On Hits – Or The Lack Thereof

April 22, 2012

The Rainiers had one hit in a 12-0 loss to Fresno on Saturday night.

And that was one more than the Mariners had earlier in the day, when Phillip Humber of the White Sox threw baseball’s 21st perfect game against them.

The Mariners and their Triple-A affiliate combined to go 1-for-56 on the day, for a miniscule .018 batting average.

The man with the hit was Luis Jimenez, who singled with two outs in the fourth inning at Cheney Stadium.

Facing Fresno starter Brian Burres, Jimenez hit a low line drive over second base and cleanly into the outfield for the day’s Big Knock.

It was a thing of beauty, because it was the only thing we saw like it all day. (Unless you count Fresno’s 19 hits).

It’s weird how the top two clubs in the Mariners organization could get shut down so emphatically on the same day.

I posed the question on Twitter, which would you rather do, lose 4-0 in a perfect game, or lose 12-0 and get one hit? More people though the second option was worse, because you don’t get the history of the perfect game. At least a perfect game is something to remember and talk about for years to come.

Personally, I’ll never forget John Halama‘s perfect game against Calgary at Cheney Stadium on July 7, 2001. I can still vividly picture the final out, a hot grounder to first base that Todd Betts speared, and tossed to Halama covering first to complete the first nine-inning perfect game in PCL history.

Mariners fans had something to remember yesterday. Rainiers fans are going to forget about yesterday’s game as quickly as possible.

Today’s game is at 1:35, and you can hear it on 850 AM in Tacoma and streaming online right here. Tacoma sends LHP Mauricio Robles (0-1, 3.95) to the mound against Fresno RHP Eric Hacker (3-0, 2.00).

It’s looking like it’s going to be a beautiful day in Tacoma. After the game today, kids can run the bases and get a free t-shirt from Olympians supporting Walk To London 2012.

Links:

  • We’ll start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, which features one lonely quote from Daren Brown, who was one lonely man coaching third base last night.
  • Here is my Sunday Minor League Notebook from the TNT. I lead off with an item on Fresno’s Todd Linden, who is a local guy.
  • Here is Larry LaRue’s story on the perfect game, and John McGrath was there to write about it, too – it was the first no-hitter or perfect game he had ever seen in person.
  • The Mariners wanted to go down swinging.
  • John Sickels wrote a career profile on Phillip Humber.
  • The Sunday baseball package from Larry Stone is here: a column declaring the best team in baseball, his notebook wonders if Bryan LaHair is trade bait, and we have power rankings, and thumbs.
  • Things are not looking good for former Rainiers pitcher Michael Pineda. We hope he gets healthy soon.
  • In the PCL, Reno was shut out by Sacramento, 6-0. It appears that Sacramento starter Jarrod Parker is going to the big leagues – he was pulled after 2.2 shutout innings.
  • Las Vegas topped Colorado Springs in 10 innings, 9-8. It was a wild scoring sequence.
  • Las Vegas catcher Yan Gomes is from Brazil.
  • Pitching led the way for New Orleans once again – this time it was from the bullpen.
  • The Iowa Cubs have had so many transactions early they can’t keep the roster straight.
  • Alex Castellanos homered twice and Albuquerque won in Oklahoma City.
  • Omaha beat Nashville in the 13th inning when Jarrod Dyson singled in the winning run off a position player through a five-man infield – or was it a six-man infield? Just read the story.
  • More good stuff from that game: Dyson was caught stealing by a catcher for the first time in two years and 55 stolen bases. “I got hosed,” he said.

That’s all I have time to get to this morning – come out to the ballpark, it’s a great day!


Back Home After Split In Sacto

April 21, 2012

The Rainiers are back home at Cheney Stadium on Saturday night, hosting the Fresno Grizzlies in the opening game of a super-quick four-game homestand.

This home series is the “island” in the middle of the Rainiers biggest road stretch of the year: 19 of 23 games away from Cheney Stadium.

Tacoma ended up going 3-5 on the first leg of this road stretch. The Rainiers dropped three of four in Fresno, but were able to get a split in Sacramento due to some incredible pitching in the middle games of the series.

The Rainiers had a chance to win the series in Sacramento and get a split on the trip – but they lost the final game on Friday night, 7-4.

Sacramento scored six runs over the first three innings, building a 6-2 lead. Tacoma chipped away, notching a pair of one-run innings (including a long home run from Trayvon Robinson), but they couldn’t come all the way back.

