Home For A Big Series

May 31, 2011

That is, it’s a big series if a series can indeed be “big” in May.

Tacoma hosts the first-place Reno Aces in a four-game series beginning tonight at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma enters the series tied in third place, seven games behind Reno.

If the Rainiers can win this series – either 3-1 or a 4-0 sweep – the team will make up some solid ground in the standings. It’s early enough in the season where a split won’t really matter, and losing three of four wouldn’t be too big of a deal – but getting swept would be a serious problem.

Tacoma is playing well. The Rainiers won the last two games in Las Vegas to salvage a split of the series, and Tacoma has gone 11-7 over the last 18 games.

The split in Vegas was particularly nice – the Rainiers earned it on the road against the league’s hottest team. In fact, Tacoma’s two straight wins happened to be the first time Las Vegas has lost two straight games since April 29-30.

Reno is 6-9 over its last 15 games, and 5-5 over the last ten. The Aces have an excellent offensive team led by Cody Ransom, Cole Gillespie, Brandon Allen, and of course PCL home run leader Wily Mo Pena.

Keep an eye on Reno catcher Konrad Schmidt, who appears to be the second coming of Sal Fasano.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 pm, and you can catch the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online. Tacoma starts RHP Charlie Haeger (0-0, 2.25) against Reno RHP Kevin Mulvey (3-4, 7.24).

Links:

Off to Cheney Stadium for what should be a fun series!


Rainiers Win – Now Let’s Rest

May 29, 2011

Tacoma picked up a 10-6 win over Las Vegas on an extremely windy Sunday afternoon.

Luis Jimenez hit the go-ahead grand slam, and Greg Halman had three hits – including a home run on his first swing coming off the disabled list.

It was just the second time Las Vegas has lost in their last 13 games.

On Monday the two teams finish off the four-game series with a 12:05 game. Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (3-2, 4.14) against Las Vegas LHP Brad Mills (4-3, 2.70). The broadcast can be heard on 850 AM and streaming online.

As you certainly are aware the president recently declared that Memorial Day is a blog holiday, so we will not have a fresh entry on Monday morning. I’ll be back with something on Tuesday when the Rainiers return home.


Good News, Bad News…

May 29, 2011

Tacoma Rainiers fans got some good news and some bad news on Saturday night.

The good news is that Greg Halman is back. The slugging outfielder will be activated for Sunday’s game against Las Vegas. Brandon Haveman will be taken off the roster to make space.

Halman hit 33 home runs for Tacoma and made his major league debut last year – but this year he was injured in the fourth game of the season, when he was hit on the wrist by a pitched ball and it resulted in a broken bone.

Halman has been rehabilitating the injury in Arizona at extended spring training. He faced live pitching down there and he is ready to go.

The bad news is that the Rainiers have certainly caught Las Vegas at the wrong time. The 51s are just crushing the ball right now, and they beat Tacoma on Saturday night, 14-8. That’s 25 runs and 35 hits for Vegas in the first two games of the series.

I’m ready to hand out a “Call Him Up Already!” to Las Vegas third baseman Brett Lawrie. He went 4-for-6 with two homers, a double, four runs scored, and four RBI yesterday. He has 14 homers and is batting .350. On top of that, the Toronto Blue Jays third base situation is hardly settled: they are running Edwin Encarnacion and John McDonald out there.

So do the right thing, Blue Jays, and call him up already!

Sunday’s game is at 12:05 and you can hear it on 850 AM or streaming online. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (1-5, 5.63) against Las Vegas RHP Scott Richmond (3-2, 6.50).

Sunday Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal has a story on Dustin Ackley, who had three hits last night to raise his average to .290.
  • Check out those Mariners: over .500 and in second place!
  • Larry Stone wrote his Sunday baseball column on the upcoming draft, in which the Mariners choose #2 overall. Here is his MLB notebook, and his power rankings.
  • By popular demand: the Safeco Field Streaker. Please don’t take your antics south, crazy naked person.
  • Back home at Cheney Stadium, Bothel edged Jackson for the state 4A high school championship.
  • In the PCL, Reno and Sacramento were rained out – there was snow in Reno, which had its first-ever postponed game. This is Reno’s third year in the league.
  • The Reno newspaper has an article on collisions at home plate. Reno catcher Sal Fasano Konrad Schmidt says that it’s all just part of the game.
  • Aaron Cook had a successful rehabilitation start, and Jeff Salazar hit a walk-off home run for Colorado Springs on Saturday night.
  • Nashville’s Mat Gamel hit two homers and the Sounds picked up a win.
  • Memphis outfielder Andrew Brown hit a walk-off home run to beat Omaha with former MLB slugger Jack Clark in attendance.
  • Here’s a positive column on the new ballpark in Omaha.

