What Just Happened?

August 31, 2011

Good question. The Rainiers didn’t score any runs last night.

In baseball, we call this a “shutout.” And for the 2011 Tacoma Rainiers, it is rarer than an eight-run inning.

Tacoma was shutout for just the second time this season last night, losing to Tucson, 2-0. Tucson pitchers Rob Musgrave, Will Inman, Pat Neshek, and Luis Perdomo combined on a five-hitter.

Those pitchers deserve credit. Tacoma ranks third out of the 16 PCL teams in runs scored, and has already broken the 52-year franchise record for most runs scored in a season.

The only other time Tacoma was shutout was on June 1, when Reno’s Barry Enright silenced the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium.

It will be interesting to see how the team bounces back tonight – will they come out and score 12 runs, or will it be another low-scoring game?

We’ll find out at 7:05. Tacoma is scheduled to start LHP Nate Robertson (5-6, 7.16) against Tucson RHP Samuel Deduno (4-4, 3.91). You can catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Tonight is the final night of the Rainiers roll back the ticket prices promotion, with 50-cent tickets for kids 12-and-under. These tickets are only available at the Cheney Stadium box office – you can pick ‘em up on your way in.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune – manager Daren Brown had a lonely night in the third base coach’s box. Erasmo Ramirez pitched really well but took a tough loss.
  • The Mariners lost ugly. Three straight walks, two with the bases loaded? We don’t even do that in Triple-A.*
  • The Mariners announced which prospects are being sent to the Arizona Fall League. Included are Rainiers pitcher Forrest Snow, injured catcher Adam Moore, and Tacoma hitting coach Alonzo Powell. For all of the rosters for the entire AFL, Baseball America is the place to go.
  • Jayson Stark has an outstanding article on scouting in the information age.
  • Jason Churchill has an article on the success of Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara.
  • Reno outfielder Collin Cowgill (now with the Diamondbacks) was named the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year. Alex Liddi received some votes.
  • Reno lost to Fresno, getting shut down by Shane Loux. Brett Pill hit a three-run homer for Fresno and got called up to San Francisco for his first time.
  • The Aces are preparing for a roster hit that could hurt them in the playoffs. With the parent Diamondbacks in a fight to win the NL West, they will call up players that can help. Tacoma did not have this problem last year, when the Mariners were struggling – which allowed Tacoma to keep its team together for the post-season.
  • Sacramento is gearing up for the playoffs, despite an unsettled bullpen. The A’s have been wearing out the transaction wire recently.
  • Major congratulations to former Rainiers slugger Bryan LaHair, who broke the Iowa Cubs franchise record with his 38th home run yesterday. LaHair tied Jose Bautista for the professional baseball home run lead. And of course, he did this on Bryan LaHair T-Shirt Night. Perfect!
  • Memphis lost to Albuquerque and the Redbirds chances of a third straight division title took a big hit – they are four games behind Omaha with six to play.
  • The Salt Lake Tribune has a wrap-up of a rather miserable season on the field in Salt Lake City.

Six games left – and Tacoma needs to go 5-1 to reach the .500 mark. Let’s see if they can do it.

* Well, not very often.


Saunders Homers For Win

August 30, 2011

Michael Saunders lifted a two-run homer over the right field fence with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Tacoma a 4-2 victory over the Tucson Padres on Monday night.

Saunders blast ended a game that appeared destined for extra innings.

Trailing 2-0 despite another strong start by Jarrett Grube, the Rainiers rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run single by Chris Gimenez.

Gimenez’s hit left runners at first and third with one out and the rock-solid Johan Limonta at the plate. One more run, close the door in the ninth, Rainiers win… except Limonta grounded into a double play, keeping the game tied going to the ninth.

Shawn Kelley pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, getting help when right fielder Greg Halman threw out a runner at third base.

Then Halman singled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and Saunders watched one Pat Neshek breaking ball for a strike before launching the next one to right field, ending the game.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that Reno won at home against Fresno, clinching the Pacific-North division title and the Aces first-ever playoff spot. The Aces will play Sacramento in the first round of the PCL playoffs.

Tacoma had won the division two years in a row, and of course won the PCL Championship last year. But Reno jumped out to a huge division lead early in the summer, riding a prolific offense to huge, high-scoring wins.

As is common in Triple-A baseball. call-ups and injuries brought the Aces back down to earth – and for a while in early and mid-August it appeared as if the Rainiers had a comeback in them, even getting as close as 4.5 games.

But Tacoma’s fate was sealed in the four-game series at Reno, August 20-23. All four games were close, and two were decided in the last at-bat. All four of them went to the Aces, and Tacoma was all but eliminated.

