Walk-Off Warriors Do It Again

July 29, 2014

Tacoma walked-off Sacramento for the second day in a row, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday afternoon to emerge with a 4-3 victory.

Ji-Man Choi singled home the tying run, and Justin Smoak hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to bring in Nick Franklin with the winning run in the last of the ninth.

The victory gave Tacoma a 3-2 series win over Sacramento, pulling Tacoma within seven games of the first-place River Cats. Tacoma earned a split of the season series , 8-8.

The Rainiers have won six of the last eight games, and the team is 29-16 over ts last 45 games.

Tacoma is seven games back with 34 to play. That is not an insurmountable deficit. But the Rainiers are done playing Sacramento head-to-head, so they’re going to need to keep winning at a good clip while getting some help down the stretch from Sacramento’s opponents.

The Rainiers won’t be getting any walk-off wins for a while. The team embarks on an eight-game road trip today, starting with four games in Salt Lake City followed by four in Albuquerque.

Tuesday’s game starts at 6:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Taijuan Walker (4-1, 3.76) against Salt Lake LHP Randy Wolf (first game for Salt Lake).

Programming note: Thursday’s game at Salt Lake is the Minor League Baseball Game of the Week and will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network. Prepare yourself accordingly!

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners had an off-day yesterday, so Todd Dybas has a feature on Fernando Rodney. The Mariners open a series in Cleveland today, and in recent years bad things have happened to the M’s in Cleveland. Time to change that.
  • In case you aren’t aggravated enough just watching it, you can read Larry Stone’s article about how frustrating the Mariners offense is.
  • On that same subject, Ryan Divish spent part of his off-day writing this post.
  • We have our first casualty from the big Albuquerque-Reno brawl: Aces reliever Kameron Loe broke his hand in the fight (last note at bottom). Five Isotopes were suspended – the list is here.
  • Reno got shutout pitching from Charles Brewer and beat Albuquerque in the final game of the series, 6-0. Apparently six Reno players were suspended as well, but I can’t find a list. The Reno Gazette-Journal is doing a truly awful job of covering the brawl: they have not had any follow-up, or a single quote from anybody – not a player, manager, or league or club executive – and it happened in Reno.
  • Las Vegas hung on for a 5-3 win over Salt Lake last night. The Bees went 1-3 at Las Vegas, and have lost four of their last five games.
  • Fresno won in El Paso, 9-4.
  • Omaha held off New Orleans, 7-6, as Joe Saunders earned his first PCL win since 2007. The Omaha paper has a nice story on the power surge of catcher Francisco Pena.
  • Starting pitcher Ariel Pena – who threw hard but was wilder than a Wayne Coyne – Miley Cyrus party when the Rainiers faced him in June – is on a roll for Nashville. He shut down Oklahoma City last night for a 3-1 win.
  • Rehabilitating Justin Morneau played well, but the rest of the Sky Sox struggled in an 11-4 home loss to Round Rock.
  • We’ll finish off with Baseball America’s minor league round-up.

It’s raining here in Salt Lake City as I’m about to post this blog. Hopefully it will stop before game time – the last thing in the world we need is another doubleheader.


Rainiers Win In 14 Innings; Early Game Today

July 28, 2014

What a game on Sunday. I could – and would – write 2,000 words on it if we didn’t have an early game today. My apologies for not doing it justice, but the PCL schedule says we gotta rise and shine and get on to the next one.

Here’s the short version:

Tacoma’s pitching was excellent. Rehabbing James Paxton looked like he had good velocity, allowing one run in 4.1 innings. He did walk three but he notched five strikeouts, and three of the six hits he allowed were infield singles.

Sacramento starter Drew Pomeranz was great, lasting eight innings and allowing two runs. He carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth before Tacoma tied it up on Justin Smoak‘s sacrifice fly.

Through nine innings, it was tied 2-2. Both teams had left a bazillion runners on base, missing out on multiple scoring opportunities. So, we went to extra innings.

Then nothing happened (other than good relief pitching) until the bottom of the 13th inning, when Tacoma managed to not score after loading the bases with one out. That was a real bummer.

The bad trip got worse when Blake Beavan walked the first two batters in the top of the 14th, leading to a Sacramento run. It looked like the Rainiers were going to lose in 14.

