Sweepage! Rainiers Over .500

July 22, 2011

It was a great night for the Tacoma Rainiers on Thursday in Tucson. The team easily won both games of the doubleheader, by scores of 9-2 and 8-1, and went over the .500 mark for the first time since the third day of the season.

Tacoma is 50-49 on the year, and they can thank the pitching staff.

Long relievers Jarrett Grube and Chaz Roe dazzled in the first game, combining to work nine innings and allow just one run.

Grube picked up the suspended game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first – and he got a double play grounder on his very first pitch, and he cruised from there.

Roe saved the rest of the bullpen by lasting 3.1 innings after Grube, without allowing a run, and earning the save.

In the second game, Luke French turned in his fourth consecutive quality start, allowing just one run over six innings.

Offensively, Carlos Peguero had a big day going 4-for-9 with five RBI in the twinbill. Michael Saunders had two hits and drew five walks – it seemed like he was always on base. And Sean Kazmar went 4-for-8 with a pair of doubles.

All together, it was a great day for the team as a whole.

Now, we move on to Salt Lake City where it is a big state holiday weekend. Friday’s game is at 6:05 (Pacific) and will air on 850 AM and stream online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Vasquez (1-2, 4.58) against Salt Lake RHP Bear Bay (7-5, 4.53).

Salt Lake has had roster moves since we saw them last weekend at Cheney Stadium, and they are a better team right now with Hank Conger in the lineup and Michael Kohn in the bullpen. They also received pitcher Trevor Bell from the Angels – I’m not sure if he’s going to start or relieve. Salt Lake just split four games with first place Sacramento.

It should be a good series.

Links:

Posted this one from the Tucson airport at 6:00 AM. We’re flying through LAX to get to Salt Lake, so we might actually see the Pacific Coast for the second time during the Pacific Coast League season.

* I consulted with an honest-to-goodness redneck to get the proper spelling of “whuppin'”.


Let’s Play Two

July 21, 2011

Actually, we’re going to play one and 17/18ths.

We’ll pick up the action from yesterday’s suspended game in the bottom of the first inning, no score, no outs, bases loaded for Tucson and a 1-2 count on Kyle Blanks.

Tacoma is going to change pitchers and will bring in a long reliever. Look for manager Daren Brown and pitching coach Dwight Bernard to change the starting rotation after today, and get Nate Robertson back out there soon.

Tucson is going to turn things over to Samuel Deduno, who was scheduled to start today originally.

Tacoma’s scheduled starter is Luke French – he will start the second game.

Game one is nine full innings, game two will be shortened to seven innings.

The whole marathon begins at 5:30, and we’ll have it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. The big question is: while I still be on the air at midnight? Remember, there will be 30 minutes between games, and a 15-minute post-game show…

The Pacific Coast League office reviewed the video and overturned the official scorer’s decision on Luis Mendoza’s disputed no-hitter in the Omaha at Memphis game on Monday night. They have credited Tyler Greene with a hit, and taken away the no-hitter.

This really was simple once the video was reviewed. It’s too bad that the situation had to some to this.

We had a roster move today. Short on pitching for the first time all season, the Mariners called up Josh Lueke and optioned Kyle Seager back to Tacoma.

Seager was just 3-for-22 (.136) in his initial major league experience. His .455 PCL batting average is waiting for him here in Tacoma.

Seager will meet the Rainiers on Friday in Salt Lake City.

Links:

That’s it for now – I need to prepare myself for six hours of talking.

* someday I’ll have to post my “he’s weaving a tapestry” story. But it might be one of those “you had to be there” tales…


Wednesday’s Game Suspended Due To Rain

July 20, 2011

We’ll pick it up scoreless in the bottom of the first inning on Thursday. Then, we’ll play a second game.

A long night of PCL baseball starting for you at 5:30 on Thursday.

Monsoon season is a very real thing, indeed.


Eight Is Not Enough

July 20, 2011

The Rainiers had an eight-run lead at the seventh inning stretch last night in Tucson – and it wasn’t enough, as Matt Clark and the Tucson Padres came storming back and defeated the Rainiers in 11 innings, 15-14.

Alex Liddi and Johan Limonta hit three-run homers in the top of the seventh to give the Rainiers a 14-6 lead. Liddi had tripled twice earlier in the game, and he had six RBI.

It really felt like a safe lead. Obviously, it wasn’t.