So what’s up next? Seven more games, all at home, and hopefully more exciting baseball like we had last night.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 at Cheney Stadium, and once again (and tomorrow, too) tickets for kids age 12 and under are just 50 cents. If you can’t find a couple of quarters (or seven bucks if you’re over 12), listen to the game on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma is scheduled to start RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3-1, 6.14) against Tucson LHP Rob Musgrave (1-2, 6.82).

Links:

That’s it for today – we should have another fun one tonight!


Home For Good

August 29, 2011

Tacoma won the final road game of the season on Sunday afternoon, beating the Colorado Springs Sky Sox 6-5.

The Rainiers had a 6-2 lead in the middle of the eighth, and things got real scary down the stretch, but Scott Patterson nailed down a tough save and the Rainiers hung on.

Jose Yepez hit an interesting home run to give the Rainiers some much-needed insurance runs – read the details in my game story, first link down below.

The team finished the road portion of the schedule with a 38-34 record. This is an outstanding road record – one of the top four in the PCL – and usually that would indicate a playoff-calibre season.

But this year it took the team a long time to get comfortable at home: Tacoma lost 7 of the first 8 home games, has been swept at home twice, and is just 28-36 at Cheney Stadium this year.

The Rainiers finish the season with eight straight home games, starting tonight at 7:05 with the Tucson Padres in town. Bob Robertson joins me in the broadcast booth tonight, you can hear the game on 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jarrett Grube (4-3, 5.25) against Tucson RHP Jeremy Hefner (9-7, 5.36).

Look for some rehabilitating Mariners on the homestand, too: Justin Smoak is expected to be in the Rainiers lineup today, Tuesday, and Wednesday; and we may see Chone Figgins and Dan Cortes on this homestand. 

Lots of promotions going on – check the Rainiers home page for more details. But here’s the quick version:

  • Kids 12 and under get 50-cent tickets tonight through Wednesday. These tickets are only available at the Cheney Stadium box office.
  • The team is accepting donations of school supplies on Tuesday for Communities in Schools and Stuff-A-Bus, and Rhubarb is delivering the goods to the kids.
  • The State Farm Scavenger Hunt promotion is ongoing – check the Rainiers Facebook page.*
  • Thursday is the last Tasty Thursday of the year. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?
  • Friday Night Fireworks
  • And the final home games over Labor Day Weekend, including the traditional Monday holiday day game to end the season.

Unless y’all desert us over the final homestand, the Rainiers are going to set an all-time franchise attendance record this year. Thanks for supporting the local nine!

On to the links:

  • First he was bunting, then he homered: Jose Yepez came up big in the Rainiers win on Sunday. Here’s the story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners got swept by the White Sox, and the rookies are going through a rough patch.
  • John McGrath goes a bit more in-depth on the whole rookies-adjusting-to-the-majors thing.
  • It’s not just the rookies – Jason Vargas is struggling, too.
  • The announced the All-PCL Team today. No Rainiers made it, which was not unexpected. I think Alex Liddi has an outside chance at the Rookie of the Year award, but he’s a longshot. The big awards get announced this week.
  • Here is this week’s massive Mariners Minor League Wrap from USS Mariner.
  • Tucson beat Reno last night, and the Padres won 5 of 6 in the series. Reno’s magic number to clinch is still one.
  • Amazingly, the Reno newspaper still thinks that the Aces magic number is two. They are wrong, because Reno wins the tiebreaker against Tacoma.
  • Fresno played its final home game, and the Grizzlies had a successful season at the gate. On the field, not so much.
  • You think the Rainiers have struggled at home? Salt Lake has been awful in home games. Las Vegas beat them yesterday, as Ryan Shealy had seven RBI.
  • Omaha held on to beat New Orleans, 11-10. The Storm Chasers have a four-game lead over Memphis, with eight to play. Omaha is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 – Omaha RG Mark Nasser is the most veteran PCL radio guy who has not called a PCL playoff game.
  • Nashville played its final home game, losing to Memphis. The Sounds had an attendance increase from last year.
  • Oklahoma City pitcher Andy Van Hekken is hoping for a September call-up. Aren’t we all?

It’s the little things: today I’m going to set up the Rainiers radio equipment for the last time this season.

* Is it just me, or are those jersey-tees pretty awesome?


Sky Sox Drop Rainiers

August 28, 2011

… but we’re still alive!

Tacoma lost to Colorado Springs on Saturday night, 8-5. The Sky Sox had very good relief pitching to help secure the win.

