Trying To Avoid A Sweep

June 29, 2010

It’s the Rainiers last day in Sacramento, and Tacoma needs a win today to avoid being swept. This is a situation that I least expected – the team looked good coming into the series, and I expected the Rainiers to win three out of four down here. Instead, they’re relying on ace Luke French to end a four-game losing streak.

Michael Pineda was strong yesterday in his second Triple-A start. He mixed in more sliders and changes this time, and the slider was particularly effective. Many of his 11 strikeouts came on sliders. Both solo home runs he allowed came off of fastballs, as he is learning that you can’t just blow the heat past Triple-A hitters – Matt Carson and Steve Tolleson are good players in this league, and both of them have spent time in the majors this season; they can hit a fastball.

There was definitely some frustration in the clubhouse after the game surrounding the way Tacoma lost. The Rainiers took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth, and Sacramento’s leadoff man reached first. The next hitter, Matt Watson, hit a would-be double play grounder to shortstop Chris Woodward. Woody fumbled the ball briefly, costing the double play, but he still recovered and flipped it to second for an apparent force-out. But the umpire called the runner safe, and there were no outs recorded on the play. Replay showed a very close play, but it looked to me like the runner was out.

The play led to a four-run inning for Sacramento, and a 7-5 River Cats win. Guys were shaking their heads as they left the clubhouse after the game, wondering what they have to do to win a game here.

They’ll try to take care of it this morning. First pitch is set for 11:35 AM, with LHP Luke French (8-2, 2.27) starting for Tacoma against Sacramento RHP Travis Banwart (1-0, 3.00).

We’ll have the broadcast for you, in some form that hopefully won’t result in dreadful sound quality, on 850 AM. Once again I will call the game with my longtime friend Johnny Doskow, who is the Sacramento RG. We’ll do one broadcast that will go to both cities. AT&T fixed the ISDN connection so we are back to a normal broadcast situation today. Pre-game starts at 11:25.

Now for a couple of links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. Here’s the summary from the Sacramento Bee.
  • Larry Larue wrote a feature on Michael Saunders. Nit-picking time: there is no such thing as a Double-A Wisconsin team.
  • Geoff Baker gets into the nuts and bolts of why the Mariners struggled this year, and how Russell Branyan is part of the fix.
  • The Cliff Lee rumor mill is just beginning to warm up – here’s Larry Stone with the latest.
  • Any time Tim Lincecum pitches and doesn’t dominate, people wonder what’s wrong.
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake tied Tacoma in first place by defeating Reno, 5-3. Salt Lake has won four in a row – their longest streak of the season.
  • Sky Sox starter Chaz Roe was beat up by Portland last night. Dexter Fowler got called up.
  • Fresno is having bullpen problems, they took another beat-down from Las Vegas, and their lead over Sacramento – once 12.5 games – is down to seven.
  • Gonzaga product Kevin Richardson hit a walk-off homer for Oklahoma City.
  • Here’s another link only Dale Phelps will click on: another Omaha World-Herald feature on a rapidly rising Kansas City Royals relief prospect.

As some of you know, I cover local prep basketball for the TNT during the winter months. I’ve seen Davonte Lacy play a lot the last two years, and I think he is an excellent sign for Ken Bone and WSU.


Broadcast Update

June 28, 2010

Well, the necessary repairs have not been made (although AT&T falsely claimed they “fixed it”), but it looks like the hard-working folks at Clear Channel have come up with an alternative solution.

South Sound Sports 850 AM will pick up the feed of the Sacramento River Cats broadcast featuring their outstanding RG, Johnny Doskow. In turn, I’ll sit in with him on the air to make sure he keeps the broadcast fair and balanced*. There might be a few hiccups technically, but we should be able to get it done. Looks like we’ll be doing the same thing for tomorrow’s 11:35 aM game, too.

* actually, I intend to slip in some anti-River Cats propaganda.


Stealing Money

June 28, 2010

Yesterday was as frustrating as a day can get for a radio guy. I was all ready to go in Sacramento, everything appeared to be in working order – and we were unable to get a connection from Raley Field in Sacramento to the Clear Channel studios in Seattle.

After scrambling for a while, the Clear Channel chief engineer diagnosed the problem as a phone company issue at the central office near the ballpark. We are still trying to get this fixed as I type this – but it’s really frustrating. There is nothing I can do, there is nothing the people at the radio station in Seattle can do, there is nothing the people at Raley Field can do – we are at the mercy of the AT&T unit that repairs their ISDN connections.