Clark hit a three-run homer to make it 14-9, then he hit a three-run double to make it 14-13, and then he scored the tying run on Sean Kazmar’s error and it was 14-14 in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Clark is a first-year Triple-A player who will be in the running for the PCL Rookie of the Year Award*. He went 4-for-6 with 8 RBI yesterday, and he has 20 homers and 64 RBI on the year, to go with a .319 average. He’s a 25-year-old left-handed corner outfielder/first baseman, and he does not have a weakness against left-handed pitching.

The Rainiers missed a great scoring opportunity in a somewhat confounding top of the tenth inning, and then Tucson won it in the 11th when Eric Patterson hit a one-out triple and scored on James Darnell’s grounder through the drawn-in infield.

So Tacoma is back under .500, at 48-49. One of these days we’ll get over the hump.

Tonight’s game is at 7:00 and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (3-2, 6.33) against Tucson LHP Wade LeBlanc (9-1, 4.02). LeBlanc leads the PCL in wins and ranks sixth in ERA.

Links:

  • Leading off is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. No quotes since the game ended at 11:00 – thirty minutes after the paper’s print deadline, yikes!
  • The Mariners scored five runs, Mike Carp had three hits, and they still lost.
  • It looks like Erik Bedard is going to be on the disabled list through the July 31 trade deadline, virtually eliminating any chance that he will be traded.
  • We now have video of the controversial official scoring decision in Luis Mendoza’s “no-hitter” on Monday: this is a hit all the way, in any ballpark, and it’s obvious. Not taking anything away from Mendoza’s great game, but this is not a no-hitter.
  • The Memphis Redbirds are officially appealing the scoring decision. In this story, the official scorer speaks and sounds reasonable. Still, if you can watch that video and argue that it should be an error, please feel free to do so in the comments.
  • Reno just won’t lose. That’s eight straight wins, the best record in the PCL, and the second-best record in Triple-A.
  • Here in Tucson, we have more drama regarding the future of the franchise: if no stadium deal is completed soon, the team will be sold. Hey, I have an idea: somebody in Portland, Oregon should build a baseball stadium!
  • Colorado Springs swept a doubleheader from Las Vegas. Kyle Drabek keeps getting lit up.
  • Salt Lake had a stirring come-from-behind victory over Sacramento.
  • The Iowa Cubs are getting younger, and that’s by design according to Chicago GM Jim Hendry. The I-Cubs visit Cheney Stadium soon.
  • What a difference an affiliation change can make: Round Rock has won more games this year than they did all of last year.
  • More independent baseball follies: the lawsuits of the Newark Bears.

Some of you will not be surprised to learn that I stayed up all night watching the live World Series Of Poker coverage on ESPN2 (here are the final nine). It’s the first year they have had live coverage, of all of the hands, and they did a great job with the presentation. It’s very different from televising athletic sports and the producers had to overcome a lot of challenges to keep it interesting. I was riveted – well done!

* right now, without a full study of the candidates, I think I would vote for Reno’s Collin Cowgill for both the Most Valuable Player and the Rookie of the Year awards.


Robles Delivers Gem; Memphis Official Scorer Doesn’t

July 19, 2011

Tacoma starter Mauricio Robles tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just three singles and a walk, and then nervously watched as the Rainiers barely hung on for a 6-5 win in Tucson on Monday night.

Robles is rehabilitating from elbow surgery in March. The 22-year-old lefty struck out four, and he retired the last 14 batters he faced in order. He threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Robles left with a 5-0 lead, but things got dicey in the late innings due to defensive problems. Yet the Rainiers hung on and won, and the team has gone 4-1 since the All-Star break.

For more on Robles and last night’s game, click on the first link below.

Now, let’s talk about wishy-washy official scorers.

We had a no-hitter in the PCL last night – but Luis Mendoza of Omaha might feel like the Memphis official scorer stole the limelight.

Mendoza had the no-hitter in the ninth inning, and he allowed a drive to left field. Omaha left fielder David Lough made the wrong initial break on the ball, recovered, gave a little leap, and had the ball go off his glove.

The official scorer ruled it an error, and Mendoza went on to complete the no-hitter.

Or so he thought.

After the game, the indecisive official scorer changed the play to a hit – yes, AFTER THE GAME. He erased the no-hitter!

Then, after a discussion with acting Omaha manager Tommy Gregg, the official scorer changed it back to an error – and the no-hitter was back.

Official scorers have one job: make a decision, and stick with it. It can be a thankless job, and that’s why the league pays people to do it. But they’ve got to stick with their call.