On the plus side, Reno lost to Tucson in 15 innings, 4-3. Tacoma is eight games back with nine to play. So we’re not dead yet!

It’s simple math – here’s how it works:

  1. Reno goes 0-9 to finish the season
  2. Tacoma goes 9-0 to finish the season
  3. Rainiers win their third straight division title!

OK, I’ll admit, that’s a lot to ask for. But we can dream, can’t we?

On Saturday the Rainiers put Matt Tuiasosopo on the seven-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring – retroactive to Thursday. The hope is that he will be able to come off the DL this Thursday and play the last weekend of the season.

Also, it looks like the Rainiers are going to have some major leaguers on rehab this week: Justin Smoak may play a few games for Tacoma, and we could see Chone Figgins, too.

Today’s game is at 12:05 (Pacific) and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (8-6, 6.41) against Colorado Springs RHP Joey Williamson (2-2, 8.65).

Sunday links!

  • We lead off with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • My Sunday Minor League Notebook checks in on some of the players the Mariners just drafted.
  • Seattle was shut out by John Danks, who really tossed a gem.
  • So Felix Hernandez dressed up as Larry Bernandez and handed out bobbleheads. That’s pretty cool!
  • Joe Buck lost his voice. This is every announcer’s worst nightmare.
  • For your enjoyment, the Larry Stone Sunday baseball package from the Seattle Times: his column reviewing the trade deadline deals, his notebook covers the Cubs GM search, and of course… power rankings.
  • Here’s a fun  – for us, not him – bit on Sacramento/Oakland reliever Jerry Blevins, who went through travel hell in order to pitch two innings at Fenway.
  • The Rainiers were on the verge of elimination: Reno took a 3-2 lead over Tucson in the top of the 15th inning, but the Padres rallied for two in the bottom of the inning. Eric Patterson had the game-winning hit. Reno’s magic number is one.
  • Reno may not have won the division yet, but their guy Eric Blanton won the PCL Groundskeeper of the Year award.* He’s a nice groundskeeper – he loaned me duct tape once.
  • Oh, boy: Salt Lake has lost nine consecutive home games.
  • Last night at the Sacramento-at-Fresno game, they shot scenes for a new movie in which Billy Crystal plays a Triple-A radio broadcaster. Really, it’s true. There are even photos. My fellow RG Johnny Doskow of Sacramento had Crystal on the air for an inning, and he sent the following tweet: “Now that was fun. Billy Crystal joined me on the air for an inning. He wasn’t nervous at all!” Fresno lost the game.
  • In the American-North, first-place Omaha lost to Tom Koehler and New Orleans, but second-place Memphis also lost. Omaha has a four-game lead with nine to play.
  • Oklahoma City’s Anderson Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 25 games.

Off to the ballpark – but if you’re a college football fan, make sure to read Bud Withers’ introduction to the Pac-12 for Utah and Colorado. Quality stuff.

* there is no PCL Radio Guy of the Year award – the one in the Billy Crystal photo gallery is fake, it’s a movie prop. We need a union!


Rainiers Win In 11th Inning

August 27, 2011

Sean Kazmar had the game-winning hit in the top of the 11th inning on Friday night, and Tacoma beat Colorado Springs, 12-10.

Kazmar singled home Carlos Triunfel to give Tacoma the lead, and Michael Saunders added a run-scoring single of his own to give Tacoma a little bit of insurance.

The 11th inning rally ended a game that seemed highly unlikely to go that long after the two teams combined to score 19 runs through the first five innings.

Tacoma held a 9-4 lead going to the bottom of the fifth, but Colorado Springs put together a big six-run rally to take the lead. Five of the runs scored with two outs, and Ryan Spilborghs hit the go-ahead two-run homer.

The Rainiers bullpen took over from there, and pitched 6.1 scoreless innings. The bullpen is the focus of the story I wrote for The News Tribune (first link below).

Tacoma has some hot hitters: Johan Limonta and Triunfel each had four hits in the game, while Saunders and Kazmar each chipped in with three.

Mike Wilson went 2-for-4 with a homer, extending his hitting streak to ten games. Wilson has 19 hits during the streak, with eight multiple-hit games.

Alex Liddi connected for a two-run homer; he’s up to 28 home runs and 99 RBI on the year.

The win improved Tacoma’s record to 65-69 on the year. With 10 games remaining, Tacoma would have to go 7-3 in order to finish the season at .500. That’s a good goal to shoot for as the season winds down.

Game four of this five-game series in Colorado Springs is tonight at 6:05 (Pacific), and as always you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Luke French (8-8, 6.34) against Colorado Springs RHP Edgar Gonzalez (3-3, 4.82).

