Gone Fishin’

July 10, 2011

The Rainiers lost the final game before the all-star break to Reno on Sunday afternoon, 6-2.

Now it’s the all-star break, and everybody – including this blog – gets three days off. You do, too – go ahead and take three days off; just tell your boss it’s the all-star break.

The Rainiers stumbled into the break, dropping three out of four to first place Reno. Tacoma is ten games behind Reno with 53 games remaining – it’s going to take quite a second-half turnaround if the Rainiers are going to repeat as Pacific Coast League champions.

The Triple-A All-Star Game is on Wednesday night at 6:05 (Pacific). You can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and it will be televised on the MLB Network. Relief pitcher Josh Lueke represents the Rainiers.

The Rainiers return to action on Thursday night with a 7:05 home game against the Salt Lake Bees. I will be back with a new blog post on Thursday afternoon before the game.


Aces Hammer Rainiers

July 10, 2011

Reno hit three home runs – all with men on base – and the Aces took the third game of the series from Tacoma, 14-5.

The Aces book-ended the game with three-run homers: Cody Ransom hit one in the first inning, and Brandon Allen hit one in the ninth.

Tacoma highlights were few and far between: Ryan Langerhans went 4-for-5 and extended his hitting streak to 22 games, and Luis Jimenez hit a three-run homer.

The Rainiers played without Alex Liddi (invited to the MLB Futures Game) and Matt Mangini (recovering from Thursday’s home plate collision). The Rainiers started Jorge Agudelo at second base – he was brought in from Everett where he was batting .138 in 17 games. Agudelo went 1-for-5 and made all of the plays at second.

Reno has won two of the first three games in this series, and the Rainiers really need a win on Sunday to get a split. A win and Tacoma is eight games back (and one game under .500) at the all-star break, while a loss puts them ten back – that’s a pretty big swing for this point in the season.

Sunday’s game is at 1:35, and you can hear it on 850 AM or streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Vasquez (1-0, 7.11) against Reno LHP Wade Miley (1-0, 2.57). Each starter won his Triple-A debut in his last outing.

Sunday Links:

Last game before the all-star break today, and the Rainiers could really, really use a win.

* That was a joke, people!


Rainiers Even Score

July 9, 2011

After losing a one-run game to Reno in the series opener on Thursday, the Rainiers came right back and won the second game in dramatic fashion, 3-2.

Tacoma had a good start from Luke French but he left the game trailing 2-1 after six innings. Former Rainiers pitcher Gaby Hernandez held the Rainiers to one run through six innings.

In the bottom of the seventh, Tacoma got lucky: with a runner at second base and two outs, Ryan Langerhans lifted a routine fly ball to center field to end the inning – except Reno center fielder Collin Cowgill (who has had a rough couple of games) lost the ball in the twilight sky, and it fell in for a run-scoring double to tie the game.

Langerhans went 3-for-4 and now has a 21-game hitting streak, one shy of Mike Carp’s season-best 22-gamer.

With the score tied in the bottom of the eighth, Tacoma drew two walks against reliever Esmerling Vasquez, and Matt Tuiasosopo pulled a two-out hit down the left field line to drive on Luis Jimenez with the go-ahead run.

Scott Patterson tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win – he retired six of the seven batters he faced.

Tacoma is 44-45 and back within one game of .500. The Rainiers trail the first-place Aces by eight games.

The third game of the series is Saturday night at 7:05. Tacoma starts RHP Jarret Grube (0-1, 7.71) against Reno RHP Armando “Almost Perfect” Galarraga (0-2, 13.86). You can hear the broadcast live on 850 AM or streaming online right here.

The Rainiers will play without shortstop Alex Liddi tonight and tomorrow – he’s flying to Phoenix today, and he will play in Sunday’s MLB All-Star Futures Game. Reno manager Brett Butler is coaching in that game and he is also gone from Tacoma.

