What A Comeback!

April 30, 2011

Last year I counted the shocking comeback wins, and the terrible meltdown losses. I was a little surprised at the end of the year to find out that we had only two of each.

Last night Tacoma had its first of either category in 2011: a shocking win, scoring four runs with two outs in the ninth inning when all hope seemed lost. Tacoma stunned Reno for a 9-6 win.

The Rainiers trailed 6-5 going to the ninth. They managed to advance a runner to third base, but there were two outs. Matt Tuiasosopo was at the plate – and he was having a dreadful game offensively, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two groundouts to the catcher – just little nubbers in front of the plate.

Tui got it done when it mattered most, grounding a single between short and third to bring in the tying run.

Then, the floodgates opened. Matt Mangini hit a broken-bat single off the label to right field, sending Tui to third. And then Carlos Peguero jumped on the first pitch he saw a laced a double down the right field line, scoring two runs and Tacoma had a 8-6 lead. Peguero took third on the throw home, and scored on a wild pitch to make it 9-6.

All this occurred with two outs – a shocking win, indeed!

The Rainiers have won three of the last four games, and are now 3-3 on this road trip after dropping the first two games in Salt Lake City.

Tacoma will face Reno tonight at 6:05 (broadcast on 850 AM and streaming live here). Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (0-1, 2.28) against Reno RHP Kevin Mulvey (1-2, 15.00).

Seddon was not on Tacoma’s active roster so a move had to be made: outfielder Brandon Haveman was transferred back to Class-AA Jackson. Haveman did a nice job filling in while Peguero was in the big leagues, even helping the Rainiers win a game. I’m sure we’ll see him again in the future.

Links:

That’s it for today – I’ve got a treat for you long-time fans tomorrow! Also, don’t forget about the Fan Go-Round at Cheney on Sunday.


Former Teammate Stings Rainiers

April 29, 2011

As you are well aware, David Winfree was one of the leaders of last year’s PCL Championship team.

He left the Mariners after the season as a minor league free agent, signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Winfree got injured in spring training and didn’t play much, so an assignment to Triple-A Reno was in the cards.

Last night he beat his former team with a long home run to centerfield with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning. Winfree’s third homer of the season gave Reno a 13-12 win.

Winfree’s blast was one of six homers for the Aces, who lead the league in home runs by a team. The wind was howling out to right field, but that was an advantage for both team’s hitters – and the Aces out-homered Tacoma, 6-1.

Matt Tuiasosopo had a big game for Tacoma, going 3-for-5 with a home run, three runs scored, and five RBI. Alex Liddi and Matt Mangini each had three hits as well.

Mike Carp left the game after singling in the fourth inning. It turned out to be a cramp in his hamstring and he should be fine.

The second game of the four-game series is tonight at 6:05. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (1-0, 4.50) against Reno RHP Micah Owings (3-0, 2.81). It will be interesting to see if Reno manager Brett Butler uses a DH for Owings, who is the best hitting pitcher in baseball. The game will be broadcast live on 850 AM and streaming online here.

Links:

OK, let’s see if we can get a more normal baseball game tonight – and hopefully one that ends with a Rainiers win.


Rainiers In Reno

April 28, 2011

The rested Rainiers will face the Reno Aces tonight in the opening game of a four-game series in The Biggest Little City In The World.

Tacoma sends LHP Luke French (0-3, 4.29) to the mound against Reno RHP Matt Torra (1-0, 3.18). First pitch is set for 6:05 pm and you can hear the game live on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming here.

Reno is 13-6 and in first place in the division. The Arizona Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate is led by Wily Mo Pena, who is terrorizing PCL pitchers. Wily Mo has hit safely in all 15 games he has played in, and get this: he has at least one RBI in 14 of his 15 games. All told he’s batting .390 with six home runs and 22 RBI.

The Aces have two other players with 10-game hitting streaks: outfielder Cole Gillespie and catcher Konrad Schmidt.

Former Rainiers star David Winfree is producing, too: he’s hitting .305 with two homers and 18 RBI in 18 games.