Tonight’s series opener is at 7:05 at Cheney Stadium, and the weather is supposed to be nice. If you can’t make it to the park, tune in on 850 AM in and around Tacoma, or listen via the online stream. Tacoma starts RHP Jeff Marquez (1-0, 6.00) against Fresno LHP Brian Burres (0-1, 4.76).

Saturday before the game we – and by we, I mean our community – are formally dedicating the street that goes into Cheney Stadium as Clay Huntington Way. There will be a ceremony at Heidelberg Park starting at 5:30, with various speakers talking about Clay and the impact he had on athletics and life in Pierce County. It’s open to the public, so swing by if you would like to.

This is a totally awesome thing, and I’d like to point out that the Tacoma Athletic Commission – which was founded by Clay – led the charge to get the street name changed.

Because I am flying home with the team in the morning, and I’m in the lineup at the Clay Way event, I didn’t have time to get to all of the links. Here’s what I could get late on Friday night:

  • The Rainiers game story is up early on The News Tribune’s site.
  • The Mariners and Rainiers are sort of following the same pattern of games these days – they fell behind early and lost, too.
  • My compliments to whoever wrote the headline of the Mariners game story at The News Tribune.
  • Earlier Friday I enjoyed reading this humorous piece ranking the 30 Major League managers based upon their likelihood of knowing anything about Coachella. Too bad Daren Brown doesn’t qualify for a ranking – he would place about 15th, because I think he knows it exists, but he would tell all of the attendees to “just grow up.”*

Sorry for the short blog – I should be up early on Sunday to get to all of the Sunday links.

* While his last concert was probably Poison in 1988, Brown is knowledgeable about technology – if he was forced to attend Coachella and saw the Tupac Hologram, he would immediately arrange to get a 1995 Tacoma Rainiers Alex Rodriguez Hologram to play shortstop.


Rainiers Shut Out Sacramento

April 20, 2012

We’ve got a lot of things to cover, and I’m short on time, so we’re going bullet points today.

  • Tacoma shut out Sacramento on Thursday night, 1-0.
  • Anthony Vasquez went 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing four hits.
  • Nobody reached second base against Vasquez until the seventh inning.
  • With the win, Vasquez is now 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA. He has ten straight Quality Starts in the PCL going back to last year.
  • After a walk and an error put runners at 2nd and 3rd for SAC in the eighth, Oliver Perez came in from the bullpen and got a strikeout to escape the jam.
  • Shawn Kelley pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second save
  • The shutout was made possible by Scott Savastano, who was playing left field. Savastano made a running, leaping catch at the wall to take a two-run home run away from Collin Cowgill in the third inning.
  • The Rainiers only run scored on a homer by Guillermo Quiroz in the top of the third. Quiroz has three homers in just 27 at-bats this season.
  • Sacramento’s tough-luck loser was Fabio Castro, who pitched for Tacoma last year. He allowed one run in six innings, striking out 7.
  • Luis Jimenez left the game with a sprained left ankle. We should learn more about his condition later today.
  • Adam Moore had knee surgery yesterday, to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. It’s the same surgery Carlos Peguero had a week ago – he’s out for 4-6 weeks.
  • Matt Fox is missing his start today due to shoulder soreness. The team is hoping he only misses one or two turns.

Tonight’s game at Raley Field is the last game of the road trip, and the Rainiers can win the series and get a split of the road trip with a victory. Tacoma starts RHP Jarrett Grube (0-0, 0.00) against Sacramento RHP Travis Banwart (1-0, 7.04). First pitch is at 7:05 and you can catch the broadcast on 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story with a complete blow-by-blow of the dramatic 1-0 win.
  • The Sacramento paper has a feature on their hometown boy, Vinnie Catricala.
  • While the Rainiers hung on for a 1-0 win, the Mariners were trying to do the same – but their effort crumbled in the ninth.
  • It was the 38th time Felix Hernandez has gone seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs, and not won.
  • At Double-A Jackson, Danny Hultzen picked up his first professional win.
  • Hultzen ranks #2 on this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet, and… oh, no! A Mariner made the Not-So-Hot Sheet!
  • An off-the-radar kid named Steve Proscia hit three home runs for the Mariners High Desert affiliate last night.
  • Jason Churchill has his fingers and toes crossed while throwing salt over his shoulder, knocking on wood, and trying to get an overhead bird to target him as he hopes that high school outfielder Byron Buxton falls to the Mariners as the #3 pick in the draft. 
  • The Honus Wagner card sold for $1.2 million.
  • Some of my fellow RGs use different colored highlighters while keeping score. I think they’re crazy. I’m a one-ballpoint man, that’s the only way to go. Why make it so confusing?
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake’s four-game win streak came to a halt as Las Vegas topped the Bees, 8-4. Moises (Alou Ruben) Sierra hit his fourth homer for Vegas.
  • Tucson ended the five-game win streak that Colorado Springs had going. The Sky Sox made a bunch of errors.
  • Fresno withstood a two-homer, seven-RBI performance by Reno’s Randy Ruiz and the Grizzlies beat the Aces, 10-8. The Culbersons are the first father-son combination to play professionally in Fresno.
  • Nashville was swept in a doubleheader by visiting Oklahoma City. Brooks Conrad is with Nashville, trying to play his way back to the big leagues.
  • There is an excellent photo of Anthony Rizzo in this brief feature from Des Moines.
  • Skip Schumaker has been rehabbing with Memphis.

