Shuttered

June 30, 2012

Seattle Mariners fans are very aware that their team has struggled to score runs in the last three years.

Here at Triple-A Tacoma, we usually don’t have this problem. Tacoma teams have scored plenty of runs in recent seasons, and even this year’s club is out-scoring five other teams in the PCL.

Yesterday, however, runs were very scarce in the upper levels of the Mariners system:

  • The Mariners were shut out on just two hits by the Red Sox.
  • Tacoma had just four hits and lost to Las Vegas, 4-0.
  • Double-A Jackson was held to five hits in a 6-1 loss to Pensacola.

The top three teams combined for one run and 11 hits last night.

I’m calling “fluke” on all three teams getting shut down simultaneously. It could be worse – the Dodgers just got shut out for an entire three-game series by the Giants, and they were in first place before that happened!

Las Vegas ended up winning the series, two games to one. Now the Rainiers will host a struggling Fresno team that has lost nine of its last 11 games.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and the broadcast will be on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (2-3, 3.70) against Fresno RHP Eric Hacker (10-3, 4.37). Hacker was elected to the PCL all-star team and he leads the league in wins – but he’s been hit hard in his last two starts.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune focuses on the shutout. Don’t worry, writer Doug Pacey is joking about moving in the fences – while they are not as tall as they were two years ago, the fences haven’t moved since 1960.
  • Larry LaRue writes that the Mariners are now hitting below the Mendoza line as a team at Safeco Field. After the game, manager Eric Wedge was a little angry.
  • The Mariners placed Franklin Gutierrez on the new 7-day concussion disabled list, and called up Steve Delabar from Tacoma.
  • Mariners announcer Ken Levine wrote an outstanding blog post on Vin Scully.
  • Larry Stone caught up with former Mariners pitcher Mark Langston.
  • In the PCL, Cole Gillespie hit three home runs including a grand slam and had eight RBI in Reno’s 11-3 dousing of Fresno. Also, the Aces and Diamondbacks extended their Player Development Contract through 2016.
  • Sacramento ended Salt Lake’s five-game winning streak with a ten-inning, 1-0 victory. Eric Sogard had the game-winning hit.
  • Tucson lost to Colorado Springs despite adding a rehabilitating Jeremy Hermida to the lineup. In the notes: the Padres are expected to call up Yasmani Grandal and send down Nick Hundley.
  • The Round Rock Express have been getting shut out recently, too.
  • Memphis slugger Matt Adams went deep twice in the Redbirds 9-5 victory over Albuquerque.
  • Josh Vitters homered in Iowa’s 7-0 win over Oklahoma City.
  • Omaha received six sloppy yet shutout innings from veteran starter Doug Davis.
  • I don’t know about the fans, but everyone working in Minor League Baseball loves a good tarp-pulling story. If that includes you, check out this one from an independent league in the Midwest, in which half of the team’s front office gets buried under the tarp.

Let’s see if the Rainiers can get hot against a struggling Fresno club.


Hultzen vs. Moyer Recap

June 29, 2012

What a night.

The Danny Hultzen vs. Jamie Moyer battle brought a sellout crowd to Cheney Stadium on Thursday night. It was a true sellout, people were turned away at the gate and some folks stood on the Foss hill and watched the early innings from what would be the right field bleachers at Safeco.

It was pointed out that this was the first game in years to sell out at Cheney Stadium strictly for the baseball. There were no fireworks, it was not a holiday, there was no huge company that bought 3,000 tickets – it was 7,435 baseball fans, intrigued by the pitching match-up.

The crowd was into it – Moyer received a standing ovation when he walked in from the left field bullpen prior to the national anthem, and the crowd hung on every Danny Hultzen pitch.

The results were not good for the home team. Hultzen needed 90 pitches to make it through four innings, and that was it for him – he allowed one run and left with a 3-1 lead.

Luis Jimenez and Adam Moore hit early homers off Moyer, but the Ancient Mariner settled down and lasted five innings.