Off to the ballpark for a day game.


Two-Out Terrors

May 28, 2011

When you’re hot, you’re hot.

The Las Vegas 51s are hot.

We knew this in advance – they had won nine of ten, and 19 of 23 going into Friday night’s series opener at Cashman Field.

Then, they went out and showed us how hot they are.

Tacoma had a 4-1 lead and Chris Seddon was showing his 2010 form going into the bottom of the fifth inning.

Vegas loaded the bases with nobody out, but Seddon got two pop-ups and was on the verge of escaping the jam. He ran a 2-2 count on Las Vegas cleanup hitter David Cooper, but then he hung a slider and Cooper ripped it into the alley for a three-run double.

Adam Loewen followed with a double to score Cooper and make it 5-4 Vegas.

Still, it was a tight, winnable game until Vegas went bonkers with two outs in the seventh inning against Dan Cortes. Seven straight batters reached with two outs – five with hits, and two on walks – and there were no cheapies. It was a six-run two-out rally and Vegas ended up winning, 11-4.

Ten of the Las Vegas runs scored on two-out hits. That’s some hot hitting, right there.

Have I used the word “hot” enough today? It’s not even that warm here – a pleasant 85 degrees.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 pm and it will be broadcast live on 850 AM and streaming online. Tacoma starts RHP Chaz Roe (0-4, 6.17) against Las Vegas LHP Brett Cecil (5-1, 5.84).

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal does feature-style coverage, and their game story focuses on David Cooper.
  • The Mariners beat the Yankees and reached .500. Woooooo!
  • At Cheney Stadium tonight at 7:00, Jackson plays Bothell in the state 4A high school championship game. Jackson alum Travis Snider is currently playing for Las Vegas. The 3A final is at 4:00 at Cheney, with Mount Si playing Shorewood.
  • It was Grand Salami Time in a big way in Reno yesterday: Anthony Recker hit a grand slam in the top of the ninth for Sacramento, to tie the game 5-5. So in the bottom of the ninth Cody Ransom hit a walk-off grand slam for a 9-5 Reno win.
  • Armando Galarraga – he of the near-perfect game – is pitching for Reno tonight.
  • Will Venable reported to Tucson and had a triple and two homers in an 11-1 blowout of Salt Lake on Friday night.
  • Colorado Springs picked up a 2-1 win over Fresno last night, and their calling it the Sky Sox best-played game of the season.
  • Sky Sox reliever Rex Brothers is ready for the call. He looks like he’s going to be a good one.
  • The Iowa Cubs all-time win leader was released, and a local Taco stand is going to take a big financial hit.
  • Popular ex-Rainiers hitter Mike Morse hit a walk-off home run for the Washington Nationals yesterday in a 2-1 win over the Padres. Great photo with this story of Morse preparing to get beaten by his teammates.

Today I spent an hour walking around Fremont Street, where the Punk Rock Bowling festival is starting later this evening. The black leather jacket crowd is out in force, and I saw several huge mohawks.

I was rather amused to learn that on the other end of Fremont Street is a 1980s pop concert series featuring acts like Men At Work, Berlin, Wang Chung, Loverboy, and Men Without Hats.

Didn’t these bands play the very type of music that punks were rebelling against?

I’ll tell you one thing: I just saw both crowds, and if 30 years of pent-up anger spills over into violence, the punks are the heavy favorites. I wonder if I can wager on this down in the book? I think the line would look something like this:

FREMONT STREET MELEE: Punks -220 Eighties Poppers +185


Vegas, Baby!

May 27, 2011

We’ve landed safely in Vegas and the city is hopping – the holiday weekend is here, and revellers are already streaming into town.

Sadly, we’re here for a work trip – but at least it will be a fun work trip, as both the Rainiers and Las Vegas are playing good baseball.

Tacoma has won 9 of the last 14 games, after splitting last night’s doubleheader with Nashville. The Rainiers had a season-best four-game winning streak end with the 3-2 loss in game two, but still Tacoma won the series with Nashville, three games to one.

It was Tacoma’s second series win of the year – the Rainiers took three of four from Tucson at home earlier. 