It’s 88 degrees here in Sacramento. Let’s see if the Rainiers can get some more great pitching and win this series. We’ll be home at Cheney Stadium tomorrow!


Rainiers Execute, Win In Extras

April 19, 2012

Tacoma played a clean, well-executed game on Wednesday to defeat the Sacramento River Cats in ten innings, 2-1.

The Rainiers are still not an offensive force, but they took advantage of the opportunities that they had on Wednesday.

After just three hits through six innings, the team was trailing 1-0.

Chih-Hsien Chiang and Johan Limonta hit back-to-back one-out singles to put runners at first and third. After Luis Rodriguez popped up, the pressure was on Triple-A rookie Brandon Bantz to drive the run in with two outs.

Chiang, the runner at third, knew the situation – he had to get home any way possible. When the fourth pitch to Bantz trickled away from the Sacramento catcher, Chiang lit out for the plate and scored the tying run. It was a bold move – the ball barely got away from the catcher – but the situation called for it, and it worked.

The tenth inning was textbook fundamental baseball: Luis Rodriguez doubled to right-center. Bantz put down a perfect sacrifice bunt, rolling one up the third base line so that Rodriguez could advance to third. Knowing he had to hit a fly ball to get the run home, Trayvon Robinson didn’t panic when he fell behind in the count 0-2, lifting a fly to right-center to drive in the winning run.

The pitching was excellent: Forrest Snow allowed one run on three hits in six innings, striking out eight. Sean Henn got the win, delivering his second straight outing of three innings, no runs. Josh Kinney nailed down the save, and the Rainiers three-game losing streak was over.

We return to night baseball this evening in Sacramento, with first pitch set for 7:05 PM. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Vasquez (2-0, 1.38) against Sacramento LHP Fabio Castro (1-0, 3.00). As always, you can catch the broadcast on 850 AM in Tcoma and streaming online right here.

Links:

It’s a gorgeous day in Sacramento – Sunny and 75. Should be a fun night at Raley Field.


Day Game Alert!

April 18, 2012

The Rainiers have a day game today, a 12:05 pm start in Sacramento. It’s our first mid-week day game of the season.

Last night the Rainiers offensive woes continued, as the club lost the opener in Sacramento, 5-1.

Tacoma has been held to 1 or 2 runs in four of the last five games. The team scored 11 runs once, and 15 another time – but in the other 11 games this year, the team is averaging 2.9 runs per game.

Yes, the pitching is definitely better in the PCL this year – from what we’ve seen, it’s miles ahead of last year – but it’s still a hitter’s league, and you’ve got to score some runs to win in this circuit.

Tacoma’s offensive problems are a result of injury: Carlos Peguero, Mike Wilson, and now Adam Moore, all on the shelf – and those are our 4-5-6 hitters in the lineup.

To throw a couple of positives out there: Mauricio Robles continues to take small steps forward. He was wild in the third inning last night, issuing three of his four walks in the frame, but he finished strong and got through five innings allowing two runs against a very tough lineup.

Cesar Jimenez had another solid outing, going two scoreless innings and dropping his ERA down to 0.96.

And finally, I had a ridiculous radio call – let’s talk about it.

With two outs in the inning, Jimenez got ahead of Wes Timmons, no balls two strikes. This is what came out of my mouth: “Runner at second, two outs… and the 0-2 pitch… fastball… … … bbppaaaa hahahaha!!!”