Links:

  • Batting leadoff, it’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Mark Trumbo was one of the top hitters in the PCL last year, and last night he beat the Mariners with a walk-off home run.
  • In Larry LaRue’s notebook, we have some Mariners statistical breakdowns.
  • Jason Churchill has some good Mariners minor league notes in this free “scouting notebook.”
  • In the PCL, Sacramento beat Las Vegas for the second straight day and the River Kitties lead the South by six games. Sacramento infielder Adrian Cardenas is an aspiring writer.
  • Tucson is hot. The Padres beat Fresno last night, 4-3, in 100-degree heat at Chukchansi Park. Aaron Cunningham had two hits and the Port Orchard native is batting .324 with 28 doubles and 63 RBI. Tucson has won 11 of 12 games.
  • Colorado Springs hit three homers in the sixth inning and beat Salt Lake, 7-6. Jordan Pacheco hit a broken-bat home run to center field. Really.
  • Salt Lake infielder Kevin Melillo and little person Eddie Gaedel have something in common
  • New Orleans has a new leadoff hitter and they shut out Iowa, 4-0.
  • Oklahoma City has won five in a row, and J.B. Shuck was added to the PCL all-star team.
  • Apparently, the upcoming all-access Showtime series on the SF Giants is… boring.

Should be a fun one tonight!


Reno Takes Opener

July 8, 2011

The first-place Reno Aces slowed down the Tacoma Rainiers momentum a little bit on Thursday night, winning the opener of the four-game series, 4-3.

Tacoma knuckleballer Charlie Haeger had his best start with the Rainiers, going seven innings and allowing just two runs despite walking six.

Tacoma scored first when Ryan Langerhans led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, his ninth of the season. Langerhans extended his hitting streak to 20 games with the blast.

The Rainiers had a 3-2 lead after Alex Liddi singled home Matt Mangini with the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. Mangini slid hard into the catcher to score the run, and he left the game “dazed,” according to manager Daren Brown, but he will return to the lineup today.

Reno took the lead with a one out, two-run double by Mark Hallberg off Josh Lueke in the eighth. Lueke ended up taking the loss – which was kind of stunning, especially considering how terrific he looked in his last outing on Tuesday in Colorado Springs.

Adding to the pain of the defeat, Matt Tuiasosopo was thrown out at first base in the ninth inning after his pop fly fell untouched in the infield – he didn’t run it out. Mental mistakes like this just shouldn’t happen at this level, but sometimes they do.

Going into the game, Tacoma had won 10 of the last 13 games overall, and five of the last six at home. Now the Rainiers are nine games out of first.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 and it’s Friday Night Fireworks, brought to you by Tim’s Cascade Potato Chips.* Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (5-6, 6.09) against Reno RHP Gaby Hernandez (2-2, 9.00). Yes, Gaby really is starting this time – the Aces rotation got pushed back a day due to a rainout on Tuesday.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • As long as you don’t look at his won-lost record, former Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister is having an excellent season.
  • Kyle Seager was shocked to get the call to the big leagues.
  • John McGrath writes that Jack Z’s plan is taking shape.
  • The Angels have called up top prospect Mike Trout to play against the Mariners tonight. I suppose Tim Salmon might be there, but Mike Carp will not.
  • The Tacoma Weekly has a Renovated Cheney Stadium midway-through-its-first-season overview.
  • Mariners Class-A pitching prospect Taijuan Walker made this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams passed away yesterday, and Larry Stone remembers his time as Mariners manager. Williams retired to Las Vegas and he was often in the Cashman Field press box, and he could always be counted on to provide entertaining stories and opinions. In Vegas, Dick’s Lunch Bunch mourned his passing.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento ended it’s nine-game losing streak at the most opportune time: in the opening game of a four-game series at second place Las Vegas.
  • Tucson hit four homers and Wade LeBlanc tossed eight shutout innings at Fresno last night. The two team’s managers have a long, interesting history with one another.
  • Eric Hurley pitched well and Round Rock defeated Memphis.
  • Oklahoma City got a three-run homer from Robinson Cancel to beat Omaha.
  • Florida Marlins top prospect Matt Dominguez hit a walk-off homer and New Orleans beat Iowa in ten innings.