But in the bottom of the 14th, the Rainiers rallied and scored two runs to win it. Ji-Man Choi hit a sac fly to score Leury Bonilla with the tying run, and Jesus Montero‘s two-out broken bat single scored the winner.

Tacoma got the win in the nick of time. Catcher Humberto Quintero was warming up in the bullpen, getting ready to pitch the 15th inning because Tacoma was out of properly rested pitchers.

The series is tied 2-2 going into the final game today, and the Rainiers can pull within seven games of first place with a win.

Monday’s game starts at 11:35 AM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 11:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (2-4, 4.12) against Sacramento RHP Matt Buschmann (6-5, 5.23).

We had roster moves before Sunday’s game: outfielder Julio Morban was promoted from Double-A Jackson, and reliever Logan Bawcom was activated from the disabled list. Third baseman Gabriel Noriega and pitcher Matt Palmer were placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Links:

  • In his final Rainiers game as a News Tribune intern, promising kid Andy Bixler has the Rainiers game story.
  • Ryan Divish covered the James Paxton rehab.
  • The Mariners lost to Baltimore on Sunday, but at least Chris Taylor had his first double and RBI.
  • In the awakening after Saturday night’s big brawl, Albuquerque topped Reno 5-2 in a peaceful game. There are no quotes in the report, making me wonder if both teams refused to talk about the fight. Reno remains five games out of first place.
  • Las Vegas topped Salt Lake 6-5 in a seesaw battle at Cashman Field. Matt Reynolds hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh for Vegas. Despite the win, manager Wally Backman was not pleased.
  • Jake Goebbert had three hits and three RBI as the Chihuahuas nipped Fresno, 4-3.
  • Memphis swept a doubleheader at Iowa, but the Cubs faithful were happy to see heralded prospect Jorge Soler launch his first Triple-A homer.
  • Justin Bour had a big game and New Orleans beat Omaha, 8-5.
  • Oklahoma City stunned Nashville, scoring four runs in the top of the ninth to claim a 6-5 win at Greer Stadium. Joe Sclafini had the game-winning hit, ending Nashville’s five-game win streak.
  • Round Rock pasted Colorado Springs, 8-2.

Today is the last day of the homestand – Tacoma plays 16 of the next 21 games on the road.


Cats Sweep Rainiers In DH

July 27, 2014

Sacramento swept a doubleheader from the Tacoma Rainiers on Saturday night, putting the Rainiers hopes of making a run at the River Cats for the division title in serious jeopardy.

The two wins opened Sacramento’s lead up to nine games over Tacoma, with 36 to play. The Rainiers could really use wins in the final two games of this series, which will be Tacoma’s final head-to-head games against the division leader.

Sacramento won the first game 8-5, as Daric Barton hit a key three-run homer and Andy Parrino drilled a two-run triple. Justin Smoak homered twice in the game, but the Rainiers needed more than that.

The second game was a pitcher’s duel that Sacramento won, 2-1. It was a “bullpen game” for the River Cats, and that’s not good for opponents: Sacramento’s greatest strength is its terrific bullpen. Four pitchers held Tacoma to just four hits total.

A few Tacoma highlights: Nate Tenbrink homered in the first game and doubled in the second, and it looks like he is dead-set on making up for lost time and helping the club down the stretch. Smoak hit those two dingers in the opener, and nearly had a third in the second game. Forrest Snow delivered another solid spot-start, but he got stuck with the loss in that 2-1 game. Stephen Kolscheen racked up six strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief, mostly on elevated fastballs to left-handed batters.

The Rainiers need a win badly on Sunday, and rehabbing Mariners starter James Paxton needs a strong start. It seems to me that these two things would go together quite well. It should be a beautiful day afternoon at Cheney Stadium – come out to the park if you can.

Sunday’s game starts at 1:35 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP James Paxton (0-1, 6.00) against Sacramento LHP Drew Pomeranz (0-0, 4.50).

Links:

Don’t forget, we have another day game on Monday at 11:35 AM. Start making your lunch plans for Cheney Stadium now!


Rainiers Streak Into Doubleheader

July 26, 2014

Tacoma won its fourth in a row last night, shutting out Sacramento 7-0 to pull within seven games of the first place River Cats.

Matt Palmer tossed six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, and Blake Beavan and Logan Kensing polished ‘em off.