Moyer ended up earning the win, because the Tacoma bullpen – which has been the strength of the team all season long – blew up. Vegas scored ten runs against the Rainiers relief trio of Steven Hensley, Steve Delabar, and Brian Moran. Vegas won it, 11-4.

That’s all I’m going to write about the game – there are a lot of excellent stories about the game, written by professional sportswriters who are far better at their craft than I. Please peruse the links down below.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it’s Friday Night Fireworks post-game. Tacoma wins the series with a victory. The Rainiers start RHP Brian Sweeney (3-1, 4.62) against Las Vegas RHP Sean O’Sullivan (1-0, 0.00). Of course the broadcast is on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

One roster move to report today: catcher Brandon Bantz was activated from the disabled list and transferred to Class-A High Desert. Bantz is healthy, but there was no playing time available with Moore and Guillermo Quiroz here. He filled in very nicely when Moore was on the disabled list, and I’m sure we’ll see him again down the road. In High Desert, he’ll get an opportunity to play.

Links:

  • We’ll start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, written by Todd Milles.
  • Larry Stone of the Seattle Times was in attendance, and he wrote an excellent column about the pitching match-up, and the nature of Triple-A baseball. << read this one!
  • Stone also live-blogged the game, and he posted post-game thoughts and quotes.
  • Check out these side-by-side photographs of Moyer and Hultzen.
  • John McGrath enjoyed the duel, but thought that it kind of fizzled out.
  • Ryan Divish posted video of the post-game press conferences of Hultzen and Daren Brown. At the two-minute mark, Hultzen talks about how much more disciplined Triple-A hitters are than Double-A hitters. This is why players don’t go straight from AA to the majors.
  • You know it is a major media event when Art Thiel shows up – here is his report. Read this one, too – he called the match-up a “baseball wormhole of time travel.”
  • The mysterious marc w of USS Mariner was at the game, and he posted a report that includes a fantastic photo of Hultzen. Comment #2 at the bottom is one of those win-the-internet quips.
  • The Rainiers game somehow overshadowed Felix Hernandez facing the Red Sox – but that one turned out to be the better game. Felix was absolutely dominant, striking out 13 Red Sox in a five-hit shutout. 
  • Kevin Millwood says he’s not going to miss a start.
  • Baseball America broke down the rosters of the Triple-A All-Star Game.
  • In the PCL, Reno had three starters voted to the all-star game. All are deserving, too.
  • Fresno downed Reno, 11-8. The Grizzlies pulled within 1.5 games of first place Sacramento.
  • Salt Lake continued its hot play by crushing Sacramento, 10-3.
  • Tucson reliever Brad Boxberger is trying to throw more strikes. Aren’t we all?
  • Iowa left a million runners on base and lost to Oklahoma City, 3-1. We feel your pain, Iowa Cubs.
  • Memphis had a bullpen blow-up and lost to Albuquerque, 10-8. We feel your pain, Memphis Redbirds.
  • My favorite headline writer was on duty for the Austin newspaper last night. Express Beat Sounds.
  • Omaha starter Matt Montgomery allowed 11 runs in 1.1 innings yesterday.

Back to the ballpark for the rubber match of the series. Let’s win a rubber match!


Rainiers Win Opening Act

June 28, 2012

In the calm before the storm, Blake Beavan rolled through six strong innings and Tacoma beat Las Vegas on Wednesday night, 4-1.

On the eve of the much-anticipated Danny Hultzen vs. Jamie Moyer match-up, Beavan reminded Rainiers fans why he was also a first round pick, and in fact is considerably more experienced than Hultzen and in front of him for a MLB call-up right now.

Beavan limited Las Vegas to five hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out three, keeping his fastball down and showing a strong change-up.

In his last two games, Beavan has allowed two runs in 13 innings, and that has come against Reno and Las Vegas – the top two offenses in the PCL in terms of both batting average and runs scored.

Tacoma – which ended a three-game losing streak – scored all four of its runs on two-out rallies.