Big game tonight as the Rainiers try to even the series.

* Sea Salt & Vinegar for me, thanks!


A Day At The Circus

July 7, 2011

I’m not sure what happened at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t baseball. It was something else.

I’m pressed for time so let’s just do it in bullet points:

  • Tacoma beat the Sky Sox, 18-13. The Rainiers have won 10 of the last 13 games and are within a game of .500 for the first time since the team was 3-4 one week into the season.
  • The game was delayed 61 minutes by rain before the first pitch.
  • Tacoma went down in order in the top of the first against (former) Rainiers killer Clayton Mortensen.
  • Colorado Springs scored seven runs in the bottom of the first, sending 12 batters to the plate against Tacoma starter Nate Robertson.
  • Tacoma scored seven runs in the top of the second inning to tie the game. Alex Liddi knotted it up with a three-run homer.
  • Tacoma scored two more in the third, and four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings.
  • Robertson pitched five innings, allowed ten runs, and earned the win.
  • Tacoma hit six home runs, including two each by Mike Wilson and Liddi.
  • Liddi, Wilson, Johan Limonta, and Ralph Henriquez each had three hits.
  • Tacoma scored 18 runs on 18 hits without Ryan Langerhans (19-game hitting streak) and Mike Carp in the lineup.
  • Over the last 21 road games, Tacoma is 15-6.

The Rainiers open a big series at home against Reno on Thursday night at 7:05. You can hear it on 850 AM or streaming online right here.

Tacoma starts knuckleballing RHP Charlie Haeger (2-2, 8.85) against a former Rainier in Reno RHP Gaby Hernandez (2-2, 9.00).

Reno has lost three of the last four games, but they won nine of 11 prior to that. The first-place Aces have an eight-game lead over the second-place Rainiers.

Reno recently activated David Winfree from the disabled list – he missed two months with a wrist injury. The Aces have longtime major leaguer Geoff Blum on rehab. Hopefully Blum will take some playing time away from all-star infielder Tony Abreu, who brings a 24-game hitting streak into the series.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. I frantically typed it after midnight, well after deadline – I’m not sure if it made it into the print edition.
  • The Mariners lost 2-0 in Oakland, and then called up Kyle Seager from Tacoma, designating Jose Yepez for assignment.
  • Eric Wedge says that the Mariners are going to stick with Carlos Peguero.

Sorry, that’s all of the links I have time for today, due to team travel. Come see us at Cheney Stadium this weekend!


Meltdown Narrowly Avoided

July 6, 2011

The Rainiers almost got “Colorado sprung” last night in the Springs.

Tacoma led 11-2 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when the Sky Sox rallied for seven runs, cutting the lead down to 11-9.

When the Sky Sox drew three straight walks to open the bottom of the eighth, it looked like the entire nine-run lead was about to disappear. But Josh Lueke came in from the bullpen and saved the day, escaping the eighth inning jam and setting down the side in the ninth as Tacoma picked up the 13-9 win.

It was an all-star performance by the Rainiers lone all-star. Lueke is now 9-for-10 in save opportunities this year. He lowered his ERA down to 2.65, and he has a 32-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.1 innings pitched.

The win nudged Tacoma within two games of .500 at 42-44 on the year. The Rainiers have won nine of the last 12 games.