Offensively, Tacoma opened the bottom of the first inning with five consecutive singles. I’m not sure I’ve seen a team open the first with five singles in a row before. That ended up netting three runs.

Tacoma tacked on more runs in the early innings and won with relative ease. Sacramento even used catcher Luis Exposito to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning, in an effort to save pitching for today’s doubleheader.

Now 53-53 on the year, the Rainiers have reached the .500 mark for the first time since the team was 18-18 on May 13th. Tacoma was once 13 games under, but the team has gone 27-14 over the last 41 games to get back to even.

Today’s doubleheader is a make-up for a rain out from when Sacramento visited Tacoma in April. This is the final make-up doubleheader on the schedule for Tacoma: we’ll be all caught up from the incredible eight home rain outs in April and May after tonight’s games.

Saturday’s action starts at 6:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP James Gillheeney (3-7, 5.75) against Sacramento RHP Zach Neal (3-5, 4.49) in the first game; Tacoma RHP Forrest Snow (1-1, 1.07) starts game two against Sacramento RHP Philip Humber (4-4, 3.91).

Links:

Let’s play two!


Hot Rainiers Open Big Series Tonight

July 25, 2014

Tacoma continued its excellent play of late, defeating Las Vegas on Thursday night 5-4 in a quick game at Cheney Stadium.

Starting pitcher Jordan Pries returned to form, allowing three runs (one earned) over seven crisp innings.

Abraham Almonte had three hits, including two inning-opening doubles which started rallies.

The big blow came off the bat of Ty Kelly, who launched a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning. Kelly has a career high 14 home runs this season.

Now Tacoma faces first-place Sacramento in a five-game series – which includes a Saturday evening doubleheader – and we’re going to find out if the Rainiers will be in a pennant race in August.

The Rainiers enter this series eight games behind Sacramento, with 39 games left. If they can win four of five against Sacramento, things will be very interesting. Taking 3-of-5 would be a little helpful, and keep Tacoma in the hunt. Losing three wouldn’t be a disaster, but it would make a comeback very tough with no more head-to-head games against Sacramento left.

If Tacoma loses four or all five, they won’t be mathematically eliminated but it would take an unlikely series of events for the Rainiers to get back in the race.

Friday’s game starts at 7:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Matt Palmer (1-8, 5.50) against Sacramento RHP Arnold Leon (9-4, 4.62).

Yesterday the Mariners promoted shortstop Chris Taylor and DH Jesus Montero to Seattle, sent Taijuan Walker back to Tacoma, and placed Willie Bloomquist on the disabled list.

Taylor went 1-for-3 last night, collecting his first major league hit (a single off Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles). It looks likes he’s going to get a chance to play up there.

I’m happy for Taylor, but a little bit disappointed – and here’s why: Taylor is currently 2nd in the PCL with a .328 bating average, and leader KiKe’ Hernandez is going to drop out due to a lack of plate appearances soon (he’s in the majors). Unfortunately, Taylor is 45 plate appearances away from qualifying for the batting title at the end of the season.

In 54 years of PCL baseball, only one Tacoma player has ever won the batting title – Troy Neel in 1992. It would have been a lot of fun to see Taylor make a run at it.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has reaction from Jordan Pries and manager Roy Howell.
  • The Mariners were shut out by Baltimore last night, 4-0.
  • Jesus Montero might be re-joining the Rainiers today, according to Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Ryan Divish has an interesting blog post on Montero’s batting stance.
  • John Sickels wrote about Chris Taylor.
  • Buster Olney’s column today (for ESPN Insiders) explains new rules in the independent Atlantic League which are being installed next week to speed up play. They were designed by a group of MLB executives. I would willingly tithe a portion of my salary to the PCL league office to see these rules enforced in this league.
  • Also for Insiders, here is Keith Law’s analysis of the Stephen PryorKendrys Morales trade.
  • There are encouraging words about Mariners prospect Gabriel Guerrero in this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • Sacramento maintained its lead in the Pacific-North by whacking El Paso, 13-2.
  • Reno remained 4.5 games behind Sacramento by beating Salt Lake, 4-3. Some Dominican fans are bringing music to the games in Salt Lake City.
  • Wowza. Down 7-4 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Joc Pederson launched a grand slam off all-star closer Heath Hembree and Albuquerque beat Fresno, 8-7.
  • The Iowa Cubs added another top prospect in Jorge Soler, and we have a photo gallery. Soler went 1-for-3 with two walks, Javier Baez homered, and Iowa ripped New Orleans 11-2.
  • Some of us old guys remember when Carlos Pena was a top prospect. Pena homered in the ninth to give Round Rock a 2-1 win at Oklahoma City.
  • Nashville opened up a 2.5-game lead in the American-South with a 4-2 win over Colorado Springs.
  • Carlos Peguero slugged his 13th homer of the year in Omaha’s 3-2 win at Memphis.