I couldn’t describe it. I could only laugh at the worst ball-strike call I have ever witnessed in person. It was such a bad call, it made me sound like an idiot on the air – not that I needed the help.

It wasn’t my view of the strike zone that made it a bad call – heck, I’m far enough away to not really know if it was in the zone.

It was the reaction of the players on the field.

Every single player on the diamond saw the pitch, and took at least one step toward their dugout.

All nine Rainiers on the field stepped toward the first base dugout – even the outfielders. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz took two or three steps; there was an unusual moment when only the plate umpire was still at the dish.

That’s because both the batter and the Sacramento runner at second base also leaned towards their own dugout. Everyone on the field thought the inning was over.

There was an awkward moment – a pause, a deep breath in the game if you will – and then play resumed. Credit to Jimenez for bearing down, getting Timmons to fly out, and not letting it bother him.

I’m not naming the umpire or anything because it doesn’t matter. All umps miss calls, it’s part of the game – the human element! – but this was such an unusual sight, seeing both teams act like the inning was over.

Today’s game is at 12:05 and you can hear it on 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Forrest Snow (0-2, 10.13) against Sacramento RHP Brad Peacock (1-1, 1.50). Peacock is considered one of Oakland’s top prospects.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners blew a huge lead and lost a game that Geoff Baker called a “head-scratcher.”
  • Eric Wedge comments on Mike Carp’s rehab in this notebook.
  • Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to win a game. Thanks for making me feel young, Jamie!
  • In the PCL, Ryan Langerhans had a game winning double in the bottom of the ninth as Salt Lake beat Las Vegas, 3-2.
  • Andrew Brown is heating up, and Colorado Springs defeated Tucson, 8-1. In this story: Sky Sox reliever Edgmer Escalona was called up by the Rockies.
  • Eric Hacker is back in Fresno and the right-hander always seems to win there – he went seven scoreless innings and improved to 3-0 in a win over Reno last night. At 10-3, the Grizzlies are off to their best start in franchise history. Hey look – Justin Christian didn’t get any hits!
  • Round Rock got a strong start from Neil Ramirez and beat Omaha, 4-2.
  • The New Orleans pitching staff is becoming a story – they dropped their ERA to 1.99 after a 3-1 win at Memphis yesterday.
  • Albuquerque blasted Iowa 13-6. Scott Van Slyke and Alex Castellanos had three hits apiece.
  • Oklahoma City was rained out in Nashville. They’ll play two on Thursday.
  • For entertainment purposes only: Grant Brisbee found a foreign website with amazing descriptions of the MLB replica jerseys they are selling.

My caffeine IV is inserted – time to head to ballpark!


Tough Losses

April 17, 2012

The Rainiers had a rough Monday in Fresno.

They lost a tough game, 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth inning due to costly mistakes. Then they lost catcher Adam Moore.

Moore felt pain in his right knee while leaving the batters box when he hit a grounder in the first inning. He left the game at the end of the inning.

Moore is flying to Seattle to get it checked out. It’s the same knee he had surgery on that cost him the 2011 season. Hopefully its nothing serious.

The game was tough, too. Tacoma had eight hits in the first four innings, but managed to score only two runs. Tacoma kept hitting line drive rockets off Fresno starter Brian Burres – and the liners went right at defensive players. I had five lineouts marked on my scorecard.

Still, the Rainiers had a 2-1 lead at the seventh inning stretch, thanks to some outstanding pitching by Jeff Marquez. In his finest outing of the year, Marquez went six innings and gave up one run on four hits. He threw 89 pitches and 60 were strikes.

Fresno tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out, two-strike RBI single by Justin Christian. Christian went 10-for-16 in the series and is batting .548 on the season. Thank goodness the Rainiers don’t have to deal with him anymore. Whoops! Fresno comes to Tacoma on Saturday, and we’ll be seeing more of this guy.

Then came the bottom of the ninth. Chance Ruffin got the first two hitters out, bringing up Todd Linden. Linden hit a hard, hooking line drive a bit towards the right of center field. Trayvon Robinson gave chase, dived, and just missed it. Linden ended up with a triple.

Then things just got weird. With two outs and a runner at third, Eli Whiteside bunted. It was a bad bunt – Ruffin picked it up quickly, turned to throw to first and end the inning – and his throw was high and wide, pulling Scott Savastano off the first base bag. Whiteside was safe, Linden scored, game over.

