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.


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