I talked a lot about this on the air last night, but Vegas is as hot as a baseball team can be right now. The 51s have won nine out of the last ten, and they have gone 19-4 over their last 23 games. Still, they trail Sacramento by two games in their division.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (1-2, 5.70) against Las Vegas RHP Michael McDonald (2-1, 5.94). The game will be broadcast live on 850 AM and streaming online.

Links:

The annual Punk Rock Bowling festival starts tomorrow and it is just two or three blocks from our hotel. I hope this place is teeming with aggressively mohawked punkers all weekend – the juxtaposition between that, the baseball group, and the holiday weekend revellers should be truly entertaining.


Let’s Play Two

May 26, 2011

Tonight we have the doubleheader with Nashville at 6:05 pm at Cheney Stadium, to make up for Wednesday night’s rainout.

It will be two 7-inning games, in accordance with minor league baseball rules.

Yesterday the Mariners Double-A affiliate in Jackson, Tennessee thought it was playing two 7-inning games against Mobile – but the second game of the doubleheader went 18 innings!

It was an amazing game: It was only 1-1 after seven. Jackson took the lead with single runs in the top of the 12th, 13th, and 14th innings, only to have Mobile score the tying run off former Rainiers reliever Edward Paredes in each of the three innings.

By the time the game ended, both teams were out of pitchers. Each team had its second baseman on the mound, and Mobile had a relief pitcher who had pitched in the first game playing right field.

After 17 innings of errorless baseball, a miscue by Jackson shortstop Carlos Triunfel led to the winning run scoring and Mobile won, 5-4. Jackson second baseman/pitcher Scott Savastano got hung with the loss.

Hopefully we’ll have two regulation 7-inning games tonight – I’m not ready to call 25 innings like Jackson announcer Chris Harris did.

The first game will pit Tacoma RHP Blake Beavan (1-1, 5.76) against Nashville RHP Amaury Rivas (3-3, 3.73). In game two, it will be Tacoma RHP Charlie Haeger (0-0, 0.00) against Nashville LHP Sam Narron (2-1, 3.30).

Haeger has to come off the disabled list so a roster move will be made prior to the game. The knuckleballer has been on the DL all season with back problems.

Both games will be broadcast live on 850 AM and streaming online.

Links:

  • Here is the only story I could find on the 18-inning game last night with Jackson.
  • The Mariners have gone 7-1 in the last eight games, including an outstanding 5-1 road trip, but now the competition heats up: the New York Yankees come to Safeco this weekend. Michael Pineda against the Yankees on Friday night has a chance to be a special game. Apparently there are tons of tickets available for the whole weekend series.
  • The players and I agree: morning games suck.
  • Here is the latest Rainiers Minute from the Weekly Volcano.
  • Former Rainiers shortstop-for-a-day Wilson Valdez was the winning pitcher in the Phillies 19-inning win over Cincinnati last night. This was fun to watch on TV. With crazy MLB games like this one, it’s always a good idea to let Jayson Stark handle the recap.
  • Larry Stone tracked some recent ex-Mariners and ex-Rainiers. His minor league report from two days ago has a good quote from Farm Director Pedro Grifol about Alex Liddi. Cliff’s Notes: he’s staying in Tacoma for a while.
  • Here’s the latest on the Bob Geren communication fiasco in Oakland. He’s trying!
  • In the PCL, first-place Reno polished off Round Rock, 7-2, as shortstop Cody Ransom hit his 12th home run.
  • Ex-Rainier Bryan LaHair homered into a stiff wind and Iowa ended Las Vegas’s eight-game win streak.
  • Salt Lake shut out Memphis as Matt Palmer struck out 11 while tossing a gem.
  • Fresno infielder Ryan Rohlinger has been riding the shuttle. His Grizzlies got shut down by Oklahoma City’s Jordan Lyles. In the story: Fresno had some roster shuffling, which included the release of PCL veteran Terry Evans.
  • Here’s a feature on Colorado Springs third baseman Josh Fields, who was once the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State.
  • So before the season, the Texas Rangers needed to hire a TV play-by-play announcer. They stunned the industry by hiring a man with no play-by-play experience. He didn’t last two months – they’ve fired him. Seriously, what did they expect? It takes years of experience just to not be horrible in this line of work.
  • That’s one heckuva halibut.

Quiz time! What is the meaning of these numbers: 88, 87, 77, 84? Answer after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday’s Game Rained Out

May 25, 2011

An early decision here in Tacoma, and we have our first rainout of the season.

