margin for three Redbird relievers who retired the last nine River Cats in order. Pete Parise pitched the ninth inning to earn his second straight save of the PCL Championship Series and fourth of the playoffs. (For some perspective, as recently as June 10th, both Hamilton and Parise were playing for Double-A Springfield.)
The Redbirds will get three chances to earn their second Pacific Coast League Championship, and first since 2000. Evan MacLane — the winning pitcher in last Friday's clincher against Albuquerque — will take the mound Friday night against Sacramento's Jerome Williams.
NOTE: Wednesday's game marked the latest date on the calendar AutoZone Park has hosted a PCL contest.