Links:

  • Former Tacoma Tigers manager Ed Nottle is one of the characters of the game – he once got ejected and put on the Tacoma Tiger mascot suit and went back on the field. John McGrath wrote about him in a preview of Sunday’s “Fan Go-Round.” A description of Sunday’s event including a list of players attending is on the event flyer.
  • It sounds like we’ll be keeping David Aardsma on the roster for a while longer.
  • Ryan Divish has a close-up on reliever Dan Cortes, who was making strides with Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard before his promotion.
  • Justin Smoak is hot and Erik Bedard picked up his first win since 2009 – the M’s are playing well on the road!
  • We had a very rare event in the PCL on Tuesday night: Oklahoma City’s Koby Clemens (Roger’s son) hit two home runs in the same inning at Round Rock.
  • Notes from Fresno: Brandon Belt has moved to the outfield, and PCL stolen base leader Emmanuel Burris was called up.
  • Omaha’s Clint Robinson has been one of the top hitters in the PCL, but he gets no respect.
  • The Tucson Padres have been bumped from their stadium by a mariachi festival. I did not make that up. So they’re playing Saturday’s game across town at Hi Corbett Field.
  • Life in the year 2011: Ozzie Guillen got ejected in the first inning, went back to his office, and tweeted about it.

We missed Ozzy performing at our Reno hotel by three days, but the Muppets are in town. Maybe I can secure Kermit The Frog for Sunday’s feature interview.


That’s Two Straight – Now For A Day Of Rest

April 27, 2011

Tacoma made it two straight wins by beating Salt Lake on Tuesday night, 8-4.

It was an all-around team effort: Fabio Castro had an excellent start, the bullpen was solid, and everyone in the lineup hit. The team went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position, which has been an early-season struggle for the club.

Mike Wilson came off the disabled list and hit a pair of doubles, Carlos Peguero had a two-out, two-run double, Josh Bard knocked a homer, and Alex Liddi hit a tape-measure line drive solo shot.

Here is the game story with more details and quotes from manager Daren Brown.

After 20 straight games, the Rainiers have their first day off of the season today. The team lands in Reno in the mid-afternoon and gets a relaxing evening off.

In the PCL we get one day off a month, and having it on the road is not a good thing. But we’ll make the best of it – personally, you will be able to find me either at the Sierra Nevada Tap House (yum yum) or in a No-Limit Hold ‘Em game at one of Reno’s finest downtown gambling palaces.

Tacoma’s next game will be Thursday at 6:05 in Reno. I’ll be back with a full blog post beforehand.


Hey! We Won One.

April 26, 2011
 
That sure wasn’t easy.

After losing ten out of 11 games, the Rainiers finally broke through for a 5-4 win on Monday night in Salt Lake City.

It took 12 innings, lasted 4 hours and 5 minutes, there was a 55-minute rain delay (not included in time of game, so the game lasted five hours), and the last three innings were played in a steady rain with about 12 people in the stands, but it’s a win.

Dustin Ackley hit the game-winning two-run double in the top of the 12th. With the score tied 3-3 and runners at second and third and one out, Ackley drove a Horacio Ramirez pitch over the head of the left fielder for a two-run double. It was only the second hit Ackley has had against a left-handed pitcher this year, and obviously it was a big one.

Ackley never would have gotten a chance if it weren’t for the heroics of Cesar Jimenez in the bottom of the 11th. After allowing a leadoff double and wild pitching the runner to third, the Rainiers chose to intentionally walk the bases loaded to set up a force at the plate.

Jimenez then struck out three straight batters to escape the jam. It was an impressive bit of clutch pitching, and Jimenez ended up with a very deserved win.

The Rainiers have a chance to split the series with a win tonight – and that would be quite an accomplishment given what has happened over the last two weeks. Game time is set for 5:35 (Pacific, 850 AM and streaming here). Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (0-2, 8.03) against Salt Lake RHP Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 8.79).

Let’s hit some Rainiers notes:

  • Tonight’s game is questionable – we’ve had snow flurries this morning in SLC, and who knows what’s in store for us tonight. If we can’t play, the game will be made up as a part of a doubleheader when the Rainiers return to Salt Lake City, July 22-25. If it gets postponed I’ll post it here on the blog right away.
  • Mike Wilson took batting practice yesterday and felt good. He could be activated from the disabled list as soon as today. Wilson separated his shoulder crashing into the outfield wall in the fifth game of the season, April 11 at Fresno.
  • Alex Liddi had his first day off yesterday, and Matt Mangini slid over to his old position of third base.
  • Josh Lueke pitched very well in his first game back at Tacoma, working 2.1 scoreless innings.
  • Chaz Roe had his third straight good start, allowing just one unearned run while he was on the hill – although the runners he left on base when he left the game with two outs in the sixth ended up scoring, tainting his stats.

Hopefully we’ll get this one in today. As a RG, I officially hate doubleheaders (as a fan I kind of like them).