The game will be made up with a doubleheader on Thursday, starting at 6:05. It will be two 7-inning games.

Also, it’s a Tasty Thursday, which means $2 Miller beers and $1 hot dogs, ice cream, coffee, and soda. And those deals will last longer since it’s a doubleheader – this is a good opportunity for a night of inexpensive entertainment.

We have to hope for better weather tomorrow – it will be the last time Tacoma and Nashville play all season, so no make-up date is possible. We’ll need to get the games in.

For those of you with tickets for Wednesday, you can trade them for tickets to a different game. You don’t have to do it right away – swing by the box office during normal business hours and they’ll help you out.


Three In A Row

May 25, 2011

The Tacoma Rainiers have won three straight games for the first time this season, after Tuesday’s 15-4 pasting of the Nashville Sounds.

The Rainiers had 17 hits in the game, as everyone in the starting lineup had either a hit or a run scored.

Alex Liddi had three hits, including two doubles, and drove in four runs. Dustin Ackley hit a double and a triple, and Mike Carp launched a grand slam.

Carp has been particularly hot: in the month of May, Carp is batting .360 with nine home runs and 29 RBI – and that’s in just 22 games.

Luke French started and went 7.1 innings to earn his first win of the season. French’s outing was the longest by a Rainiers starting pitcher this season, and it was only the third time that a Tacoma starter has lasted seven innings.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 PM, and you can hear it on 850 AM or streaming online. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (1-1, 5.76) against Nashville RHP Amaury Rivas (3-3, 3.73).

The Rainiers are now 4-2 on the current homestand, with two games to play. With a win in either game the Rainiers will secure their first winning homestand of the season.

Links:

  • Here is the story on the Rainiers Tuesday win, from The News Tribune.
  • From marc w at USS Mariner, we have our first article about how home runs are way, way up at the new Cheney Stadium. If the trend continues we will hear more about this.
  • Baseball America’s Daily Dish leads off with a couple of Rainiers.
  • John McGrath wrote a column about some of the top players available in the draft. The Mariners select #2 overall on June 6.
  • Larry Stone has a blog item on the Mariners trades of Shin Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera.
  • Stone has another blog post about his trip to Tacoma on Monday night, with lots of talk about Dustin Ackley.
  • In the PCL, no team is hotter than the Las Vegas 51s, who won their eighth in a row yesterday in Iowa. Vegas has won 18 of the last 21 games – and the Rainiers face them on Friday.
  • Angels lefty Scott Kazmir had a brutal rehabilitation start and Salt Lake lost to Memphis, 8-1.
  • Omaha beat Tucson in the 11th inning when Lance Zawadski scored from second base on a wild pitch.

Hopefully this drizzle will go away and we’ll have a dry night.


Out Of The Cellar!

May 24, 2011

How about that title? One of the great hair metal albums of my youth, and an up-to-the-minute description of our Tacoma Rainiers after Monday night’s 5-3 win over Nashville.

The Tacoma win, coupled with a Colorado Springs loss in Albuquerque. moved Tacoma into sole possession of third place in the division.

Tacoma had been alone or tied in last place every day since falling into the cellar with a loss in the eighth game of the season on April 14.

Do you want to count them? Reflecting on misery can be beneficial to the soul – so says Dr. Curto – so let’s count them: that was 38 days in last place.

Yikes.

But it’s all over now, so let’s look forward and try to catch the second-place Salt Lake Bees, who are two games ahead. As Bob Robertson said in our post-game wrap-up last night, you can only take one step at a time.

Yesterday Tacoma got yet another strong start from Fabio Castro, who allowed just one earned run in 5.2 innings but left the game trailing 3-2 because of unearned runs in the first inning.

Tacoma struck with the longball in the bottom of the sixth: Mike Carp lined a homer to right to tie the game, and Alex Liddi lofted the go-ahead drive to left just two batters later.

Rainiers relievers Scott Patterson and Dan Cortes combined for 3.1 shutout innings to secure the win.

Tacoma has not won three games in a row yet this year – but I sense that it is time. The Rainiers play bright and early on Tuesday, with an 11:35 AM game against Nashville. You can catch the broadcast on 850 AM in Tacoma or streaming worldwide right here.

The Rainiers start LHP Luke French (0-5, 5.98) against Nashville LHP Chase Wright (1-3, 5.33).

