Pineda Shines, But So Does ‘Zag Mortensen

Michael Pineda was certainly impressive last night, striking out 11 batters over five innings of one-hit ball in front of an overflow crowd of 8,519 at Cheney Stadium.

But equally impressive – albeit in a very different way – was former Gonzaga Bulldog Clayton Mortensen of Sacramento. Mortensen induced 16 ground-ball outs over eight shutout innings, permitting only two hits, and he earned his 11th win as Sacramento beat the Rainiers, 2-1.

Moretensen is now tied with Tacoma’s Luke French and Fresno’s Eric Hacker for the PCL lead in wins.

Pineda was pulled after 86 pitches, and he got stuck with his first loss. He hit Adam Heether with one out in the third inning, and Eric Sogard followed by pulling an offspeed pitch into the right field corner for a run-scoring triple.

That was the only mis-step for Pineda, who’s final 11 outs were all recorded via strikeout. He finished his outing by striking out the side in the fifth, getting Sogard looking on a backdoor slider to end the frame.

The Rainiers rallied for a run in the bottom of the ninth, and they had the tying runner at first base with two outs, but Sacramento reliever Michael Benacka struck out Matt Tuiasosopo with a change-up to end the game.

Dustin Ackley grounded out to second base in his first two home at-bats, but then he singled to the opposite field off Mortensen to end up going 1-for-3.

The Rainiers have gone 4-5 since the all-star break, but they still lead second-place Salt Lake by seven games. If you think about it from the Salt Lake perspective, the next seven days are crucial for them: they face two teams that are well-under the .500 mark in Colorado Springs and Portland, while the Rainiers play seven more games against the two teams with the best records in the league - Sacramento and Fresno. While we don’t know what’s going to happen in August, this week-long stretch may present Salt Lake’s best opportunity to gain some ground.

Tonight the Rainiers host Sacramento at 7:00. Tacoma will send RHP Andy Baldwin (6-4, 5.29) to the mound against Sacramento RHP Kyle Middleton (6-5, 2.83). The broadcast will be on 850 AM and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com. The game will also be televised live on Comcast SportsNet, with Jeff Heaverlo joining me in the booth.

Now for some links:

  • Doug Pacey wrote the Rainiers game story – he was there, so I don’t know how he came up with “a lanky 180 pounds” for Pineda LOL. Maybe he was concentrating on this excellent feature on Dustin Ackley that he also wrote.
  • The M’s game included a brawl - amongst themselves, in their own dugout. I’ll refrain from comment other than to state that this happens more often than you think, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here’s Geoff Baker’s story on the same game.
  • Baker checked in (LINK repaired) with Roger Hansen on the state of the Mariners catching situation. Some excellent stuff here on Rob Johnson, Adam Moore, and passed balls.
  • There is an Alex Liddi mention in this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. And still, no Rainiers player has made the Not So Hot Sheet – thank goodness!
  • Here’s a fun interview with Triple-A RG Josh Whetzel of Rochester.
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake got trounced by Colorado Springs – even the manager said so. The Bees set a record for most players to appear on the roster in one season – and we still have a way to go.
  • Reno’s Brandon Allen homered for the third straight game, knocking Fresno out of first place in the South. Here’s a feature on toolsy Reno shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.
  • Looks like Fresno will be adding Dontrelle Willis to its bullpen soon.
  • The Free Alex Gordon Movement has succeeded.
  • One-time hot prospect Mat Gamel hit two home runs for Nashville last night.
  • This is a bummer: a downtown power outage cost Memphis a huge crowd last night.

Kudos to Triple-A veteran Andy Tracy of Lehigh Valley, for coming out and saying it in regards to the newly implemented blood testing. Minor league players not on the 40-man roster get a raw deal, every single time. And nobody can speak up, for fear of their job. A guy like Tracy can - a Triple-A veteran who may be near the end of his career, and is willing to risk it.

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