Luis Rodriguez factored heavily for the Rainiers. On his 32nd birthday, the MLB-ready utilityman hit a game-tying home on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the second inning, making it 1-1.

In the fourth, Rodriguez pulled a 3-2 pitch into left field for a two-out RBI single, giving Tacoma a 2-1 lead.

Moments later, with Vinnie Catricala at third, Rodriguez broke for second base after a pitch, Catricala scampered home when the catcher threw to second, and Tacoma took a 3-1 lead on a delayed double steal. It was the first time the Rainiers have pulled off that move this season.

Carlos Peguero also had a nice game, collecting two hits including a two-out RBI single in the fifth.

Tacoma’s bullpen of Chance Ruffin, Bobby LaFromboise, and Scott Patterson each delivered a shutout inning.

The PCL announced its All-Star team today, and the Rainiers had two players selected.

Luis Jimenez was voted in as the stating designated hitter. Jimenez is batting .325 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI. He has drawn 44 walks (against just 49 strikeouts) and has posted an on-base percentage of .421.

Guillermo Quiroz was selected as the reserve catcher. Quiroz is having a breakthrough season offensively, hitting .325 with nine home runs and 28 RBI. He has a .423 on-base percentage, and his OPS of .988 is tops on the team.

Congratulations to Luis and Q – the Rainiers will be well-represented in Buffalo on July 11. Let’s kick some International League backside!

Tonight’s game is at 7:05. You may have heard this already, but Tacoma is starting LHP Danny Hultzen (0-1, 15.00) against former Mariners legend Jamie Moyer (0-0, 0.00). The broadcast will be on South Sound Sports 850 AM, streaming online right here, and also there will be an online telecast streaming for MiLB.TV subscribers.

Links:

  • We’ll start with the Rainiers game story, by The News Tribune’s TJ Cotterill.
  • For those who missed it, a re-link to yesterday’s John McGrath preview of the Moyer vs. Hultzen match-up.
  • Even the Seattle Weekly is excited about tonight’s Rainiers game.
  • The Mariners suffered another frustrating loss yesterday. Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood strained his groin again – if he can’t make his next start, who will replace him?
  • In the PCL, Adam Eaton and Jake Elmore each had three hits in Reno’s 6-3 win over Fresno. Elmore talked about his hitting streak, which ended on Monday at 31 games.
  • Salt Lake kept up its hot play, winning at Sacramento last night 7-2.
  • Tucson topped Colorado Springs, 6-4, as Anthony Contreras continued to hit well for the Padres.
  • Rehabilitating Lorenzo Cain and not-long-for-the-PCL Wil Myers each homered in Omaha’s 8-5 win over New Orleans. I talked to a scout yesterday who said Myers is the best hitting prospect he’s seen this year – here’s a big Baseball America feature on Myers.
  • Memphis hit some homers to support starter Shelby Miller, who had a much-needed strong outing against Albuquerque.
  • Iowa’s pitching staff took a beating in a 10-6 loss to Oklahoma City. Mike Hessman homered twice – that’s 23 this year, and 354 career minor league HRs for Hessman.
  • Nashville shut out Round Rock 4-0 behind the pitching of Wily Peralta and the two-homer bat of Dayton Buller.
  • Did you see Mike Trout‘s amazing catch yesterday? Jeff Sullivan breaks it down.

I always look forward to the games – but this one really should be interesting tonight. I’m pulling for a Hultzen 1-0 win over Moyer, on a Mike Wilson home run.


Home Safely

June 27, 2012

The Rainiers flew home safely today, after last night’s game in Colorado Springs was postponed due to the Waldo Canyon fire.

The ballpark is far away from the fire, but smoke and ash blew into the stadium from a stiff wind that wrecked havoc on the west side of Colorado Springs.

Our team hotel is on the west side – we were about a mile-and-a-half from the edge of the evacuation zone. From the hotel parking lot, we could see flames in the foothills – areas that we know were residential.