It’s too bad this post-game circus took away from the moment for Mendoza. He’s been here before: Mendoza pitched the last no-hitter in the PCL, in 2009 when he was with Oklahoma City. He joins a small club of pitchers to throw two no-hitters in the PCL, a group which includes Tacoma Giants legend Dick “Double No-Hit” Estelle.

As for the official scoring, I’m sure there will be some fallout from this. Stay tuned…

Last night in Tucson, we had four umpires working the game, including two Major League umpires who were rehabilitating injuries. Yes, umpires get injured, too.

We had 13-year MLB veteran Paul Schrieber behind the plate, and 7-year MLB umpire Lance Barksdale at first base.

I’ve been told we’ll see more MLB umpiring in this series. This is a good thing.

Tonight’s game is at 7:00, and Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (6-5, 5.64) against Tucson RHP Jeremy Hefner (6-5, 5.34). You can catch the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online right here.

Links:

That’s more than enough for today. Let’s see if the Rainiers continue their winning ways.


Rainiers Can’t Mop Up

July 18, 2011

Yesterday, I suggested the Rainiers bring the brooms as they went for the sweep of Salt Lake.

With the weather we had, mops would have been more effective.

Salt Lake defeated Tacoma on a rainy Sunday afternoon, 5-2, to salvage the final game of the four-game series.

Credit where credit is due: Salt Lake starter Bear Bay pitched an excellent game, allowing just two runs (one earned) over seven inning to get the win. He pounded the strike zone and didn’t allow much in the way of hard contact.

The loss dropped Tacoma back under the .500 mark, to 47-48 on the season.

During the game, Mike Carp was recalled by Seattle, and we got word that Carlos Peguero was optioned to the Rainiers. Hopefully Peguero will arrive in time for Monday’s game in Tucson.

Now the Rainiers start an eight-game road trip in Tucson against the Padres. The Padres have been streaky lately: they have lost 5 of 6, but prior to that they won 11 of 12. So who knows what we’ll get from them.

Two things we do know: the Rainiers have played excellent baseball on the road all season, and the team has scored 80 runs in eight games against Tucson this year.

Tonight’s game in Tucson is at 7:00, and you can hear it on 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Mauricio Robles against Tucson RHP John Van Benschoten. Both pitchers are making their first PCL starts of the season.

Links:

That’s it for now – I typed this up on our layover at the Las Vegas airport, while taking verbal abuse from manager Daren Brown.


Bring Your Broom

July 17, 2011

The Rainiers beat Salt Lake last night, 4-1, and have won three straight games. Tacoma goes for a sweep today.

Looking at the big picture, the Rainiers reached the .500 mark for the first time since the team was 2-2 on April 10. Now the club is 47-47, so the team spent 90 games under .500.

Tacoma was as many as ten games under .500, a nadir that the club sunk to on several occasions. The team has been over .500 only one time: when the club was 2-1 after game three.

The Rainiers have won 14 of the last 20 games to make this surge.

Luke French looked like his regular self yesterday, lasting seven innings and giving up just one run on five hits. He was able to get ground balls in the infield at will – in fact, he recorded 12 groundouts and six flyouts. French has won six of his last seven decisions.

The Rainiers have not swept anybody this year – they hope to change that with a win today at 1:35 pm. It’s the final game of the homestand – Tacoma hits the road for eight days starting Monday.

Tacoma will start LHP Anthony Vasquez (1-1, 4.97) against Salt Lake RHP Ronald “Bear” Bay (6-5, 4.76). If you can’t make it to the ballpark, listen on South Sound Sports 850 AM or online, streaming right here.

Sunday links!