News links for today:

  • I frantically wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune well after the paper’s deadline last night – it’s just a bunch of play-by-play. There a some Bees tidbits in the Salt Lake Tribune’s game story.
  • The Mariners were off yesterday, so the papers ran feature stories: The TNT has a story on Adam Kennedy, and the Seattle Times focused on Jamey Wright.
  • Ryan Divish is on the Mariners road trip so that means lots of blog posts. Here he compares Jack Cust to Brad Wilkerson. I need Divish to show me how to post a neat chart like that in a blog.
  • Former Rainiers catcher Jeff Clement is the focus of this excellent story from Fox Sports.
  • Mariners Farm Review has a look at three players who are off to interesting starts for Class-A Clinton.
  • In the PCL, we have some hot teams. Colorado Springs won its fifth in a row last night despite making five errors. It was the first time in ten years that the Sky Sox have won a game in which they made five errors.
  • Omaha has won eight straight games. They beat Nashville in the ninth inning last night.
  • Reno won at Fresno last night, 6-2. The Rainiers face Reno next – Collin Cowgill had three hits and two RBI for the Aces last night. The Aces got Wily Mo back in the lineup, but ex-Rainiers shortstop Josh Wilson was called up by the Diamondbacks.
  • Anthony Rizzo is still red-hot for Tucson – he had three hits with a homer at Sacramento last night, and he’s batting .432-7-26 for the T-Pads. We’ll see him on Monday at Cheney if he doesn’t get himself called up first.
  • Not only is Zack Greinke rehabbing with Nashville, now they have Corey Hart in the lineup. When do Braun and Fielder arrive?

I almost forgot to post this: yesterday was Free Tree Night in Salt Lake City. Courtesy of the Bees Hannah Lee, I received my free tree. I’m going to plant it and raise it and nurture it. Remember, even the smallest acorn can grow into a Mighty Oak.

I can’t believe they didn’t cover the container with Salt Lake Bees logos.

Monday Roster Moves

April 25, 2011

We had some roster moves before tonight’s game in Salt Lake City (5:35 pm Pacific, RHP Chaz Roe vs. RHP Eric Jonge, 850 AM and streaming here).

Tacoma received reliever Josh Lueke and outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Mariners. Both are here and ready to play – Peguero is in the lineup.

Reliever Dan Cortes was called up to Seattle, and reliever Justin Miller was released.

Miller had been one of Tacoma’s top relievers. My understanding is that Miller’s release was a mutual decision between he and the Mariners, so that he could pursue a better major league opportunity with a different organization.

I apologize for the lack of a full blog today. There was no internet available at the hotel because they were “changing servers.” Apparently, this is going to be the Season Of Hotel Internet Problems – it was slower than dial-up all four days we were in Fresno. It’s always something – last year was the Season Of Lost Radio Guy Luggage, and two years ago was the Season I Kept Getting Sick.

Since I couldn’t get online I wandered around downtown Salt Lake City and came to the ballpark early to use the WiFi here for my game preparation. I found a nearby coffee shop I can use tomorrow if the internet is still down at the hotel, so I promise a full entry Tuesday.


Another One-Run Loss

April 24, 2011

Different location, same result: the Rainiers opened an eight-game road trip with a 9-8 loss in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.

The first game of the road trip was eerily similar to what the Rainiers did on the just-completed eight-game homestand. Tacoma stayed in the game and lost by one run, and the defense was the culprit once again.

Tacoma was charged with three errors last night, and it should have been more. Chris Pettit’s “three-run double” in the bottom of the eighth inning should have been called an error, and the Rainiers also had some mental mistakes (pitcher not covering first base, etc).

The Rainiers have lost nine of the last ten games, but I still think that this will be corrected soon, and here’s why: five of the losses have been by one run, two by two runs, and one by three runs. During this dreadful stretch, Tacoma has only been beaten badly one time (the 13-1 loss to Colorado Springs on Thursday).

Clearly, the club is just about as good as the opponent, but bad luck or a big mistake at a key moment is costing them the ballgame.

Positive notes from Saturday:

  • Mike Carp is back. He went 3-for-4 with a homer, and in his last five games he is 9-for-19 with two home runs. He’s even got his average over the Mendoza Line at .210.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo hit two hard doubles and he has reached base ten times in the last four games.
  • Brandon Haveman had two hits, a home run, and three RBI. His first Triple-A homer was a line-drive laser beam down the right field line.
  • Johan Limonta went 3-for-4 with a walk.