So yesterday I just sat and watched the game – which was a strange sensation for me, as I felt like I was supposed to be doing something. I did fill in on the Sacramento broadcast in the 5th and 6th innings, allowing me to call Daren Brown’s first ejection and subsequent hat toss of the season – so that was fun. The Rainiers lost, 8-3, and the controversial play led directly to three runs and changed the course of the game. I detailed the play in my story for The News Tribune (link below).

Tonight Michael Pineda takes the mound, and I really hope we can get on the air. Game time is 7:05 and I’ll keep you updated on the situation via this blog.

Here are some links:

  • The aforementioned Rainiers game story which details the controversial play. The Sacramento Bee’s story ignored all controversy.
  • David Pauley pitched two scoreless innings in his Mariners debut, but they got shut out in Milwaukee on Sunday.
  • John McGrath is ready for the M’s to deal Cliff Lee.
  • Larry Stone says that not only can the M’s trade Lee, but they can also trade Erik Bedard if he proves he is healthy. Bedard is reportedly making a rehab start for Tacoma on Thursday at Cheney Stadium.
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake closed the Rainiers lead in the division down to one game with an 8-7 win over Reno yesterday. Salt Lake won it with its extremely youthful infield. The kids are way too young for Triple-A – but they held their own yesterday.
  • Colorado Springs beat Portland and Jorge De La Rosa was very sharp.
  • Sacramento has won four straight and narrowed Fresno’s lead down to eight games. Fresno allowed 17 runs and 23 hits yesterday.
  • Oklahoma City had a travel disaster. I didn’t read the story because I live this stuff, but you guys might find it interesting. Not fun. Meanwhile, the young Chad Tracy (Jim’s son) did something he has never done before in his life.
  • Elsewhere, former Rainiers outfielder Shin Soo Choo had a huge game for the Indians.
  • Mike… Off-Mic’s newest correspondent – my mother – suggests this link to a story Eric Byrnes’s softball team. Former PCL player John Gall is his teammate. And I’m surprised that my man Ryan Divish isn’t the beat writer – he would love the one-hour time limit!

Now, more sitting around hoping for AT&T to fix the ISDN broadcast connection. I’ll update the blog when we get some information!


Technical Problems

June 27, 2010

Hey guys – they’re having technical problems at Clear Channel in Seattle, and we are not able to get on the air in time for today’s game. People are trying to fix it right now.

UPDATE: It will not be fixed today, and the game will not be broadcast today. We hope to have it repaired for Monday night’s game. My apologies but it’s out of my hands – I’m ready to work. I’m actually going to join Johnny Doskow on the Sacramento broadcast in the 5th and 6th innings. I’m sure its streaming through www.rivercats.com.

In the meantime, you can follow live with the Gameday feature at www.tacomarainiers.com.


Transactions Overshadow Game

June 27, 2010

In Triple-A baseball there is a constant churning of the roster. This is a fact of life for all 16 teams in the PCL, and the play on the field is pretty much unaffected by it.

But yesterday the moves grew bigger than the game – at least from my seat in the press box.

It started two hours before the game, when scheduled starter David Pauley was scratched. Rainiers manager Daren Brown was unable to say exactly why, but it’s pretty clear that Pauley is being whisked away to a place that rhymes with “pig teegs,” where he will join a team named after seafarers. Thank goodness we kept that a secret!

So Andy Baldwin made the emergency start for Tacoma, working on three days rest. He allowed a two-out, three-run homer in the second inning, but settled down and got the team into the sixth inning when disaster hit. With the team trailing 3-2, Rainiers fielders lost not one, but two catchable fly balls in the twilight sky. They led to three runs scoring, and Sacramento ended up with the 6-2 win.

I didn’t hear about it until the 7th inning when Shannon Drayer broke the story on Twitter*, but apparently the Rainiers knew around the fifth inning that outfielder Ezequiel Carrera had been traded to the Cleveland Indians, along with Class-A shortstop Juan Diaz, for Russell Branyan

Carrera found out about the trade the old-fashioned way: a phone call in the dugout. Trainer Tom Newberg carries what they jokingly call “The Bat Phone” which pretty much only rings if something big is going on with the Mariners, and they need to make a move during a Rainiers game.

Apparently Carrera is going to the Indians extended spring training camp in Arizona, where he will continue to rehabilitate his hip pointer before eventually joining the Indians Triple-A team.