A few links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, as inked by Ryan Divish.
  • Larry Stone was at Cheney Stadium on Monday night and he posted this blog post prior to the game.
  • In his notebook, Larry LaRue caught up with ex-Rainiers catcher Rene Rivera, who is now with the Twins.
  • The Mariners won their sixth in a row. One could argue that Jeff Sullivan consistently provides the best Mariners game wrap-ups. The details are all there, no doubt, but I must admit I am linking to this one strictly due to the face-melting title.
  • At the Times, Geoff Baker writes about how the M’s used the bench in their victory.
  • This is certainly interesting: former Rainiers and current Oakland A’s reliever Brian Fuentes – whom I admire a lot – is openly questioning manager Bob Geren. Fuentes is a pretty smart guy and a four-time all-star who has been around for a long time – this should certainly concern the Athletics. Rob Neyer has some thoughts on the situation.
  • In the PCL, we have a column on Sky Sox speedster Eric Young Jr – and why he isn’t in the majors.
  • No newspaper link, but Reno won at Round Rock, 9-7, as Wily Mo Pena launched his PCL-leading 15th home run of the season – and it was a three-run shot in the first inning. Reno leads Salt Lake by six games and Tacoma by eight. Well played, Wily Mo – you’re still my man, but I think it might be time for you to take a break for a while. Maybe strain an oblique or something? Better yet: sign a deal with the Hiroshima Carp and we’ll see you next year.
  • So I read this story and learned that Salt Lake’s Eric Junge was the first Bucknell graduate to pitch in the major leagues since Christy Mathewson.
  • The Sacramento Bee has a feature on River Cats outfielder Michael Taylor, who wants to work inside the Pentagon if baseball doesn’t work out. I’m thinking the salary discrepancy might discourage him… In other news, the Cats were cremated by New Orleans, 14-1.
  • It has been many moons since anyone typed this: Las Vegas is the hottest team in the PCL. They beat Iowa 10-5 in Des Moines last night, they have won seven straight (the last five on the road), and they have won 17 of their last 20. Of course we have them next – a four game series starting in Vegas on Friday.
  • Brett Pill and Brandon Belt produced, and Fresno beat Oklahoma City, 7-5.
  • There was a 23-inning game Monday night in the Florida State League. Veteran move by Jupiter manager Ron Hassey to get himself ejected in the 14th.
  • We have an update on the stalled ballpark building process in Escondido.

One thing about these mid-week 11:35 AM games: if you work a “normal job” in Tacoma, you can head out to the ballpark for a long lunch and some baseball. Come on out!


Rainiers Split With Memphis, Welcome Nashville

May 23, 2011

Tacoma earned a split of the four-game series with Memphis by picking up a 5-2 win on Sunday afternoon.

It was a tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning when the Rainiers quickly struck for three runs – all after there were two outs.

Memphis starter Brandon Dickson was cruising along, but with two outs in the seventh Sean Kazmar grounded a single between short and third to bring Dustin Ackley to the plate.

Ackley worked a full count before driving an off-speed pitch on a line over the right field fence, giving Tacoma a 4-2 lead.

Memphis then made a pitching change, and Ryan Langerhans greeted reliever Jess Todd with his own homer to right, making it 5-2.

Tacoma had good relief pitching yesterday from Cesar Jimenez, Royce Ring, and Josh Lueke to help hold Memphis to just two runs.

Now the Rainiers welcome the Nashville Sounds to town for their biennial visit. The Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A team is playing better lately – they had a four-game winning streak snapped in Salt Lake City yesterday, but they nearly swept the Bees.

Nashville is trying to recover from a two-week stretch of pure misery: from April 23 to May 10, they lost 14 out of 15 games. Included during that streak was a horrific 0-8 road trip to Oklahoma City and Round Rock. Since that spell, they’ve gone 8-3.

The Sounds have some players with Tacoma ties: former Rainiers and Mariners outfielder Jeremy Reed is on the roster, as is former Tacoma and Seattle relief pitcher Sean Green.

Look out for Nashville first baseman Mat Gamel. He went 8-for-18 in the Salt Lake series and is a beast with runners in scoring position, hitting .432. With RISP and two outs, his average is at .600 (9-for-15).

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (3-2, 4.50) against Nashville RHP Josh Butler (2-2, 5.23). The game will be broadcast on 850 AM and stream online, and Pacific Northwest broadcasting legend Bob Robertson will be joining me in the booth.

Links:

The Rainiers have split three series in a row, so I declare that it is time for them to win one.


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