It worked and won the game, but I still have no idea why Whiteside was trying to bunt for a hit with two outs and the winning runner at third.

After the game we bussed to Sacramento, arriving at 2:00 AM. The team was in good spirits despite the tough loss – that’s a good sign, they’ll shake this off no problem.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:05 pm at Sacramento’s Raley Field, and the broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming right here. Tacoma starts LHP Mauricio Robles (0-0, 4.15) while Sacramento’s starter is TBA. The River Cats are going to make a roster move before the game to get a pitcher active.

This won’t be an easy series – Sacramento, like Fresno, is 9-3 on the year. The River Cats have been getting great pitching lately. Hot hitters include Michael Taylor (.413-1-11) and Brandon Moss (.355-2-6). The Rainiers will not have to face top prospect Jarrod Parker in the series – he won last night – but Tacoma is slated to face another prospect, Brad Peacock, tomorrow.

Links: 

It’s a new day, and a new opponent. The Rainiers have historically played well at Raley Field. Let’s see if that can continue.


Blackley Shuts Down Rainiers

April 16, 2012

Former Rainiers and Mariners left-hander Travis Blackley shut down Tacoma on Sunday afternoon, 7-1.

Blackley went 5.1 innings and gave up just one hit – a Carlos Triunfel homer in the fourth inning.

The Rainiers radar gun had Blackley topping out at 92 mph, and Fresno pitching coach Pat Rice told me that he’s been 90-94 all spring.

Rice also said that Blackley feels like pitching a lot has strengthened his arm. Blackley was a starter in Korea last year, and then continued to pitch in the Australian Winter League where he worked deep into games.

The amazing thing is that he’s only 29 years old. Blackley was a pup of just 21 when he pitched for Tacoma and Seattle in 2004.

He is completely recovered from the shoulder problems that plagued him years ago, and he is older and wiser. Always one of the more outgoing and friendly players in the game, there are a lot of people pulling for him to get another shot at the majors.

Maybe it will happen this year.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it’s the final game of the Fresno series. Tacoma needs to win tonight to salvage a split. The Rainiers send RHP Jeff Marquez (1-0, 9.00) to the mound against veteran LHP Brian Burres (0-1, 8.10). The broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming online right here.

After the game, the Rainiers go to Sacramento in a rare PCL bus trip. It’s about a three-hour drive.

Links:

  • Here’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, in which I wrote about Travis Blackley and Carlos Triunfel.
  • The Rainiers aren’t the only team that can’t get Fresno outfielder Justin Christian out. The PCL’s leading hitter is batting .553, and he’s 8-for-12 against Tacoma.
  • It was nice to see former Rainiers pitcher Blake Beavan pick up his first win of the season in the Mariners 5-3 win yesterday.
  • Justin Smoak had a much-needed big game, John McGrath writes.
  • Brendan Ryan connected for his first career home run at Safeco Field. Reporters must love this guy.
  • Geoff Baker writes that the Mariners don’t appear to be serious about trying Jesus Montero at catcher.
  • Jason Churchill has an interesting piece on the next Mariners closer.
  • USS Mariner has its first Minor League Wrap of the season. These are always really long and contain some good information.
  • On the business side of things, respected sports business writer Maury Brown says that the Mariners are positioned for a sale – although he is quick to point out that they are not for sale.
  • Baseball America has a scouting report on a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder named Hersin Martinez whom the Mariners just signed to a big bonus.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento edged Reno, 3-1. Looks like the Rainiers are going to miss top prospect Jarrod Parker in the series that starts tomorrow.
  • Salt Lake outfielder Mike Trout is scorching hot. He’s hit safely in all 11 games and is batting .417 – and a local columnist says you better see him while you can. Trout is blazing fast – he went first to home on a single (video).
  • Bees pitcher Garrett Richards continues to impress.
  • Las Vegas got snowed out in Colorado Springs – they’ll try to play two today.
  • Nashville reliever Jim Henderson hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the 13th inning against New Orleans.
  • In another 13 inning game, Round Rock toppled Iowa, 11-10. Brad Nelson had a big game, and it ended on a Matt Kata sacrifice fly.
  • Party on Beale Street – the Memphis Redbirds won a baseball game!

This is a big early season game tonight. Fresno is good – they’re 8-3, and they have the hottest hitter in the league. A split here would be a fine accomplishment.


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