While all this was going on, it was Polynesian Culture Night at Raley Field, complete with hula dancers and dancing men dressed in loincloth between innings – all of which resulted in American-with-Samoan-name Matt Tuiasosopo receiving a ton of grief from his teammates.

So a lot happened last night – oh yeah, the Rainiers also lost a game on their lead. Salt Lake nipped Reno 6-5 so Tacoma’s lead in the division got trimmed to two games.

Today it’s a 1:05 start – the radio pre-game begins at 12:50, and we’ll have our weekly interview with manager Daren Brown. Tacoma starts RHP Ian Snell (1-0, 0.00) against former Mariners and Rainiers LHP John Halama (2-1, 5.94).

Now for the Sunday links:

  • Here is my Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, with quotes from Brown on the moves. Here’s the River Cats run-down from the Sacramento Bee – they’re hot right now.
  • And my Minor League Notebook leads with Jaime Navarro on Michael Pineda, among other things.
  • Ryan Divish put down his half-empty glass and tried to figure out who is the Least Valuable Mariner.
  • Geoff Baker got Jack Z to explain the Branyan trade.
  • Larry Stone looks to the future and has quotes from Pedro Grifol on several different Mariners prospects.
  • Always fun: Stone’s Power Rankings, and his notebook.
  • The Mariners won yesterday, and Brian Sweeney picked up the victory. Coincidentally, his old pal Scott Atchison got the win in relief for the Red Sox yesterday.
  • In the PCL, the Fresno Grizzlies had “Twilight Night.” Check out the description of the special jerseys. Matt Yourkin tossed a gem and the Grizzlies won.
  • Here’s the story on Salt Lake’s win. Cory Aldridge doubled home the winning run, and catcher Hank Conger threw out three base stealers.
  • This is sad – the Bees always have the banner flying around the park on game days.
  • Now this is baseball in Colorado Springs: 36 hits, 19 runs, and a 12-7 Portland win. In this story: former Rainiers pitcher Damian Moss was released – that alone will shorten Sky Sox game times by an average of 15 minutes.
  • The Reno paper runs down the Aces potential all-stars. I believe the all-star teams are announced later this week.
  • In this Sunday notebook from Marlon Morgan of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, there was a bench-clearing incident in Memphis this week that resulted in suspensions. Sweet!
  • In other baseball news, here’s an amazing add-on to the Daniel Nava story. The Red Sox are going to have to play a long time without Dustin Pedroia.
  • Here’s a pretty good piece out of Des Moines about throwing out base stealers.

OK let’s see who gets traded who wins today!


Salt Lake Takes Final Game – On To Sacramento

June 26, 2010

The Rainiers lost the final game of the Salt Lake series, 8-1. But it was a successful series – Tacoma won four of the six games, and expanded its lead to three games in the Northern Division.

Now the Rainiers will dart up and down the West Coast for the four series leading into the all-star break: four games in Sacramento, three games at home against Portland, four games in Salt Lake City, four games at home against Fresno.

Today the team arrived in Sacramento at about 12:30 – just in time to watch the USA’s tough overtime loss to Ghana*. There are a handful of soccer fans among the Rainiers players, and they gathered to watch it in the hotel restaurant before heading over to Raley Field.

Tonight at 7:05 the Rainiers send RHP David Pauley (1-6, 3.68) Andy Baldwin (4-3, 4.73) to the mound against Sacramento RHP Kyle Middleton (4-5, 2.69). The Rainiers are 4-4 against Sacramento this season, with reverse-results: Tacoma lost 3 of 4 at home to Sacramento in April, and won 3 of 4 at Sacramento in early June.

The broadcast will be in the usual spots: 850 AM in the South Sound, and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Now for some linkage:

  • Ryan Divish focused on the Rainiers series win in his game story.
  • The Mariners dropped their first game in Milwaukee. Jonathan Lucroy, who the Rainiers faced in Nashville earlier this season, hit his first major league HR off Ryan Rowland-Smith.
  • Here’s the latest version of Rainiers Insider, in which I talk to team goofball Chris Seddon and team ticket sales guru Chip Maxson.
  • Jason Churchill, who always has an interesting take, plays the always entertaining “let’s concoct Cliff Lee trades” game.
  • In the PCL, Memphis had an unbelievable comeback: trailing 6-1, the Redbirds scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 7-6 win over Nashville.
  • Sacramento split a series in Las Vegas.
  • Here’s a feature on new Las Vegas third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who just cleared waivers.
  • It’s all but official: the Oklahoma City RedHawks are being sold to minor league conglomerate Mandalay Sports.
  • Not only has Round Rock traded for ex-Rainier Tommy Everidge, but they also signed Ramon Vazquez. Add him in with ex-Rainiers Chris Shelton, Roy Corcoran, Oswaldo Navarro, and Michael Garciaparra. They also have two former Tacoma groundskeepers, an ex-Rainiers marketing intern, several former Cheney Stadium parking attendants, and the 1989 Tacoma Tigers beer vendor.
  • The youngest player on an opening day roster in the PCL was Fresno’s Madison Bumgarner. Today, he’ll be the youngest player in the major leagues.
  • Former Rainiers catcher Miguel Olivo is bidding for a spot in the major league all-star game.

Sorry for the short blog today – I’ve got to bang out my Minor League Notebook for tomorrow’s News Tribune, and then head to Raley. I’ll try to wake up early (by my standards) tomorrow and get to all of the good Sunday baseball links.

* Goodbye, soccer fad. See you in 2014!


SWEEP – Rainiers Win Two, Lead Division By Four Games

June 25, 2010

Tacoma swept the doubleheader from Salt Lake last night, winning the opening game 3-2 in dramatic fashion, and then taking the second game, 7-4. The wins increased Tacoma’s lead over second-place Salt Lake to four games, with one game left between the two teams tonight at 7:05.

The Rainiers trailed the opener 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh (and final) inning. David Winfree led off with a single, and with one out Greg Halman tripled him home. Salt Lake then intentionally walked the bases loaded to set up a forceout at home, and they got the second out. But Matt Tuiasosopo worked a full count before drawing ball four, forcing in the winning run for the rarely seen walk-off walk.

In game two, the Rainiers scored six runs in the bottom of the second inning, which was more than enough for starter Luke French. French allowed two runs over six innings to raise his record to 8-2 on the year. Matt Mangini had three hits and three RBI in the second game.

So the Rainiers have won four of the first five games of the six-game series, with the final game coming up tonight at 7:00. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (8-3, 3.43), who is the reigning PCL Pitcher of the Week after his 14 scoreless innings last week. Salt Lake will start LHP Daniel Davidson (6-1, 5.38). It’s another game that will result in a big swing in the standings: if Tacoma wins, they lead by five games. A loss and the lead is down to three.

Tonight’s game will be televised on Comcast Sportsnet – channel 179 on most Comcast Digital systems. We’ll have the simulcast running on 850 AM and www.tacomarainiers.com. Joining me in the booth is former Tacoma Rainiers pitcher Jeff Heaverlo in his TV debut. Heaverlo pitched for Tacoma from 2003-05, and he also pitched for Salt Lake in 2006 – so he might be conflicted (just kidding!). Heaverlo was the Mariners first round draft pick in 1999 out of the University of Washington.

Now for some links:

  • Here’s Gail Wood’s story on the doubleheader sweep.
  • The Mariners six-game win streak ended in extra innings. Josh Wilson played first base.
  • Larry Stone wrote about the fan who caught a foul ball with his beer. Yes, with his beer.
  • For espn.com Insiders, here’s another piece on Michael Pineda. Pineda ranks high on this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. And a Salt Lake Bee made the Not-So-Hot Sheet – aaaaaaahhhhh ha ha ha ha!!!!!!
  • Here’s something I never expected: former Rainiers outfielder Prentice Redman has been suspended 50 games for failing a drug test. Amphetamines, they say.
  • For Baseball America subscribers, here’s the latest on the Portland situation. Cliff’s Notes: they’re moving, and they’re not coming back.
  • It was kind of a quiet day in the PCL, but Brad Eldred made some noise: he homered twice, taking the league-lead with 18, as the Sky Sox downed Reno, 10-5. Colorado Springs is set to keep Jorge De La Rosa for another rehab start.
  • Sacramento added a new pitcher up from Double-A and he pitched well in Las Vegas.
  • Here’s an update on New Orleans outfielder Cameron Maybin, whom I was certain was going to be a star by now.
  • Former Rainiers reliever Justin Thomas was called up to the majors by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • The Everett Aqua Sox have opened the short-season Northwest League with seven consecutive wins. Here’s the low-down from Jay at the USS Mariner.
  • You can never go wrong when Vin Scully starts telling stories.

That’s all for today – make sure you check out your first place Rainiers tonight, and stay for the post-game fireworks show.


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