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.


Rainiers Rally For First Home Win

April 21, 2011

It took longer than anyone expected, but the Rainiers picked up their first win at the new Cheney Stadium with a 4-3 win over Colorado Springs last night.

The victory – spurred by a seventh-inning rally – ended a six-game losing streak that included the first five home games of the season.

Tacoma trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, but had runners at first and third with one out. Colorado Springs brought in flame-throwing left-handed reliever Rex Brothers to try to escape the jam.

Josh Bard and Johan Limonta had other ideas. Bard lined a single to center to tie the game, and Limonta followed with a smash past the third baseman to drive in the go-ahead run.

The Rainiers bullpen finished it off, with Chris Smith looking particularly impressive as he recorded the final five outs to earn the save.

Bard now has an 11-game hitting streak, and Dustin Ackley has a 9-gamer. Alex Liddi went 2-for-2 with two sac flies and two RBI last night.

Let’s see if the Rainiers can start a winning streak tonight. Game time is 7:05 (broadcast on 850 AM and streaming online). Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (0-0, 3.00) against Sky Sox LHP Josh Muecke (0-2, 6.75).

It’s the first Tasty Thursday of the season, and you know what that means: $2 Miller beers on the Tasty Terrace, and $1 hot dogs, coffee, and ice cream all around the park. It’s about as inexpensive a night at the ballpark can get.

Roster Notes: Tacoma added outfielder Brandon Haveman from Class-AA Jackson, and he started last night’s game in center field going 1-for-4 in his Triple-A debut. A former Big-10 Conference batting title winner at Purdue, Haveman is in just his second full professional season. Look for him to see a lot of time in center.

Elsewhere in the Mariners organization, slugging Venezuelan Luis Jimenez – who I thought had a chance to make the Rainiers opening day roster – is finally healthy and reported to Class-AA Jackson yesterday. He went 2-for-5 in his first game. Jimenez missed almost all of spring training with a groin injury, essentially ending his chances for a Triple-A assignment to start the season. We might see him down the road.

Ex-Rainiers (and Mariners) Alert: Colorado Springs has reliever Sean White in the bullpen, and Eliezer Alfonzo is with the team but not on the active roster. I talked to Alfonzo yesterday and he’s healthy but the team doesn’t have room on the roster right now. That can be a really frustrating situation for a player, but Alfonzo was in good spirits.

Links!

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Dustin Ackley did a live chat for the Seattle Times yesterday – you can read the recap. You guys asked some good questions, I even learned a thing or two. I had no idea he was a Cardinals fan growing up.
  • Carlos Peguero’s first major league start wasn’t exactly a “soft landing.” Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times wrote about his debut.
  • Ex-Rainiers pitcher David Pauley is off to a good start out of the Mariners bullpen.
  • In the PCL, Las Vegas starter Michael MacDonald is a threat to fans hoping for a lengthy “Dollar Beer Night.” Salt Lake beat the 51s in ten innings last night.
  • Vegas outfielder and B.C. native Adam Loewen used to be a major league pitcher. This is a good story about the transition.
  • Sacramento’s Jai Miller hit two home runs and had five RBI to help the River Kittens crush Reno, 14-7.
  • The Giants optioned Brandon Belt to Fresno and he should report today. The Grizzlies need the help – they’ve lost five in a row.
  • The Tucson Padres players had to pool their money to buy furniture for the clubhouse. Can’t wait for my buddy Johnny Doskow to roll in there and beat them all at ping pong.
  • Albuquerque’s John Ely came one out away from a no-hitter last night in Iowa. Marquez Smith broke it up with a double.
  • New Orleans had only two hits but they were both home runs and the Zephyrs beat Nashville, 2-1. Tom Koehler is now 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA after three starts.
  • Omaha’s Clint Robinson went 4-for-4 and the Storm Chasers blasted Memphis, 10-4. Also, in the headline we see the short-form of Omaha’s new nickname: Chasers.

In my lengthy career in the minor leagues, I have received hundreds of promotional items. I’ve been to hat night and bat night and magnet schedule giveaway day and team poster night and foam finger day and t-shirt night and even Shin Soo Choo-Choo toy train day. But never, in my entire career, have I been given a free tree. This will change on Monday night in Salt Lake City.


Ackley Live Chat Today

April 20, 2011

Here’s something different: Rainiers second baseman Dustin Ackley is doing a live chat today at 1:30.

The Seattle Times is hosting the event, and it will run through their website right here. Apparently, Dustin will be doing his part from one of the suites at Cheney Stadium. So get your questions ready.

Hey, I’ve got a question: when are the Rainiers going to win a home game? This is getting kind of ridiculous. The team is now 0-5 at the New Cheney and has lost six in a row.

There isn’t much manager Daren Brown can do. He’s down to ten position players on the roster and yesterday he crossed himself and put both of his catchers in the starting lineup (Jose Yepez played first base).

Tacoma has lost all three starting outfielders to injury and/or promotion, and has received no outfielders in return. If the Mariners aren’t comfortable promoting any of the Class-AA outfielders – and apparently they aren’t, or else they would have done it when Greg Halman was injured – then they need to sign an experienced Triple-A outfielder. There are plenty of veteran players looking for jobs right now.

This whole outfield crisis was completely unexpected. Who would have guessed that Halman and Mike Wilson would get injured immediately? Certainly nobody expected Carlos Peguero to be in the major leagues on April 19.

Changing gears, let’s talk about something positive: a few of the Rainiers hitters are heating up.