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune focuses on the outstanding performance by the bullpen.
  • Sadly, the Weekly Volcano is not commenting on the National Anthem singer with this post.
  • The Mariners returned home and lost to the White Sox, 4-2.
  • The M’s should be getting Justin Smoak back in the lineup shortly.
  • Vin Scully is returning to the Dodgers broadcast booth next year – it will be his 63rd with the Dodgers. He celebrated with a cookie.
  • Reno lost at Tucson, 6-5, and the Aces magic number to clinch over Tacoma is still two. Looks like the Reno newspaper is poised to miss it when they clinch – they still have the number listed as three.
  • Las Vegas beat Salt Lake as David Cooper had three hits, including his PCL-leading 49th double, and he is leading the league with a .374 average.
  • The Colorado Springs newspaper story focused on Ryan Spilborghs.
  • Fresno reliever Marc Kroon is considering retiring after this, his 21st professional season. There are some great anecdotes in this story.
  • Sacramento used this year’s 35th-round draft pick as an emergency starter – and Max Perlman shut down Fresno, ending the Grizzlies six-game win streak.
  • Trailing 5-1, Oklahoma City scored nine runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Iowa. There were only six hits in the inning – the Iowa Cubs made three errors during the frame (insert joke about future Cubs here).
  • Anderson Hernandez has a 24-game hitting streak for the RedHawks.
  • Omaha now has a four-game lead in the American-North. The Storm Chasers blasted New Orleans, while second-place Memphis lost to Michael Fiers in Nashville.

It’s our second-to-last day on the road this year. On Sunday we wrap up the series with a day game, and we are actually able to catch the final flight out of Denver and get home after the game.


No Lead Is Safe In The Springs

August 26, 2011

Day two of five in the Springs went the way of the Sky Sox, as they picked up an 11-7 win over Tacoma to even the series.

The game featured a clear, concise example of baseball in Colorado Springs:

When Tacoma was losing 9-0 after five full innings, nobody thought the game was over.

No lead is safe in Colorado Springs, and Tacoma quickly and rather easily scored five runs in the top of the sixth to tighten things up, and the Rainiers were in the game until the final out was made.

The Rainiers were even one batter away from bringing the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning, but Sky Sox closer Jim Miller was able to shut things down.

Ralph Henriquez had three hits for Tacoma, and Mike Wilson went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to nine games (he has 17 hits over the nine games).

Alex Liddi picked up his 97th RBI as he continues his drive to become the second Tacoma player to ever reach 100 runs and 100 RBI in the same season (Craig Kusick, 1973 Tacoma Twins).

In a pre-game roster move on Thursday, the Rainiers added infielder Danny Lopez from Everett. They had room for him on the 24-man roster, from when Anthony Vasquez was promoted to Seattle. Lopez is here to provide depth in the infield – Matt Tuiasosopo left Wednesday’s game with a mild strain of his right hamstring, and he is being checked out today. 

Tonight’s game in Colorado Springs is at 6:05 (Pacific). Tacoma will start LHP Nate Robertson (5-6, 6.43) against Sky Sox RHP Greg Reynolds (6-7, 6.82). We’ll have the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Cheap tickets reminder: the team is selling 50-cent tickets to kids 12 and under for the game on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That’s how much kids tickets cost when Cheney Stadium opened in 1960. These tickets are only available at the stadium box office.

Links:

  • We lead off with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners were off yesterday, but we do have a nice Seattle Times feature on Mike Carp.
  • Geoff Baker asks the interesting question, what do you do with Kyle Seager?
  • The Rainiers had to deal with the vengeance of Chris Nelson last night.
  • Mariners prospect Jose Campos was dealing for Everett last night, and Jason Churchill has the story.
  • Both Campos and, oddly enough, Charlie Haeger got shout-outs in this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • Reno split their doubleheader in Tucson. They won the first game when Kevin Mulvey tossed a two-hit shutout, but Tucson took the nightcap, 3-1. Ryan Langerhans homered in both games for Reno. The Aces “magic number” to clinch is two.*
  • Tucson slugger Anthony Rizzo is working hard to improve.
  • Fresno third baseman Conor Gillaspie wants to be a weatherman when his playing days are over. For real. Fresno is hot – the Grizzlies have won six in a row, and they’ve been beating Sacramento all season.
  • The PCL’s last pennant race is tightening up: first place Omaha got dropped by Elih Villanueva and the New Orleans Zephyrs, 8-2. Second place Memphis picked up a game by beating Nashville, 9-6, and Memphis is three games out with 11 to play. Omaha wins the tie-breaker.