Travelling for years in the PCL, I’ve gotten to know a few staff members on each of the teams. Many of them left the stadium yesterday with serious concerns about the safety of their homes - we wish them the best.

Today, it’s back to baseball for the Rainiers. The Las Vegas 51s come to town, bringing top prospect Anthony Gose, Mill Creek native Travis Snider, former Rainiers infielder Chris Woodward, and… the Ancient Mariner himself, Jamie Moyer.

Moyer is rumored to be starting Thursday’s game, against Danny Hultzen. Moyer just signed his contract, and apparently he must pass a physical before he is solidified as tomorrow’s starter. If Jamie Moyer isn’t in the 99th percentile of physical fitness for a 49-year-old, I don’t know who is.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and the Rainiers will send RHP Blake Beavan (1-0, 3.00) to the mound against Las Vegas LHP Bill Murphy (3-2, 5.44). As always the broadcast will be on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Links:

It’s great to be back in Tacoma – a seven-game homestand starts tonight.


Tuesday’s Game Postponed

June 26, 2012

The final game in Colorado Springs was postponed when smoke and ash from nearby forest fires blew into Security Service Field.

Rather than risk the health of players and fans, the teams will make up the game when Tacoma returns to Colorado Springs in late July.

Tacoma will be home on Wednesday. Blake Beavan starts Wednesday, and Danny Hultzen is still slated for Thursday.


Oy, The Humidity!

June 26, 2012

The Colorado Springs Sky Sox made big news in the PCL this past off-season, when the Rockies announced that they would install a baseball humidor at Security Service Field – identical to the one at Coors Field.

So far, it appears to be working. Colorado Springs needed it more than the Rockies – we’re over 6,500 feet above sea level here. Scoring has been down in the Springs – although part of that is definitely due to an improved Sky Sox pitching staff.

The scores of the first three games in this series have been normal baseball scores: 8-4, 5-1, and 5-4. Tacoma has not homered yet in this series, while the Sky Sox have hit two.

On Sunday, I was hanging out in the press box 30 minutes before the game when Sky Sox Assistant GM Mike Hobson said something about it being time to “get the baseballs out of the humidor.” I tagged along.

Here is the humidor – it just looks like a walk-in fridge.

Only three people have the key to the humidor

Hobson grabbed one of the umpires to watch him remove the balls from the humidor. Apparently, MLB teams have wanted an impartial eye on the process in Colorado, to make sure that humid baseballs were being used by both teams. The PCL is following the same guidelines.

Inside are shelves full of boxed baseballs.

There are two of these shelves, full of baseballs.

The controls are set at 70 degrees, and 60% humidity. A date is marked on each box, signifying when it was placed in the humidor.

Baseballs are removed from the humidor and rubbed with mud, then placed back in the humidor for at least another 48 hours prior to being used in a game.

Boxes of balls are tracked – when they were placed in the humidor, and when they were rubbed with mud.

The humidor is not only used for baseballs.

Cigars – in case Colorado Springs makes the playoffs for the first time in decades.

We’ll check in on the stats in Colorado Springs when the Rainiers next come here – late July – and then again at the end of the season. Right now its a small sample size, but the humidor seems to be working: there have been an average of 10.7 runs per game in Colorado Springs this year, compared to 15.8 runs per game last year.

Lots of people are asking when Danny Hultzen pitches in Tacoma. He is still set for Thursday night against Las Vegas.

If the Rainiers stay in rotation after Thursday, Hultzen’s next start will be July 3rd, the same night as the Rainiers annual Fireworks Extravaganza. This game always sells out – but it is not sold out yet! I advise you to get your tickets soon if you want to come out to this one. 

Tonight’s game is at 6:05 pm (Pacific), and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (1-0, 3.00) against Sky Sox RHP Rob Scahill (5-8, 5.96). Despite those ugly stats, Scahill leads all PCL starters in strikeouts per nine innings (84 K’s in 74 innings).

Links:

OK, let’s try to get out of here with a win. Avoid the sweep and return home tomorrow.