Big series starts tonight – and don’t forget, there will be Friday Night Fireworks!


Rainiers Hang On As Bullpen Survives

July 24, 2014

Tacoma held on to a slim lead in the late innings and beat Las Vegas on Wednesday night, 6-4.

The Rainiers have won three out of four in this series so far, with the final game tonight at 7:05. Tacoma continued its long stretch of good play, and is now 25-14 over the last 39 games.

Last night the Rainiers scored four runs in the fourth inning to take a 6-3 lead, with third baseman Gabriel Noriega contributing the key go-ahead two-run double.

After taking the lead, Tacoma pitchers had to overcome something new: a tiny strike zone.

Relievers Lucas Luetge, Logan Kensing, Todd Coffey, and Carson Smith issued seven walks over the last four innings, and were constantly in trouble, yet managed to maintain the lead and secure the win.

For the most part, these pitchers weren’t particularly wild. A lot of pitches that seem to normally be called strikes were balls on this particular night.

It made for four stressful innings down the stretch, but the relievers were able to get the key outs when they needed to and Tacoma held on for the win.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jordan Pries (6-6, 3.96) against Las Vegas RHP Logan Verrett (8-2, 4.58).

The Mariners made a trade today, sending Tacoma reliever Stephen Pryor to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for DH Kendrys Morales.

Recovering from shoulder surgery, Pryor appeared in 24 games for Tacoma, going 2-1 with a 4.65 ERA. He had 27 strikeouts and 18 walks in 31.0 innings.

The big thing for Pryor has been getting healthy, and his velocity has improved over the course of the season where recently he was hitting 94 mph (note: PCL scoreboard radar guns, so accuracy is questionable). Now, he was upper-90s before the surgery, and we don’t know if that will ever come all the way back for him, but it’s a gamble the Twins are taking.

Morales has been simply awful for the Twins, posting a .584 OPS. We all know he’s better than that, though – and he had no spring training, after sitting out the first two months. Clearly the Mariners are hoping he can show his 2013 form in a return to the team.

Links:

Today is the final game of the year between Tacoma and Las Vegas. The Rainiers need a win to finish with an 8-8 season series split.


Another Doubleheader Split

July 23, 2014

Tacoma split its doubleheader with Las Vegas on Tuesday night, providing more evidence for my theory that nearly all Triple-A doubleheaders are split.

Vegas won the first game 4-0 as Noah Syndergaard tossed 6.1 scoreless innings in the finest of his four starts against Tacoma this season.

James Paxton had a successful rehab outing health-wise, but he allowed home runs to two of the first four batters he faced to find himself in a 3-0 hole. Paxton finished strongly, retiring eight of the last nine batters he faced. He’s scheduled to pitch for Tacoma again on Sunday against Sacramento.

Tacoma won the second game, 4-3. Jesus Montero was 2-for-2 with a two-run single and a solo home run. That was nice to see after Syndergaard held him in check in the opening game. Montero hot streak update: 34-for-74 with seven HRs and 29 RBI in his last 18 games.

Forrest Snow delivered a strong spot-start in game two, lasting five innings and allowing one run on two hits. Snow picked up the win and he now has a 1.07 ERA in 25.1 innings for Tacoma this season, with a 27-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Snow is getting a lot of swings-and-misses with his fastball, which is in the low 90s but has good downward plane from his 6-foot-6 frame.

Tacoma leads the Las Vegas series, two games to one, with two games remaining.

Wednesday’s game starts at 7:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (4-5, 4.76) against Las Vegas RHP Cory Mazzoni (1-0, 4.76).

Yes, it has been raining off-and-on today in Tacoma. This will be just like an April game: the teams are planning to play tonight, and any decision regarding the weather will be made around game time. Follow the Rainiers on Twitter, or Facebook, or check the official website for more information.

Links:

Rain, rain, go away!


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