It Won’t Rain In Vegas, Right?

April 24, 2014

Right? It can’t possibly rain here, can it?

The team has arrived in Las Vegas and we are ready to begin the Tacoma Rainiers first multiple-city road trip of 2014. Four games in Vegas, followed by four games in Sacramento, and hopefully not a single rain drop in either place.

The Rainiers are coming in hot, having won eight of the last ten games. It’s a good thing, too, because Vegas has been the best team in the PCL over the first three weeks of the season.

Las Vegas is 15-5, and they are doing it with the perfect combination: good pitching and good hitting. The 51s lead the league in runs scored, and they rank seventh in team ERA (which is really good considering that their home ballpark is a launching pad).

The Rainiers are set to face the two top prospects in the Las Vegas rotation right away: Rafael Montero tonight, and Noah Syndergaard tomorrow.

Wally Backman remains at the helm of the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate. He’s had big offensive production from Triple-A rookie Allan Dykstra (no relation to Lenny, batting .419-3-18 in 16 games) and returning super-utility guy Eric Campbell (.346-3-18 in 19 games).

Las Vegas scored 21 runs on Tuesday against El Paso. They were off Wednesday like everyone else in the league, so hopefully that massive outburst followed by the 24-hour break will serve to cool off their bats somewhat.

We had some roster moves today: The Mariners optioned Nick Franklin to Tacoma, and called up Cole Gillespie. It sounds like the organization wants Franklin to play every day, and an older player like Gillespie may be better suited for a part-time role with the big league club.

Also, starting pitcher James Gillheeney was transferred to Double-A Jackson, and reliever Nick Hill was activated from the disabled list. With Hisashi Iwakuma scheduled to start Sunday, and Erasmo Ramirez figuring to make a start next week, the team sent Gillheeney to AA so he could make his starts.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:05 – 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 (1-0, 5.91) against Las Vegas RHP Rafael Montero (2-0, 3.80).

Links:

That’s all the links I have time for today – we didn’t get into the hotel until 2:00, and I need to make my way to the ballpark.


Rained Out Again

April 22, 2014

Tuesday night’s homestand finale against Sacramento was postponed due to rain, sloshy grounds, and a dismal forecast.

The River Cats come back to Tacoma at the end of July, so a makeup doubleheader has been scheduled for Saturday, July 26. The twinbill will start at 6:05.

For those counting, that is six home rainouts already for the Rainiers. That’s the most we have had since 2004, and one short of the 2001 and 2002 totals which are the most we’ve had since I started in 1999.

Wednesday is a PCL off-day -not that we need it. We’ve had too many unexpected days off already! I will, however, take my first blog holiday of the season.

We’ll return with a new blog post and then a Rainiers game on Thursday night. The team will be in Las Vegas and if we get rained out there, something big is happening.


Rain Sides With Rainiers

April 22, 2014

We have had so many rainouts this year, maybe the rain felt like it owed us one.

With Tacoma leading Sacramento 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Sacramento catcher Ryan Ortiz lost Jesus Sucre‘s pop-up among the rain drops, letting it drop for a two-run single to give Tacoma an 8-5 lead. One batter later the umpires called for the tarp, and 36 minutes of absolute downpour later the game was called and Tacoma was pronounced the winner.

About five innings of the game were played without rain, but once it started it was serious.

Tacoma shortstop Chris Taylor had a tremendous game, ripping the first two homers at the Triple-A level. Both of them were hit to the opposite field: a three-run shot that bounced off the top of the wall and over in third inning, and a solo shot that went well over the fence in the fifth.

James Jones returned to the club and ripped his first Triple-A homer in the third inning. In fact, Jones hit his on the very next pitch after Taylor’s, for back-to-back jacks.

Cole Gillespie also hit a homer, giving the Rainiers four in the game. The club had ten hits and boosted its PCL-leading team batting average to .314.

Tuesday’s game starts at 6:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Chance Ruffin (0-1, 6.08) against Sacramento RHP Josh Lindblom (1-1, 7.79).