The rubber match of the three-game series in Colorado Springs is tonight at 6:05 (Pacific). Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (2-2, 4.68) against Sky Sox RHP Clayton Mortensen (0-2, 13.50). The broadcast airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streams online right here.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners beat Oakland in the tenth inning to reach the .500 mark. Dustin Ackley had two hits and a homer.
  • Larry LaRue has a few interesting tidbits in his Mariners notebook, including the M’s upcoming roster moves – will they carry three catchers through the all-star break?
  • The Mariners are trying to limit Michael Pineda’s starts around the all-star break to give his arm a rest.
  • There really is a Seattle Mariners relief pitcher named Jeff Gray. He just never plays.
  • John McGrath wrote about Doug Fister and bad luck.
  • Tacoma’s own Jon Lester left yesterday’s Red Sox game after four innings – here is the injury report.
  • At ESPN, Jerry Crasnick has a post on ex-Rainier Mike Morse and his push for the all-star game.
  • In the PCL, Reno was rained out in Tucson (it’s Monsoon Season!), so the Rainiers gained a half-game and are nine out. This game won’t be made up until late August.
  • Salt Lake’s Eric Junge tossed a gem and the Bees beat Las Vegas. Salt Lake is preparing to host the Triple-A All-Star Game a week from today.
  • It’s panic time in Sacramento – the River Cats lost their eighth in a row yesterday. In Oklahoma City, Tony D is laughing… well, maybe not so much – Sacramento still has a healthy five-game lead in the standings.
  • Oklahoma beat Iowa in the bottom of the ninth on Robinson Cancel’s game-winning hit.
  • Omaha tallied five runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat New Orleans, 6-5.
  • Brandon Boggs had a game-winning single and the headline writer for The Tennessean goofed up.

The Kane County Cougars are having a Wilco-themed fireworks show this week. Now, if they only had Nels Cline performing the National Anthem…


The Fourth Of July…

July 5, 2011

… Tacoma Rainiers Style.

4:30 AM – wake up, clean up, and drive to Cheney Stadium.

5:00 AM – arrive at Cheney Stadium and find two Rainiers players lighting off fireworks in the parking lot. Both are giddy – they are from California, where it’s illegal to light a match on the 4th of July.

5:10 AM – in the Rainiers clubhouse, our Italian third baseman asks if July 3 or July 4 is “America Day.” He learns that it’s the 4th, and a certain Oklahoman explains that if it weren’t for the 4th of July, “we’d all be speaking German.” This is wrong on so many levels, I can only shake my head.

5:12 AM – Mike… Off-Mic learns that Italy Day is June 25.

5:15 AM – the team bus pulls out of Cheney, destination SeaTac Airport.

5:45 AM – we arrive at the airport and check in without incident. The Rainiers travel coordinator smiles, says goodbye, and runs back to Tacoma to go celebrate the holiday.

6:15 AM – I enjoy a toasted bagel at the N gates.

6:45 AM – while waiting to board, I run into couple who are good friends of mine, waiting for a flight at the next gate over. They are flying to Las Vegas for a week-long vacation before embarking on an international career adventure. I offer to trade them my ticket to Colorado Springs for their ticket to Vegas, and even tell them they get to call three Rainiers games. They don’t bite.

7:30 AM – we depart for Denver. The flight is half empty, meaning we get to spread out a bit. This is one of the few times all season that this will happen.

10:30 AM (we lost an hour on the time change) – arrive Denver, collect baggage, and hop on a charter bus for Colorado Springs. The bus has that “bus bathroom chemical” smell that you are all-too-familiar-with if you have spent your career in minor league baseball.

12:00 PM – (warning – politics!) – on the drive from Denver to our Colorado Springs hotel, we take the Ronald Reagan Freeway to the Focus on Family Headquarters exit. I can think of one co-worker who would be absolutely delighted by this.

12:15 PM – we arrive at our new, tremendously improved Colorado Springs hotel. I’m running on four hours of sleep, which includes an hour of weak airplane sleep, and the bed looks so inviting. But I’m also starving. I unpack and shuffle across the street for some food.

1:00 PM – Ted’s Montana Grill. Chicken sandwich. Nom nom nom.

2:00 PM – finish blog post, finish preparing for game (I had done most of my broadcast notes late at night after the home game on the 3rd).

3:30 PM – the best 15 minutes of the day: catnap!

4:00 PM – team bus leaves hotel for Security Service Field. I rock “David Comes To Life” on the iPod to get me going, and it works.

4:20 PM – prior to Game #84, team bus gets lost trying to figure out where to drop us off at Security Service Field.

4:30 PM – arrive at field, set up broadcast equipment, test lines – everything works!

5:03 PM – interview skipper for pre-game show.