Carraway Stranded In The Springs

June 25, 2012

The Rainiers dropped one in Colorado Springs on Sunday, getting 12 baserunners in the first six innings against top Rockies pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz, only to be held to one run in a 5-1 defeat.

Tacoma wasted a strong starting pitching performance from Andrew Carraway, who quickly and quietly recorded out after out. Through seven innings, he had allowed three runs but thrown only 73 pitches.

Carraway got hit with another run in the eighth and did not officially have a “Quality Start,” but it was another good outing. He took the loss and is now 2-3 despite a solid 3.70 ERA.

Tacoma finished the game with ten hits (nine singles and a double), five walks, and one batter reaching on an error. That’s 16 baserunners! One scored, two were thrown out at home plate, and 13 were left on base. Oooofff.

The Rainiers have scored five runs on 19 hits over the first two games in Colorado Springs. I’m expecting an offensive onslaught shortly.

We have early baseball for you on Monday: first pitch from Colorado Springs is set for 11:35 AM, and you can hear the game on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jarrett Grube (0-4, 9.34) against Sky Sox RHP Carlos Torres (3-4, 4.59).

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • From the Colorado Springs paper, a report on Sky Sox starter Drew Pomeranz.
  • The Mariners were shut out in San Diego, and they struggled in interleague play.
  • Dustin Ackley has been slumping, but Eric Wedge is going to stick with him.
  • Sad news: San Diego Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds passed away at the age of 50, due to pancreatic cancer. I worked with Akerfelds at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, he was a great guy. He was a starting pitcher for the Tacoma Tigers in 1986 and 1987.
  • If you are into baseball history and Americana, you will enjoy Rob Neyer’s post about his annual road trip.
  • In the PCL, Trevor Bauer was lifted early and Salt Lake up-ended Reno, 5-3. Could Bauer be on his way to the big leagues? Are they really going to have him make his big league debut on three days rest? Does anyone else think this is crazy?*
  • Sacramento walked all over Las Vegas. Toronto called up Adam Lind, who was batting nearly .400 for Vegas. Who is the highest-paid player in the PCL now?
  • Tucson topped Fresno on a two-run double by Anthony Contreras in the ninth inning. In the story: the ferris wheel at Chukchansi Park has disappeared, and nobody is saying why. Was it stolen?
  • Former Rainiers slugger Brad Nelson launched a grand slam to lead Round Rock to a 5-2 win at Iowa. Nelson has homered in consecutive games.
  • Memphis slugger Matt Adams hit two homers off the levee at Zephyr Field, and the Redbirds crushed New Orleans.
  • Left-hander Doug Davis always wins in Oklahoma City.

Coming tomorrow, when we have a night game and I’ll finally have some time during the day to work on this blog properly: photos of the baseball humidor in Colorado Springs!

* spoken by someone who just saw Danny Hultzen make his Triple-A debut on three days rest.


Hultzen, Rainiers Fizzle

June 24, 2012

Danny Hultzen’s Triple-A debut sputtered out on Saturday night, as the lefty was wild and Tacoma lost in Colorado Springs, 8-4.

Hultzen just couldn’t hit his spots – and he was not close to them, either. He lasted three innings, allowing five runs on five hits, five walks, and a wild pitch. He got a little unlucky on bloop hits in the three-run first inning, but he can’t control that – that’s baseball.

The control problems are worth some concern – he threw only 41 of 81 pitches for strikes.

However, I’m willing to cut him some slack, for the following reasons:

  • Nerves surrounding Triple-A debut
  • Fatigue from a very long travel day
  • High elevation of Colorado Springs
  • Humidor baseballs are not what he’s used to

The way I look at the schedule, I see his next four starts all falling on home dates. Let’s revisit Hultzen after a few starts at sea level.

On the positive side, I’m glad that he got that start out of the way on the road. Now he can settle in at home – after the game, manager Daren Brown confirmed that Hultzen’s next scheduled start will be Thursday at Cheney Stadium, as long as nothing unexpected happens.