There had been some reports that Hisashi Iwakuma was going to make a brief rehabilitation start for the Rainiers today, but it looks like that is going to get scratched due to weather concerns. He may still show up and pitch, but don’t count on it. If it happens, we’ll enjoy it.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story in The News Tribune has reaction from Chris Taylor on his big game, and an update on the Hisashi Iwakuma situation. Once you consider the state of the Mariners rotation, their concerns about Iwakuma make a lot of sense.
  • TJ Cotterill caught up with James Jones prior to last night’s game.
  • We have an update on the condition of Mariners starter James Paxton.
  • The Mariners lost their seventh in a row yesterday… and it was Felix Hernandez losing to the Astros.
  • It’s not the Mariners time to panic yet – but it is close, Larry Stone writes.
  • Panic? Did somebody say panic? Fresno infielder Joe Panik had three hits and the Grizzlies got to Reno’s Archie Bradley for a 6-4 win.
  • Efren Navarro became the Salt Lake Bees all-time franchise leader in career hits (502) with a pair of doubles in a 6-4 win over Albuquerque last night.
  • Las Vegas super-utilityman Eric Cambell launched a two-run homer and the 51s topped El Paso, 5-4. Las Vegas is tops in the PCL with a 14-5 record.
  • Brewers top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson tossed seven shutout innings of two-hit ball, striking out nine in Nashville’s 7-0 win at Omaha.
  • Colorado Springs beat New Orleans 2-1 on a 20-foot single.
  • Kyle Hendricks was once traded from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago Cubs, and last night he tossed six scoreless innings for Iowa against his former teammates. Iowa beat Round Rock, 5-1.
  • Memphis hit three homers in a 7-4 win over Oklahoma City.
  • The Mariners Double-A team in Jackson, Tennessee lost an 18-inning game to Chattanooga last night/this morning, 7-4. The game clocked in at 5 hours, 17 minutes.
  • Baseball America’s daily minor league round-up is here.

Final game of the homestand tonight – after this, Tacoma plays 20 of its next 24 games on the road. The Rainiers already have a winning record on this homestand (5-2). Let’s see if they can close it out with another W.


Rainiers Split With Kitties

April 21, 2014

Tacoma and the Sacramento River Cats split a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon, with the Rainiers winning the opener 1-0 and dropping the nightcap 8-3.

Jordan Pries tossed a gem in his Triple-A debut for Tacoma, not allowing a hit until there were two outs in the sixth inning. Since it was only supposed to be a seven-inning game, thoughts of a no-hitter were dancing in my head. Shane Peterson broke it up with a clean single through the left side of the infield.

Tacoma has not pitched a no-hitter or been victim of one since 2003, when the Rainiers were involved in a flurry of no-hitters over a three-year span: they pitched two and were no-hit three times from 2001 to 2003.

THE 2001-2003 NO-HITTER FLURRY

PITCHED BY TACOMA

July 3, 2001 – Brett Tomko at Oklahoma

July 7, 2001 – John Halama vs. Calgary (perfect game)

PITCHED AGAINST TACOMA

May 1, 2001 – Micah Bowie, Sacramento (game two, seven innings)

May 14, 2002 – Junior Herndon, Portland (game two, seven innings)

June 12, 2003 – Lindsay Gulin, at Las Vegas

The opening game ended up going extra innings, with Leury Bonilla connecting for the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Game two was Sacramento Ugly, with the PCL’s most-walked offense drawing seven free passes over the first four innings on the way to an 8-3 win. They drew eight walks total in the game, with four of the walked batters scoring runs.

The positive for Tacoma in game two was that Cole Gillespie had three hits and a homer, after going hitless in three straight games. He’s batting .364 with four homers and 13 RBI.

The Rainiers have now won seven of the last nine games, and Sacramento has won eight of its last ten. Game three of the series is tonight.

Monday’s game starts at 6:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Fernandez (0-1, 3.77) against Sacramento RHP Zach Neal (1-0, 3.00).

Bob Robertson joins me in the booth today, because it’s a Monday home game and he is awesome. Tune in!

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, which focuses on the start made by Jordan Pries.
  • Bob Dutton has an update on the condition of Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker. It still looks like Iwakuma is in line for a rehab start with the Rainiers on Tuesday.
  • Brandon Maurer‘s spot-start on Sunday went better than anyone expected, Ryan Divish writes.
  • Still, the Mariners lost their sixth in a row and fell to 7-11 on the year. Now they return home to face the lowly Astros – a team that gave them fits last year. My opinion: this series is going to tell us a lot about the 2014 Mariners.
  • Rainiers reliever Stephen Pryor answered a lot of questions for Lookout Landing readers.
  • In the PCL, Albuquerque scored 11 runs in the top of the first inning and still needed to add two more for a 13-12 win in Salt Lake City.
  • San Francisco pitching prospect Edwin Escobar delivered seven shutout innings, but his Fresno Grizzlies lost to Reno 2-1. Nick Ahmed hit a two-run homer in the eighth for Reno.
  • Las Vegas starter Jake deGrom once suffered an injury that was, shall we say, a little unusual. The 51s pummeled El Paso yesterday, 11-4. Bobby Abreu homered and was promoted to New York, which sent down Andrew Brown. Seems like that roster move helps Las Vegas, doesn’t it?
  • Colorado Springs lefty Christian Friedrich was dealing and the Sky Sox shut out New Orleans, 2-0. Washington State product Adam Conley took the tough loss for the Zephyrs.
  • Meanwhile, the art of pitching apparently took a few steps backwards in Omaha’s 7-6 win over Nashville yesterday.
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras hit a walk-off RBI double and Memphis beat Oklahoma City, 5-4.
  • Javier Baez struggled in his return from the disabled list, and Round Rock’s Nick Tepesch shut down the I-Cubs.
  • Here’s your Baseball America minor league round-up from the weekend.