  • Leading off, it’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Batting second, it’s the Mariners game story from the Times. Seattle is really have a tough time scoring and it’s getting kind of depressing.
  • The 2001 Mariners reunited at Larry LaRue has the story. My friend Dave Myers, a former Rainiers manager, was the third base coach for that squad. He did not attend the reunion as he is the hitting coach for the Durham Bulls (AAA-Tampa).
  • The 2001 Tacoma Rainiers benefitted greatly from the success of the Mariners – I wrote about it in my Minor League Notebook for the TNT. That was the best Tacoma team I’ve seen in my time here, and the second-best in franchise history.
  • The Larry Stone Sunday baseball package: his column on those pesky Pittsburgh Pirates, his notebook, and his power rankings.
  • One of my favorite baseball announcers is Jon Miller, and he spoke about his break-up with ESPN.
  • Tacoma can’t gain any ground on first place Reno, as the Aces won their fifth in a row yesterday. David Winfree is back from injury and the former Rainiers outfielder is, predictably, raking.
  • Fresno beat Sacramento – the first place River Cats have lost 12 of the last 16 games, yet they still have a six-game lead.
  • Las Vegas scored three times in the ninth inning to beat Tucson in the third game at Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  • We were afraid of this: the ballpark plan in Escondido, California is dead due to state budget problems. Tucson Padres for life! The brief sentence in this story that includes the words “El Paso” is perhaps the scariest thing I have ever read.
  • Memphis and Round Rock have played one another eight times in a row. Really, the PCL must stop scheduling like this.*
  • Former Rainiers first baseman Bryan LaHair is the hottest hitter in the PCL.

Final game of the homestand today – we’re off to 105-degree Tucson tomorrow, and then we go to Salt Lake City for the big Utah state holiday weekend.

* the Mike… Off-Mic “Let’s Fix The PCL Schedule” post is coming soon, but since I dare to eliminate two Monday home games for each team it will probably get censored – or at least frowned-upon.


Late Night Heroics

July 16, 2011

Fireworks at midnight? Sure!

The Rainiers beat Salt Lake in a very late game on Friday night, picking up an 8-7 victory on Jose Yepez’s bottom of the ninth, two-out game-winning RBI single at 11:40 pm.

The fireworks show started five minutes later.

We had an hour-long rain delay before the first pitch (memo to Mother Nature: it’s July; take a break), so the game didn’t start until 8:05.

After the rain delay, the game slogged along with both teams playing at a snail’s pace – but the tight score kept it very interesting throughout.

Tacoma went up 3-0 on Mike Carp’s three-run homer in the first inning.

Salt Lake put four runs on the scoreboard in the third, taking advantage of back-to-back walks issued by Tacoma starter Nate Robertson to begin the rally.

The Rainiers tied it up with a run in the fourth, and it was 4-4 going to the sixth.

The Bees scored three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 7-4 lead. The third and final run scored on a balk called against Rainiers reliever Josh Fields, which led to the ejection of Tacoma manager Daren Brown.

Brown’s hat toss was measured at 22 feet, 4 inches – nowhere near his personal best.

The Rainiers got two runs back in the bottom of the sixth when Alex Liddi pulled a homer down the left field line to make it 7-6.

Then we had good relief pitching from Fields, Scott Patterson, and Salt Lake relievers Ryan Brasier and Horacio Ramirez (!).

Trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth, Liddi led off the inning by driving a 2-2 fastball from power reliever Kevin Jepsen over the fence in right-center for his second homer of the game, tying the score at 7-7.

This was a good homer for Liddi, not just because it tied the game: he went to the opposite field, on a mid-90s fastball from a pitcher with a major league pedigree.

The rally continued. Mike Carp singled solidly to right, and he took second on a passed ball with one out. Carp was still at second with two outs when Jepsen intentionally walked Johan Limonta to face the right-handed Jose Yepez.

Yepez came through in the clutch, grounding a single straight through the middle of the diamond to score Carp and give Tacoma the 8-7 walk-off win.

Tacoma (46-47) has won two straight, and 13 of the last 19 games. The Rainiers can reach the elusive .500 mark with a win tonight.

Salt Lake (39-54) has lost seven in a row.

Tonight’s game is at Cheney Stadium at 7:05, and you can hear it on 850 AM or streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (5-6, 5.90) against Salt Lake RHP Eric Junge (5-6, 5.27).

Links:

  • Normally we lead off with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune – but it’s not on their website. This might be because the game ended at 11:40 pm – over an hour past the TNT’s print deadline.
  • The News Tribune may not have been there, but The Weekly Volcano was at the game and they stayed until the end. Way to show us something, Volcano.
  • The Mariners haven’t scored in quite a while. Not coincidentally, they haven’t won in a while, either.
  • I guess it was inevitable, wasn’t it? David Aardsma needs “Tommy John” surgery. Hopefully he’ll make a brisk comeback and will be ready to go at this time next year.
  • In the PCL, the Reno Aces keep winning and they maintain a ten-game lead over Tacoma. Here’s some good news, Rainiers fans: Reno #1 starter Barry Enright was promoted to Arizona, and it looks like it’s not temporary.
  • Jai Miller is certainly hot for Sacramento, but the River Cats have lost 11 of their last 15 games. Yet they swept second-place Vegas during that stretch, so they still have an ample lead. Fresno beat Sacramento in the tenth inning yesterday.
  • And we thought we had a late night: In Nashville, the Sounds and Albuquerque didn’t start until after nine PM due to rain, and then the game got suspended after 11 innings due to the PCL curfew rule: no inning can begin after 12:50 AM.
  • Memphis split a doubleheader with Round Rock in a battle between top American Conference teams.
  • The Cubs prospects who were just promoted to Iowa helped them end an eight-game losing streak yesterday. Yup, Brett Jackson is a Cal Bear.
  • New Orleans won its sixth in a row and Jose Lopez launched a three-run homer.
  • It’s true: 7-Eleven is embarking upon a hostile takeover of Tacoma. They’re popping up all over the place!

A giant baseball pouring three different kinds of beer? Yes, please!


Roster Move

July 15, 2011

The Rainiers made a roster move today:

Pitcher Mauricio Robles was promoted from Class-AA Jackson, and he will slot into the Rainiers starting rotation. Robles finished 2010 with the Rainiers, and he was with the club throughout the playoff run. Robles had elbow surgery during the off-season, and he is just now getting healthy.

To make room for Robles, knuckleballer Charlie Haeger was released. It was simple with Haeger: he couldn’t through strikes with the pitch, walking 42 batters (with seven HBP and six wild pitches) in 47.2 innings.

Here is an updated Tacoma starting rotation:

  • Today: Nate Robertson
  • Saturday: Luke French
  • Sunday: Anthony Vasquez
  • Monday: Mauricio Robles
  • Tuesday: Chris Seddon

Rainiers Open With Win

July 15, 2011

The Rainiers 8-9-1-2 hitters had big games, Chris Seddon tossed a gem, and the Tacoma Rainiers came away with a 6-1 win over Salt Lake on Thursday night in the first game after the all-star break.

Ralph Henriquez and Sean Kazmar each had two hits at the bottom of the order, putting runners on base for Ryan Langerhans and Michael Saunders.

Saunders hit a two-run double, and Langerhans had a pair of two-run homers to account for the entire Rainiers offensive attack.

Seddon went 6.1 innings and allowed just one run in his return to the rotation. Cesar Jimenez and Dan Cortes combined to set down eight straight batters from the Tacoma bullpen.

Tacoma (45-47) pulled within two games of .500, but still trails Reno by ten games in the standings.

The second game of the Salt Lake series is tonight at 7:05 at Cheney Stadium, and it’s Friday Night Fireworks. Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (3-2, 6.21) against Salt Lake RHP Matt Palmer (3-9, 8.45). You can hear the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online right here.

Links:

  • Leading off, it’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, as written by Larry LaRue.
  • The Mariners were shut out by the Rangers.
  • The M’s are celebrating the 116-win 2001 club, and John McGrath reflected.
  • Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis is getting a bobblehead.
  • Geoff Baker has an update on the situation regarding teenage Mariners prospect Esteilon “Martin” Peguero, which has some drama – but it appears that the Mariners have done the right thing with his signing bonus, and the kid will get paid.
  • Prepare for lift-off: two Mariners pitching prospects made this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. Also on the list: Kelso HS product Trevor May. However, the #1 guy on the list is apparently a butler.
  • Another Mariners prospect from the Dominican Republic made John Sickels daily notes.
  • Safeco Field turns 12 today, and Lookout Landing prepares us for the inevitable: puberty.
  • In the PCL, The Diamondbacks have made moves effecting the first-place Reno Aces: they called up Brandon Allen and Geoff Blum, sent down Juan Miranda, and Wily Mo Pena will join them if he clears waivers. Reno opened the second half with a 7-6 win over Colorado Springs.
  • Brandon Belt homered and Fresno won at Sacramento, 3-2.
  • Las Vegas pummelled Tucson in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Good crowd: 6,084.
  • Nashville emerged from the all-star break and swept a doubleheader from Albuquerque.
  • Memphis lost at home to Round Rock – former Rainier Brad Nelson had three hits and three RBI for the Express.
  • The Iowa Cubs added two prospects from Double-A yet still lost to Oklahoma City. Redhawks catcher Robinson Cancel played first base – and he tied the PCL record with four errors in one game. Yikes!

Off to the ballpark – Friday Night Fireworks, and a chance for the Rainiers to start the second half with a win streak.


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