Don’t hang this loss entirely on Hultzen. The Rainiers seemed to show fatigue as the game went on – to the point that Carlos Triunfel, who has been remarkable defensively for weeks now, made two costly errors after Hultzen left, leading to a pair of unearned runs. Triunfel had made just one error in his prior 22 games.

Tacoma hitters sputtered down the stretch, managing just one single over the final four innings.

The team should be rested for Sunday’s 12:05 (Pacific) game, which will be broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (2-2, 3.51) against top Rockies prospect LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-4, 2.61). Pomeranz delivered six no-hit innings against Salt Lake in his last start.

Carraway has been outstanding for Tacoma. Could we get a pitcher’s duel in 95 degree heat in Colorado Springs? Crazier things have happened, I suppose.

Links:

  • For all of the details on Danny Hultzen’s debut, with reaction from Rainiers manager Daren Brown and pitching coach Dwight Bernard, check out the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • My weekly Minor League Notebook for the paper is about the downturn in scoring in the PCL, and an offense-oriented Mariners infielder who just got promoted.
  • Felix Hernandez tossed a gem and hit a two-run double in the Mariners win last night.
  • John McGrath writes that when it comes time to retire, Ichiro should emulate Edgar Martinez.
  • At the Times, Larry Stone’s Sunday baseball package includes a look at the Mariners with the trade deadline a month away, a notebook leading off with an amazing Adam Dunn stat, power rankings, and thumbs.
  • In the PCL, Reno is in first place, and the Aces are winning with home-grown talent. Geoff Blum hit a grand slam in Reno’s 12-4 win at Salt Lake last night – and Jake Elmore’s hitting streak reached 30 games.
  • Sacramento slugger Chris Carter returned home to Las Vegas and saw his Cats lose, 7-2.
  • Freno pulled within a half-game of first place Sacramento by beating Tucson, 4-3, Brett Pill hit a pair of homers and Freno RG Doug Greenwald got the all-star game assignment.
  • Houston Astros starter Bud Norris was sharp on a rehabilitation assignment and Oklahoma City defeated Omaha, 4-3.
  • New Orleans knocked off Memphis 4-2 after Matt Dominguez launched a three-run bomb in the seventh inning.
  • Nashville went to the moon Albuquerque and hit five home runs – two by Sean Halton, who once played summer ball for the Bellingham Bells.
  • Lots of speculation in Chicago that PCL home run leader Anthony Rizzo will be called up by the Cubs on Tuesday. Former Rainiers slugger Bryan LaHair has had a diminished role lately…

That’s it for today,off to the ballpark!


Hultzen’s Day

June 23, 2012

Today Danny Hultzen makes his Triple-A debut, pitching for Tacoma at Colorado Springs on Saturday at 5:05 pm (Pacific time). Here are some quick Hultzen facts:

  • second player chosen in the 2011 draft, from the University of Virginia
  • started his pro career this season at Double-A Jackson
  • went 8-3 while leading the Southern League with a 1.19 ERA
  • gave up just 38 hits in 75.1 innings – opponents batted .151 against him
  • allowed just two home runs
  • did not allow a run in his last 26.2 innings pitched
  • starting pitcher in the Southern League All-Star game

Hultzen joined the Rainiers on Wednesday night and watched the Reno series from the dugout (or the stands if he was charting pitches). Now he’ll finally take the mound in a Rainiers uniform, starting on Saturday.

Let’s take a look at what Hultzen did, leading up to his Triple-A debut.

Friday:

10:30 pm – watch final out of Rainiers 6-4 win over Reno 

11:15 pm - arrive at team hotel, pack for road trip

midnight – go to bed (I hope by midnight!)

Saturday:

4:30 AM – wake up, shower, meet team at Cheney Stadium

5:30 AM – team bus leaves Cheney for SeaTac airport

7:30 AM – flight leaves SeaTac for Denver

11:10 AM (Mountain time) – arrive at Denver airport

11:30 AM - hold breath while hoping personal luggage arrives

Noon - get on team bus for 90-minute drive to Colorado Springs

1:30 PM – arrive at team hotel in Colorado Springs, check into room.