  • Dustin Ackley had three hits yesterday and has an 8-game hitting streak.
  • Josh Bard extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games last night.
  • Mike Carp has his first multi-hit game with two doubles yesterday.
  • Alex Liddi has hit safely in 5 of his last 6 games.
  • Jose Yepez had three hits last night.

Tacoma had 11 hits in the game yesterday, and five were doubles, yet it all added up to just three runs in a 6-3 loss to Colorado Springs.

David Aardsma pitched the eighth and looked rusty, issuing two walks and surrendering a two-run homer to veteran Mike Jacobs. It was the first time Aardsma has faced live hitters since the end of last season, so the rust is totally understandable. Aardsma will probably pitch several times for Tacoma.

One fun fact I unearthed before the game (OK, this is a “fun fact” for everybody except Aardsma): prior to last night, the last pitch Aardsma threw at Cheney Stadium was hit for a walk-off grand slam by Tacoma’s A.J. Zapp.

It was August 20, 2004, and Aardsma was an up-and-coming San Francisco Giants relief prospect pitching for Fresno. Protecting a one-run lead, he allowed the tying run to score and then loaded the bases with one out for Zapp. Zapp launched it onto the Foss Hill to complete the biggest single-player game I’ve ever witnessed: he went 5-for-5 with two home runs and 9 RBI in that game, an 11-7 Tacoma win.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 (broadcast on 850 AM and streaming here). Tacoma starts RHP Chaz Roe (0-1, 10.57) against Colorado Springs RHP Billy Buckner (0-0, 8.00). Roe pitched for the Sky Sox all of last season.

Links:

That’s it for this morning. If Pedro Grifol sends in the Calvary today, I’ll post the roster moves before the game.


Aardsma Will Probably Pitch Today

April 19, 2011

It sounds like this one is going to happen – injured (hip) Mariners closer David Aardsma will work to a few hitters in a relief role in tonight’s Rainiers game.

7:05 first pitch at Cheney Stadium against Colorado Springs.


Controversial Call Costs Rainiers

April 19, 2011

Man, the Rainiers just can’t catch a break right now.

Sacramento scored the go-ahead run on a disputed play at home plate and completed a four-game sweep of Tacoma with a 7-6 win on Monday night.

The Rainiers have lost five straight games, and every one of them has been close: three have been one-run games, and the other two were decided by two runs.

It looked like the Rainiers were going to end the string last night. Tacoma jumped out of the gate and scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning, with Alex Liddi’s long two-run homer capping the rally.

Tacoma starter Blake Beavan wasn’t able to hold the lead, as he got knocked around for the first time this season and allowed three homers.

Liddi struck again with a bases-loaded opposite-field two-run double in the fifth inning. Liddi had his best game as a Rainier, going 2-for-5 with four RBI.

It was 6-6 in the top of the seventh inning when the Rainiers got unlucky.

Sacramento had Matt Carson at second base with two outs when Adrian Cardenas singles sharply to right field. Tacoma rightfielder Leury Bonilla made a strong throw to catcher Josh Bard, who appeared to apply a sweep tag on Carson for the final out of the inning.

However, home plate umpire Brian Sinclair didn’t see it that way. He called Carson safe, giving Sacramento a 7-6 lead. Bard argued more than I’ve ever seen him, and then manager Daren Brown got into it as well, quickly getting ejected (and getting excellent distance on his hat-throw).

Neither team scored again and the disputed run decided the game.

I never saw a replay of the play, so I can’t definitively say that Carson should have been called out. But Bard is a level-headed fellow and he certainly thought he had made the tag. And Brown told me afterwards he wasn’t just out there to defend his player – he thought the call was wrong, too.

Sacramento swept a four-game series at Cheney Stadium for the first time since re-joining the league in 2000. The Rivercats have had a pair of three-game sweeps at Cheney in the past, but this was the first four-gamer.

So the Rainiers are still looking for their first win at the New Cheney Stadium, and they hope to get it tonight against Colorado Springs. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (0-0, 0.00) against Sky Sox RHP Greg Reynolds (has not pitched in AAA yet). First pitch is set for 7:05 and the pre-game show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online.

Let’s hit the links:

  • The News Tribune sent Don Ruiz out to cover the Rainiers last night. Don enjoyed a crab cake sandwich while typing this game story.
  • The Mariners lost yesterday and the bullpen sputtered.
  • The health situation surrounding Franklin Gutierrez is a total mystery.
  • Geoff Baker wrote a blog post explaining exactly why the East Coast media suggesting the Mariners should trade Felix Hernandez is just plain stupid.
  • Yesterday we told you Chris Seddon was named Pitcher of the Week, and now we learn the Hitter of the Week was none other than my man Wily Mo Pena.
  • Reno beat Colorado Springs last night, 10-6. These two teams just played each other eight days in a row – eight! – and Reno won six of them.
  • Looks like the Sky Sox are going to have some roster moves before tonight’s game in Tacoma.
  • Here’s an unusual story: Albuquerque’s Jay Gibbons is having vision problems after LASIK surgery gone bad.
  • Scary moment for Round Rock starter Eric Hurley, who was struck in the head by a batted ball and hospitalized last night in New Orleans. Apparently he is ok.
  • David Lough had a big game and Omaha beat Nashville last night, 8-3. Brand-new Werner Park is getting good reviews.

It was fun calling the game with Bob Robertson last night. One longtime Tacoma resident with an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia had Bob and I sign a “Tacoma Broadcasters Baseball.” It had already been signed by the other three Tacoma announcers: the late Don Hill and Art Popham, and Jerry Howarth. It was the coolest thing I’ve signed since my first driver’s license on my 16th birthday!


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