Today’s game is at 1:05 (Pacific) and the Rainiers send LHP Chris Seddon (0-1, 0.96) to the mound against Salt Lake LHP Manny Flores (making his Triple-A debut). Seddon’s microscopic ERA is endangered in the high-elevation hitter’s paradise of Spring Mobile Ballpark.

The pre-game airs at 12:50 and the broadcast will be on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online.

Links:

Off to the ballpark for another chilly game in Salt Lake City!


Back On The Road

April 23, 2011

Tacoma lost the final game of the homestand to Colorado Springs on Friday night, 6-5. It ended a disappointing opening homestand in which Tacoma went just 1-7.

Nice crowd, though: 6,591 were on hand last night, and it wasn’t exactly balmy out there. I have a feeling that the ballpark is going to be full of people daily when the weather warms up. Once the casual fans get out for their first time and see how nice it is they will come back.

Manager Daren Brown says the team will improve, and I have to agree with him. Otherwise, its gonna be a heckuva season, isn’t it? 

Three errors* last night lead to five early unearned runs, and Tacoma was down 6-1 in the third inning. The team did get excellent pitching and defense from that point onward, and the club made a heartful comeback attempt, but it just fell a run short.

Today we are in Salt Lake City for the opening game of a four-game series, and an eight-game road trip.

This is one of those sleep deprivation days that happen in the Pacific Coast League (A.K.A. The No-Sleep League): The guys, myself included, got about 2.5 hours of sleep in their own beds last night, then took a pre-dawn bus to the airport, took the first flight of the day to SLC and slept maybe one hour on the plane, then checked into the hotel and got another 1-2 hour nap in before heading out to the ballpark for batting practice. This is common on travel days in Triple-A.

Game time is 5:35 pm (Pacific time) and the pregame starts at 5:20 on 850 AM and streaming online. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (1-0, 4.02) and Salt Lake will start a place called Bear Bay (1-0, 5.06).

The coffee will be flowing in the press box – I hope. This is Salt Lake City, after all, and sometimes caffeine is hard to find.

A few links:

  • Ryan Divish showed up at Cheney Stadium and wrote the Rainiers game story. Brown addresses the sloppy play. Also: Dustin Ackley went 3-for-4 with a walk, and Royce Ring had a great relief appearance striking out three straight lefties – two of whom were big league hitters stuck in Triple-A (Ian Stewart and Mike Jacobs).
  • Michal Pineda is pretty freakin’ awesome. From The Times and the TNT. Better yet: video highlights from MLB. There seems to be growing sentiment to nickname him “El Nino” and I’m OK with that.
  • In the PCL, there was an amazing comeback in Reno: down 5-2, the Aces scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth without making an out against Sacramento closer Joe Bateman. John Hester had the game-ending hit.
  • Every year it seems that there is a player who rides the I-5 Shuttle, going back-and-forth between Tacoma and Seattle. Well, Mike McCoy has already worn out the lesser-known Las Vegas-to-Toronto Shuttle. Or is that more of a junket?
  • PCL President Branch Rickey visited the facility in Tucson last night. I wonder if Branch will be here in SLC on Monday for Tree Giveaway Night? (that was a joke… get it? Branch? Tree? Ahahahahaha!)
  • They got fogged out in the sixth inning in Iowa last night. This happened to us once in Colorado Springs and it was one of the most memorable afternoons of my career. I’ll do a whole post on it later this year.
  • Emerging prospect alert: Amaury Rivas, a starting pitcher for Nashville. He’s off to an excellent start in his first Triple-A season.
  • I love games like this: a 2-1 pitcher’s duel in which all three runs score on solo homers. Round Rock has won seven straight, all on the road.
  • When I see “Chasers” in the headline, I do not think of Omaha baseball. Instead, I think of amusing TV commercials. Clint Robinson won the triple crown in the Texas League last year and he’s off to a roaring start in his first Triple-A season.

Could be a long one tonight: Salt Lake has already played five extra-inning games this year, and three have lasted over 4:15. The Bees routinely play three-hour games. They also score a lot of runs – the Rainiers bats are going to have to come alive, because nobody has slowed down Salt Lake’s offense yet. Be especially weary of Alexi Amarista, who has a 12-game hitting streak and is 22-for-46 on the season.

* it was originally four errors, but after the game the official scorer met with both managers and reviewed the replay and decided to change the ball Chris Nelson hit sharply off Alex Liddi’s knee in the third inning from an error to a single.


Thirteen To One Is No Fun

April 22, 2011

See what we’ve been reduced to? Bad rhymes in the headline.

