Colorado Springs had limited chances in Friday night's nightcap at Security Service Field in a pitchers' duel between Sky Sox starter Cory Riordan and Sacramento starter Fernando Nieve. Yet, even when they did have their opportunities, the Sky Sox failed to capitalize when it mattered most.
After futile attempts to score the go-ahead run in the fifth and sixth inning, Michael Taylor made the Sky Sox pay by blasting a three-run home run to center field off Steven Hensley with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie, to help Sacramento earn a split of Friday's doubleheader with a 4-1 victory.
"I don't think Hensley wanted to fall behind on Taylor, and gave him too good of a pitch to hit," Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill said, "and to do that with a hitter of that quality, they don't miss those pitches pretty often."
Hisanori Takahashi (2-1) was charged with the loss after exiting the game for Hensley after 2? innings of work.
The Sky Sox (63-68) had a chance to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth and sixth innings. Ben Paulsen registered the Sky Sox's first hit with a single to right field against reliever Paul Smyth in the bottom of the fifth, but was stranded at third when Jose Gonzalez grounded out to first base.
Paulsen then had his own chance to give the Sky Sox the lead in the next inning but struck out looking with the go-ahead run sitting at third base.
"Any time you leave runs stranded it's tough because they always come back to bite you, but that wasn't the intent," Hill said. "We just didn't get it done."
Tim Wheeler scored for the Sky Sox in the fourth on a wild pitch after reaching base on a throwing error by Sacramento (74-60) catcher Ryan Ortiz.
Sacramento's Kyler Newby (2-1) was credited with the victory with two strikeouts in the seventh inning before Brian Gordon pitched a perfect eighth for his 20th save.
The River Cats got on the board first in Game 2 when Daric Barton scored on Michael Choice's sacrifice fly to center field off Cory Riordan to give Sacramento a 1-0 lead in the third inning. The starter pitched a season-high 5? innings, while holding the River Cats to one run on five hits and three walks.
"He was coming off a pretty good outing his last outing and it was nice to see him show some consistency starting," Hill said.
Riordan was met pitch-for-pitch by Sacramento starter Fernando Nieve. The 31-year-old was absolutely dealing against the Sky Sox, holding Colorado Springs to one unearned run on no hits and no walks in four innings. He struck out four.
Nieve was obtained by the Oakland Athletics from the Cleveland Indians earlier this month for cash considerations after the reliever posted a 1.81 ERA with 55 strikeouts for Triple-A Columbus in 44? innings.
Hernan Iribarren was the hero in Game 1 when the second baseman snuck in a bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Drew Garcia for a walk-off, 5-4 victory in front of 6,164 fans.
"I was planning it on the (batter's) circle," Iribarren said. "I was thinking about it. 'I'm going to do it. I'm going to give it a shot.' We had been struggling as a team hitting. I had done it before, not to win a game though."
Iribarren caught Sacramento pitcher Pedro Figueroa (3-4) off-guard with the bunt to the right of the pitcher's mound, and he was able to beat Figueroa's throw to first as Garcia crossed the plate for the game-winning run.
"That's an instinctual play and a heads-up play," Hill said. "He has that in his repertoire, but it's a pretty good play seeing as he was facing a left-handed pitcher that falls off the mound to the third-base side."
Garcia got things rolling for the Sky Sox by ripping a one-out double down the left-field line. He advanced to thirdon a groundout.
It was a good rebound for Colorado Springs after it blew a 4-3 lead in the top half of the inning when Shane Peterson tied the game with an RBI single to left. The win also snapped a three-game losing skid.
Mitchell Boggs (1-4) was credited with the victory by holding Sacramento to one run on three hits and a walk in two innings.
Figueroa (3-4) was given the loss and the blown save after also getting rocked by Kent Matthes in the sixth when the right fielder crushed a two-run home run, his third home run of the series and seventh this season against Sacramento, to left field to give the Sky Sox a 4-3 lead.
Iribarren finished 3 for 4 with the game-winning RBI and a run.
"It was good to get it done and give the team a win," he concluded.