5:10 PM – pound 16-ounce coffee from the master of strong coffee, Security Service Field visiting clubbie Steve.

5:15 PM – I prepare my stats and scorecard while the team is taking batting practice.

5:45 PM – I don’t usually eat this close to the game, but by golly – some local Guru has arranged to have pre-game burgers brought into the press box from Five Guys Burgers & Fries. And thus the diet takes the evening off.

6:00 PM – pre-record my pre-game show (yup, I cheat and pre-record it every day. There’s a radio secret for you!)*

6:15 PM – read all of the notes and materials distributed in the press box.

6:30 PM – back to the Rainiers locker room to grab coffee #2. Shotgun!

7:05 PM – broadcast 3 hour, 40 minute Rainiers 9-4 loss. The game is played in front of a lively crowd of 8,865.

11:00 PM – done with radio post-game show, interview skipper again, write News Tribune story, while keeping an eye on the fireworks show. It’s a very good show but not as long as Tacoma’s.

12:15 PM – ride back to hotel with Rainiers coaching staff in our rented soccer mom minivan. Rehash the game; plot future PCL domination.

1:00 AM – ahhhhhh, sleep!

Tonight’s game is at 6:05 (Pacific), and new Tacoma Rainiers left-hander Anthony Vasquez gets the start in his Triple-A debut. You couldn’t pick a tougher place for a pitcher to make his Triple-A debut than Colorado Springs (although Reno would be close). This is an extremely tough assignment for the kid – the Rainiers have moved Chris Seddon to the bullpen until the all-star break, and he will be there to back up Vasquez. The Sky Sox are starting Triple-A veteran RHP Billy Buckner (1-3, 5.19).

Catch the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online right here. The pre-game show starts 15 minutes prior to the first pitch, at 5:50.

Links:

  • Here is a severely edited Rainiers game story I wrote for The News Tribune. Cliff’s Notes: issuing walks is really bad in Colorado Springs.
  • We also have the Rainiers game from the perspective of the Colorado Springs Gazette, with quotes from Mike Jacobs.
  • The Mariners beat the A’s in a day game, allowing Larry LaRue to get quotes from seemingly everybody in uniform for his game story. I counted seven sources.
  • Ryan Divish wrote about Jose Yepez and the Mariners catching quandary. This is an informative and right-down-to-the-truth-of-it read.
  • In the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker focused on Justin Smoak and his big go-ahead RBI double. His notebook is about Michael Pineda.
  • Tacoma third baseman Alex Liddi is John Sickels’ Prospect Of The Day.
  • In the PCL, Reno earned a tough win on the road, ending Tucson’s eight-game win streak and increasing their lead to 9.5 games. David Winfree came off the disabled list and homered.
  • Tucson added top Padres prospect James Darnell and it looks like he’s going to play third base.
  • Salt Lake had a 10-3 lead over Las Vegas after eight innings – and they barely held on for a 10-9 victory. Ryan Shealy had seven RBI for Vegas.
  • Fresno beat Sacramento in the tenth inning on a bases-loaded single by Edgar Gonzalez. Sacramento has lost seven straight, so look for Billy Beane to sign Scott McClain, Dallas McPherson, Phil Hiatt, Bernardo Brito and Steve Bilko this week.
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs won with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Joe Thurston’s game-winning double.
  • Koby Clemens hit a pair of home runs and Oklahoma City beat Iowa, 3-2.
  • Well, it wasn’t exactly a walk-off balk, but it was close: Nashville beat Memphis, 5-4, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Chuck Fick drilled Brett Carroll with the bases loaded. A walk-off HBP.
  • Since Portland gave baseball the boot, attendance at Salem-Keizer is on a big up-swing. It turns out that Portland baseball fans are willing to drive 50 miles to go to a game.

Since my News Tribune story was chopped in half due to space restrictions, I’ve copy-and-pasted the entire original, unedited version after the jump. There are a bunch of numbers on the hitting streaks, etc, in the notes.

Read the rest of this entry »


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