Just three road games remain this season, and then the Rainiers close it out with eight at home starting on Monday.

* the magic number is wrong in the Reno newspaper story, because it does not take into account the fact that Reno wins the tiebreaker over Tacoma, since the Aces won the head-to-head season series (12-4). If Reno wins tonight and Tacoma loses, Tacoma is ten back with ten to play, and it’s over.


It’s Over (I Mean That In A Good Way)

August 25, 2011

The Rainiers ended their eight-game losing streak on Wednesday night in Colorado Springs, blasting the Sky Sox 9-3.

Tacoma scored four runs in the top of the first inning, added three more in the third to go up 7-0, and rode the suddenly red-hot arm of Jarrett Grube to victory from there.

Grube went eight innings and allowed just three runs. Grube has allowed just four runs in his last 22 innings pitched, lowering his ERA by nearly three runs in the process.

Tacoma had a couple of home runs: Mike Wilson yacked one off Sean White, which was pretty cool: White had allowed just three runs in his previous 25 innings (1.08 ERA). The former Rainier has allowed six HRs in 75 innings this year, and all six have come in Colorado Springs – none on the road.

Also good to see: Michael Saunders pulled a Matt Lindstrom fastball over the right field fence for a homer in the eighth. Lindstrom is a major leaguer on rehabilitation, and he was hitting 96 mph on the scoreboard gun.

Huston Street made his annual rehab appearance against the Rainiers and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Word at the ballpark was that Lindstrom and Street were making their final appearances for the Sky Sox, and are about to be activated by the Rockies. This means that Sky Sox could have a boatload of roster moves during this series; with two pitchers likely to be sent down from the Rockies and… we’ll see what happens.

Tonight’s game is at 5:05 (Pacific), and as always the broadcast is on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3-0, 4.68) against Colorado Springs RHP Clayton Mortensen (1-7, 9.45). This will be an interesting match-up – Mortensen is far, far better than those stats indicate; he’s had success in the major leagues this year (3.86 ERA in 58 innings).

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune – hey, I got to write about a win!
  • Here is the run-down on all of the Sky Sox rehabbers.
  • The Rainiers start the final homestand on Monday, and it’s all about the fans.
  • The Weekly Volcano’s “Meat Market” column came to Cheney Stadium for Tasty Thursday.
  • The Mariners pasted the Indians, 9-2, and a bunch of former Rainiers went bananas. The Mariners no longer have the worst offense in the major leagues,
  • The Mariners won that game despite making four errors – and that is very rare, as Matthew Carruth writes.
  • My man John McGrath is enjoying the Mariners youth movement – his analysis of the Rick Rizzs call made me smile.
  • While I admit the formatting makes it hard to read, I want to link to this USS Mariner post. Point #2 on the debut of Anthony Vasquez is an interesting analysis of his first MLB start.
  • Mariners Class-A outfielder Denny Almonte hit for the cycle. He’s another in the long line of Mariners minor league strikeout-prone sluggers.
  • The Dodgers front office is wondering if fans still like Vin Scully – which is a foolish question, of course – and this made Keith Olbermann angry. Next up: the Dodgers front office will ask children if they still like Santa Claus.
  • Potential drama in Oakland, where Billy Beane might consider the Cubs GM job.
  • The death of Mike Flanagan caused Joe Posnanski to start the Crafty Lefty Hall of Fame.
  • The Reno Aces lost to Tucson yesterday and the Rainiers gained a game – 7.5 back with 12 to play; not dead yet! Reno may get slugging infielder Cody Ransom back for the stretch run.
  • Here’s the best thing to come out of Tucson this week: a complete account of the Sacramento River Cats clinching party, as detailed by the visiting clubhouse manager.
  • The hungover Cats got beat down by Fresno, 14-6.
  • One day after scoring 23 runs on 27 hits, the Salt Lake Bees were shut down by Kyle Drabek.
  • Don’t touch Bryan LaHairhe’s too hot! Two more homers, five more RBI… .336-36-105.
  • Omaha moved closer to clinching the American-North by beating New Orleans in a rain-shortened game.
  • Memphis beat Nashville as Andrew Brown homered twice.
  • Chad Tracy of Round Rock also homered twice, and he had six RBI giving him 100 on the year.

I leave you with a personal note: I’m concerned that my Cal Bears will face a hostile environment in their “home opener” at Candlestick Park against Fresno State next weekend. Cal’s stadium is being renovated and this is an all-road season. Apparently Fresno is buying most of the tickets. Yikes.*

* Astute Mike… Off-Mic readers will understand the football season reference.


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