See you at the park!


Doubling Up Again

April 20, 2014

We had yet another rainout last night, so Tacoma and Sacramento will play a doubleheader today to make up for it.

It looked like we were going to play last night, and the team waited a while before postponing it. In the end, edges of storms that looked on radar like they might miss the stadium kept hitting us. It came to a sadly comical end at around 7:00 when there was sunshine out beyond the left field fence, a double rainbow in center field, and rain continuing to fall at the ballpark.

Anyway, let’s play two today.

Sunday’s games start at 1:35 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jordan Pries (Triple-A debut) against Sacramento RHP Sean Murphy (2-1, 5.06) in the first game. Game two pits the Rainiers LHP James Gillheeney (1-1, 5.40) against Sacramento RHP Marcus Walden (PCL debut).

Links:

  • We’ll start with a story about a rainout. In the story: both Jesus Montero and Chance Ruffin were placed on the Temporarily Inactive List, which means they are gone for at least three days. Montero’s wife is having (maybe had last night?) a baby, so congrats to the family.
  • My minor league notebook for the TNT had items on Cole Gillespie and a hitter in Class-A on a power surge.
  • The Mariners lost their fifth in a row and were limited to just two hits in a 7-0 loss to Miami last night. Cue the Harry Doyle.
  • As always, there is a lot of good stuff in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Before today’s Mariners game, they called up Brandon Maurer and optioned James Jones to Tacoma. It’s a long way from Miami to Tacoma so we may not see Jones for another day or two.
  • I’m pretty sure Ryan Divish put these power rankings together simply so he could take a shot at Justin Bieber.
  • Even though he is facing NCAA sanctions, John McGrath wrote a column about another flaw in the MLB replay system.
  • Everyone else in the PCL played last night, although Las Vegas ace Noah Syndergaard probably wished it was raining as he was getting tattooed by El Paso, 8-5.
  • A “plethora” is a very large number, and that’s how many home runs Salt Lake hit in a 12-2 wipeout of Albuquerque yesterday. They even hit back-to-back-to-back dingers.
  • Randy Wolf – whom you may remember from such hits as “Mariners Spring Training” – tossed five innings for Reno and earned the win in a 9-2 victory at Fresno last night. Roger Kieschnick returned to his old stomping grounds.
  • Nashville starter Mike Fiers was on fire indeed, striking out a dozen in a 5-1 win over Omaha.
  • Oklahoma City’s Rudy Owens tossed five no-hit innings and Jon Singleton hit his PCL-leading 7th homer in the RedHawks 6-2 win at Memphis.
  • Three pitchers combined on a two-hit shutout as New Orleans topped Colorado Springs, 3-0. Needless to say, that game was not played in the Springs.
  • Iowa got hammered by Round Rock, 12-2, but they activated top prospect Javier Baez from the disabled list today.
  • The new ballpark in El Paso opens up in just eight days.

All together now, once again… Let’s Play Two!


Rainiers Split DH, Ending Streak At Six

April 19, 2014

The Tacoma Rainiers six-game win streak came to an end when Salt Lake rallied in the final inning and salvaged a split of Friday night’s doubleheader.

Tacoma won the first game, 2-1, when new outfielder Julio Morban doubled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. That made a winner out of starting pitcher Andrew Carraway, who lasted six innings and allowed just one run. Logan Bawcom nailed down the save.

Tacoma took a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning in game two, but Salt Lake all-star Efren Navarro hit a bases loaded double to cap a four-run rally giving the Bees a 5-3 lead. Tacoma scored one run and had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Triple-A rookie Michael Morin got pinch-hitter Endy Chavez to ground into a game-ending double play.