1:45 PM – eat or nap? That is the question.

3:00 PM – take bus to Security Service Field

3:20 PM – arrive in clubhouse, dress, prepare for start

6:05 PM (Mountain) – make Triple-A debut after long travel day in the highest-elevation professional ballpark in the country

That’s if everything goes off on time with no delays! Welcome to Triple-A, kid.

One other thing to consider: the Rainiers will be playing their first game at Colorado Springs with their new humid baseballs. I have no idea how this changes things – it’s supposed to help keep the scores down; we’ll see. I’ll be asking pitchers about it all series.

Tonight’s game is at 5:05 Pacific, and it will be broadcast live on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. The pre-game show starts at 4:50. If you are a subscriber, video with the Sky Sox radio broadcast over it should be available on MiLB.TV.  The Sky Sox did not name a starter for the game – I guess we’ll find out who it is when we get to the ballpark.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from Friday’s 6-4 win over Reno. That’s two in a row, baby!
  • The Mariners lost in San Diego, although Franklin Gutierrez went 4-for-5 with a homer.
  • Nationally, everyone keeps wondering if the Mariners should trade Felix Hernandez. Finally, we have a website that covers this important issue as thoroughly as possible. Click on http://www.shouldthemarinerstradefelixhernandez.com/ for all of the answers.

Sorry, that’s it for today – I couldn’t get to all of the links because my itinerary is similar to Hultzen’s.


It’s Over! (and managing expectations)

June 22, 2012

Tacoma ended its long losing streak to Reno on Thursday night, defeating the Aces by a final score of 9-1. Tacoma had lost its last 16 games against Reno.

The game was much closer than the final score indicates.

Vinnie Catricala hit a two-out, two-run single in the first, and Carlos Triunfel ripped a two-run homer in the fourth. Mike Jacobs hit a solo homer in the fifth for Reno, making it 4-1.

Blake Beavan really pitched a nice game. He escaped a jam in the first with help from nice defensive plays by Catricala and Nick Franklin, and Beavan got a big double play grounder to escape a sticky jam in the seventh, when Reno loaded them up with nobody out and didn’t score.

Tacoma broke it open in the bottom of the eighth with a five-run rally.

The big blow was a confusing play with Franklin at the plate. He was up with two on and two out, and he drove a pitch to deep right field. The right fielder went to the wall, jumped, and just missed catching it – the ball hit the top of the fence, and bounced back onto the field.

Franklin stopped at second base, thinking it was a live ball. Right fielder Adam Eaton picked up the ball, and heaved it in the general direction of the infield – and it went into the third base dugout.

At that point the base umpire pointed Franklin home, and Nick advanced around third and touched home.

I was watching the replay in the booth, and it really looked like the ball hit the top of the fence, bounced off a tree branch behind the fence, and came back onto the field. I thought it was a homer – and so did others on press row who saw the replay, including Reno announcer Ryan Radtke. We thought that when the umpire waved Franklin in, it was because he was ruling “home run.”

It wasn’t until after the game that it was confirmed by the umpires that they saw it as a live ball, a double, and a throw into the dugout for an error, advancing Franklin two more bases.

There is no replay review allowed in Triple-A baseball. Had this been a Major League game, they would have looked at the replay and perhaps ruled it a homer – although I must say the video wasn’t totally conclusive, so who knows what would have happened? What I saw was the ball hit the top of the fence, and then change directions one more time before bouncing onto the field – so I figure it had to hit something behind the fence.

Oh well, whatever. Franklin hit it hard, runs scored, and the Rainiers won! We’ll take it.

Franklin was 1-for-4 with a double, a walk, three strikeouts, a run, and two RBI in his Triple-A debut.

Franklin arrived in town with a bit of hype, and I want to have a brief talk about expectations.