If I had more time (and writing talent), I’d summarize last nights 13-1 Tacoma loss to Colorado Springs in poetry. I’d mimic the epic Wallace Stevens poem “Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird” with stanzas like this:

I

Among nine frozen innings,

The only moving thing

Was the numbers on the visitor’s scoreboard.

 

How about:

V

I do not know which to detest more,

The twelve-run loss

Or the 3:21 game time,

The temperature dropping to forty

Or just after.

 

This stanza requires only a slight adjustment:

IX

When the grand slam flew out of sight

It marked the edge

Of one of many circles

 

It was just an ugly day for the Rainiers. Any game that opens with the visiting team’s first four hitters going single, single, single, grand slam is not going to end well for the hometown nine.

The Rainiers end the homestand with a nearly sold out game tonight at 7:05. It’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Night so your attendance supports a good cause. There will be tickets available at the door but expect a big crowd. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (0-2, 5.40) against Colorado Springs RHP John Maine (0-1, 9.69).

The broadcast is in the usual spots: South Sound Sports 850 AM in and around Tacoma, and streaming worldwide right here.

Links:

  • The News Tribune’s Rainiers game story talks a bit about the return of Matt Mangini, who went 1-for-4 with a double. Mangini was the Rainiers team MVP last year and it’s great to have him back in the lineup. Also, we should see David Aardsma for an inning of rehab work at Cheney tonight.
  • Things are interesting with the Mariners right now: Felix Hernandez tossed a gem last night, and Michael Pineda toes the slab tonight. Pineda goes against Tyson Ross – two power arms head-to-head.
  • The Seattle Times game story comes with a great photo of Felix mid-delivery.
  • Congrats to Carlos Peguero, who got his first major league hit last night – an infield single off Brandon McCarthy.
  • John McGrath touched on the plight of the Dodgers and the Safeco Field experience in today’s column.
  • Bud Selig is threatening to expand the playoffs – Boooooooooo!!! – and Larry Stone notes that the proposed new format would have given the Mariners four additional playoff appearances.
  • No Rainiers appear in this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet, but there are several PCL players.
  • For you non-subscribers Kevin Goldstein’s daily Baseball Prospectus Minor League Update is free today.
  • In the PCL, word is getting out that Salt Lake first baseman Efren Navarro can really pick it. Yesterday he really hit it, too, going 4-for-5 in the Bees 12-9 win at Las Vegas. At the bottom of this story: Toronto optioned Brett Cecil to Vegas and called up former Rainiers and Mariners infielder Chris Woodward.
  • Salt Lake RG Steve Klauke is about to call his 2,500th game. I’ll meet you at that milestone in a few years, Steve.
  • Wow: Reno blew a 9-2 lead at home to Sacramento last night. Also: got word that Sacramento slugger Chris Carter is out indefinitely with a thumb injury.
  • Fresno relief ace Steve Edlefsen had his first career hit: a home run that turned out to be the game winner at Tucson.
  • Ringer alert: Nashville will have Zack Greinke starting on rehab on Sunday against Omaha. Nashville beat New Orleans last night on a pinch-hit home run.
  • The affiliation change is working our for Round Rock: they’ve now won six games in a row, their longest streak in three years. In this story: a rare Enos Cabel sighting.
  • In Des Moines, Lou Montanez hit a grand slam and the I-Cubs beat Albuquerque, 9-4. Friend of the blog Bryan LaHair got ejected in the second inning. Perhaps he just wanted to escape the freezing temperatures – Iowa is dealing with the same weather issues we are here in Tacoma, as noted by I-Cubs GM Sam Bernabe at the end of this story.
  • Omaha edged Memphis last night, 1-0. Former Mariners reliever Kanekoa Texeira was optioned to Omaha.
  • Mount Vernon native Kyle Kendrick had his World Series ring stolen, but police are making progress on the case.
  • If you were a MLB fan in the early 1990s you will enjoy this immensely. The Roberto Alomar commentary is fantastic.

After tonight’s game the Rainiers will get a few restless hours of sleep before a super-early Saturday morning flight to Salt Lake City. Let’s close out this homestand with a win!


Mangini Here And In The Lineup

April 21, 2011

Matt Mangini was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Tacoma today. He’s in the lineup as the DH.

On my pregame show, manager Daren Brown says that Alex Liddi will remain the third baseman. Mangini is “going to see a lot of first base.”

My hunch is that Mangini, Mike Carp, and Matt Tuiasosopo will rotate through the 1B/LF/DH slots.


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