The Rainiers won the series, three games to one, and is sitting two games over .500 on the season with an 8-6 record.

Now the Sacramento River Cats come to town, and they are new Rainiers division rivals this year. Steve Scarsone returns as manager, but they have a ton of new faces on the roster. Outfielders Michael Taylor and Shane Peterson are the only mainstays from previous years.

Sacramento is off to a good start as usual, with a 10-6 record. They’ve won seven of their last eight games.

Just from looking at their stats, it appears that A’s management filled the Triple-A roster by signing a lot of minor league free agents who draw a lot of walks. These guys are going to take a lot of pitches. As former Rainiers manager Dan Rohn used to say back in the Moneyball heyday of walking Sacramento clubs, “the way to solve this problem is to just throw strikes.” Amen, Rohnie, Amen.

Saturday’s game starts at 5:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jordan Pries (Triple-A debut) against Sacramento RHP Marcus Walden (first PCL appearance).

Links:

  • The Raniers game story in The News Tribune focuses on the crazy number of transactions Tacoma has already had.
  • It sounds like Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is going to make a rehabilitation start for Tacoma, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
  • The Mariners lost the series opener in Miami Friday night on a walk-off grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento batters drew ten walks as the River Cats topped Fresno last night, 4-2.
  • Backup catcher Griff Erickson went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a homer as Albuquerque beat the El Paso Chihuahuas, 10-6. It was Bark In The Park night, and the Albuquerque Journal headline writer nailed it.
  • The Reno Aces finally slowed Las Vegas’s roll and they did it with a game-ending three-run homer by Didi Gregorius in the 11th inning.
  • Carlos Peguero hit his first homer for Omaha – and it was a tape-measure blast that gave the Storm Chasers the lead in a 3-2 win over Round Rock.
  • Nashville picked up a 5-1 win over Memphis in unique fashion: Kevin Mattison snapped a 1-1 tie with a pinch-hit grand slam.
  • New Orleans ace Brian Flynn met the Iowa Cubs and reigning PCL Pitcher of the Week Tsuyoshi Wada, and a terrific pitcher’s duel unfolded. Flynn and the Zephyrs got the win, 1-0.
  • Colorado Springs scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Oklahoma City, 10-9. Jackson Williams had the game-winning hit. Earlier, RedHawks first baseman Jonathan Singleton launched his sixth homer of the season, and he’s driven in 20 runs already.

Rain Yesterday, Two Today

April 18, 2014

We had Rainiers rainout No. 4 yesterday, and that means doubleheader today.

Tacoma and Salt Lake will play two seven-inning games, starting at 6:05 tonight at Cheney Stadium. There will be about 25 minutes between games, and yes the Friday Night Fireworks show will still go off after the second game. The weather forecast looks promising for both games to be played tonight.

There was some news yesterday, and it wasn’t good.

Tacoma first baseman Ji-Man Choi was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for methandienone, an anabolic steroid. Apparently this stuff is available over-the-counter in Korea but has been illegal here since 2001. At any rate, it’s against the rules which should have been well-known to Choi. Both the Mariners and Choi made brief statements which you can find right here.

So Tacoma is down a first baseman – and a heckuva hitter – until mid-June. Choi has left Tacoma and will be at extended spring training in Arizona while he serves the suspension.

The Rainiers made a bunch of roster moves yesterday:

  • Tacoma added reliever Stephen Pryor to the active roster, and placed reliever Nick Hill on the 7-day disabled list.
  • Choi was placed on the suspended list – he does not count on the Rainiers 25-man roster.
  • Outfielder Julio Morban joins the team from extended spring training, where he was recovering from a broken leg suffered at the end of the 2013 season. Morban is a highly regarded prospect and a good hitter who has been slowed by injuries.
  • Chantz Mack – a 2013 draft pick from “The U” – joins the club from extended spring training to provide outfield depth while James Jones is in the big leagues.
  • Right-hander Jordan Pries is here in Tacoma and he will be activated to start for the Rainiers tomorrow. He was pitching well at Double-A Jackson.

It should be fun to watch Morban play. He’ll probably DH quite a bit initially as he gets his playing legs back, and slowly be added to the outfield mix.

Friday’s doubleheader starts at 6:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (0-0, 11.57) against Salt Lake LHP Justin Thomas (1-0, 6.10) in the first game, and the Rainiers are going with RHP Chance Ruffin (0-1, 7.45) in game two against a Bees starter to be announced.

Links:

Let’s play two!


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