As you know, I’ve been watching these Triple-A baseball games for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of good hitters come up from Double-A, play in Tacoma for a while, and eventually establish themselves in the majors.

One of the things I have learned is this: it is very, very rare for a hitter to come up from Double-A and immediately start crushing Triple-A pitching. It just doesn’t happen much.

The list of Rainiers who struggled upon first seeing Triple-A pitching is long: Adam Jones (.229 for his first two months). Shin-Soo Choo (.252 after four months). Mike Morse (.253 after two months, got called up anyway). Asdrubal Cabrera (hit .236 and got traded). Many, many more – you can look at Catricala on this year’s club for an example.

Two recent exceptions to the rule: when Kyle Seager first arrived in Tacoma, he couldn’t make an out if he tried. Dustin Ackley was quite consistent upon arrival in Tacoma, keeping his average right around .275 from the start.

My point is don’t place too high of an expectation on Franklin right away. Triple-A is often the first time that hitters see pitchers who are able to command breaking pitches within the strike zone, and this takes some getting used to.

He can get off to a slow start and still turn out to be an excellent hitter – it’s happened many time before.

We have a roster move today: the Rainiers have added left-handed reliever Brian Moran from Double-A Jackson. He replaces Jeff Marquez on the active roster – Marquez was placed on the disabled list with a staph infection.

Moran was 1-2 with a 1.14 ERA in 24 games for Jackson. He pitched 31.2 innings and allowed 30 hits and five unintentional walks while striking out 29.

Moran pitched at the University of North Carolina where he was teammates with current Mariners Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley.

Tonight’s series finale is at 7:05, and the Rainiers can earn a series split (with Reno!) with a victory. The broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Brian Sweeney (2-1, 4.53) against Reno RHP Charles Brewer (3-4, 5.50). Brewer just finished serving a 10-game suspension for doctoring baseballs with a foreign substance, which is some good ammo for any hecklers coming to the game. It’s Friday Night Fireworks right after the final out.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners were off, but Ryan Divish filed a nice story on reliever Oliver Perez, who was recently called up by the Mariners. It will make you root for the guy.
  • Larry Stone asks the question: who will be the Mariners all-star(s)?
  • Let’s take that further: who will be Tacoma’s all-stars? I think Luis Jimenez has a chance to win the voting and start at the DH position. Guillermo Quiroz might be asked to go as a reserve catcher, Luis Rodriguez and Carlos Triunfel could be considered as reserve infielders. On the pitching side, really only Josh Kinney makes sense.
  • Alex Liddi makes an appearance on this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • I, for one, would enjoy a “That’s A Clown Question, Bro” t-shirt.
  • Former Rainiers left-hander Travis Blackley had his best major league game yesterday. In the notes, catch up on Oakland’s daily round of transactions – it was a light day, only four roster moves.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento added pitching prospect Dan Straily from Double-A, and he tossed seven shutout innings in his Triple-A debut to beat Fresno. Brandon Hicks hit a grand slam – he has homered in four straight games, and he has 18 RBI in his last seven games.
  • Travis Snider hit another crucial home run to help Las Vegas defeat Tucson.
  • The Sky Sox – who Tacoma plays tomorrow – beat Salt Lake last night, 9-5.
  • Round Rock starter Martin Perez pitched a complete game using just 90 pitches and the Express beat Iowa, 6-2. Joey Butler robbed Anthony Rizzo of a home run.
  • Nashville is adding top Brewers starting pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg from Double-A – he has an unusual style. The Sounds won another 1-run game.
  • Memphis topped Omaha in the 11th inning on a two-run single by Lou Montanez.
  • Albuquerque’s home game against New Orleans was suspended due to rain, just one inning away from being an official game.
  • The only baseball link is that he threw out the first pitch at Cheney last night – and often sports a Rainiers hat when photographed in public – but I like Isaiah Thomas, the former UW guard who is now with the Sacramento Kings. He’s doing good things in the community.

Let’s get the split today, and then see Danny Hultzen tomorrow in Colorado Springs!


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