Mega Series Champions!

August 31, 2012

Tacoma won the final game of the Nine Game Mega Series against Las Vegas on Thursday night, 8-4, to claim their second Nine Game Mega Series trophy of the season. The Rainiers won this one, five games to four.

Mike Wilson and Casper Wells connected on back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning, when Tacoma rallied for five runs to take a 5-2 lead.

Luis Jimenez put the game away with a two-run double in the seventh, giving the Rainiers an 8-2 advantage.

The Tacoma bullpen actually allowed some runs for the first time in a week (after 26.2 scoreless innings), but it wasn’t enough runs to cause a problem.

One of the runs scored when Bobby LaFromboise allowed a home run to Yan Gomes. It was the first home run given up by LaFromboise this season, after 65 innings of homer-free pitching. Bobby picked a nice, inconsequential time to finally serve one up.

The immediate, pressing concern is this: where are we going to keep all of these Nine Game Mega Series trophies at Cheney Stadium? Is there any extra room in storage trailer #2?

Tacoma reliever Shawn Kelley was “feeling better” yesterday after getting hit in the right elbow by a line drive on Wednesday night. Right now the club is calling it a bruised elbow, but Kelley did have x-rays and doctors are going to take a look at them.

Hopefully he is OK, we all know that Eric Wedge and the Mariners were counting on Kelley to provide some bullpen depth in September.

After a seven-hour overnight bus trip from Las Vegas to Fresno (there were no flights available large enough to carry a baseball team and equipment, hence the bus ride), the Rainiers open up the final four-game series of the year at Chukchansi Park.

Fresno is not in the playoff picture, but they have a lot of players hoping for a September call-up. The parent San Francisco Giants are leading a tight race in the National League West and they are going to need some contributions from September call-ups. Fresno has veterans like Xavier Nady and Todd Linden hoping for a trip to SF, and the always dangerous Brett Pill will be on their roster until tomorrow, I suppose.

Tonight’s game in Fresno starts at 7:05, and you can listen to the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP D.J. Mitchell (2-2, 2.95) against Fresno RHP Yusmeiro Petit (7-6, 3.44). Petit was a member of the 2010 PCL Champion Rainiers; he’s having an excellent season for Fresno.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers recap from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners beat the Twins, 5-4, as Blake Beavan delivered a quality start. They won the road series, three game to one.
  • Here is a fun, photo-filled walk-through blog post of a Rainiers game at Cheney Stadium.
  • A 17-year-old Mariners pitcher made the final Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet of the season. On the other hand, a Rainiers pitcher made the not-so-hot-sheet.
  • Jason Churchill went through the Rainiers roster, searching for September call-ups.
  • In the PCL, we’ll lead off with the Reno newspaper’s full story on MVP Adam Eaton.
  • The Aces clinched the Pacific-North with a 5-4 win over Fresno yesterday – check the link for an excellent locker room celebration photo. That’s the same locker room in Fresno that the Rainiers will be using today – hopefully it won’t reek of booze!
  • Even Troy Tulowitzki couldn’t help the Sky Sox keep up with Reno.
  • Salt Lake is stumbling towards the finish line.
  • Oklahoma City completed a four-game sweep of Albuquerque to pull within 1.5 games of first place in the American-South with four games to play. The Isotopes are going to get to try to clinch the division at home.
  • Congratulations to Albuquerque’s Lorenzo Bundy on winning the PCL Manager of the Year award. But… does he have to give it back if Albuquerque fails to hold on to the division?
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs cancelled their final four games against the Iowa Cubs because of damage at Zephyr Field caused by Hurricane Isaac. The power isn’t even on at the ballpark. The season is over for both teams, and it’s a financial crusher for the Zephyrs (as detailed in the story).
  • Memphis outfielder Adron Chambers had a big game, and he’s hoping to get a big phone call.
  • Nashville completed a series sweep of the Iowa Cubs.
  • El Paso has hired Populous – the same company that designed the Cheney Stadium renovation – to design their proposed downtown ballpark.

Final four games of the season!


Number 9… Number 9…

August 30, 2012

Las Vegas scored six runs in the first two innings and that was all she wrote on Wednesday night – the 51s coasted to a 6-1 victory.

Danny Hultzen started and left after 2.1 innings. Walks were an issue again – he allowed five – but he also gave up some hard hits in the four-run second inning, which is something we haven’t seen much of against him.

Offensively, the Rainiers couldn’t get anything going against Las Vegas starter Bill Murphy or his relievers. Tacoma had just three hits in the game, and all three were singles.

Tacoma’s bullpen once again excelled, delivering 5.2 shutout innings. Rainiers relievers have not allowed a run in 25.2 innings, spanning six games.

There was a scary moment in the ninth inning when Rainiers reliever Shawn Kelley was struck by a hard line drive off the bat of Kevin Howard. Kelley immediately left the game with trainer Tom Newberg. Kelley was hit in the right elbow as he turned away from the liner. We should get more information about the severity of the injury at the ballpark today.

The Nine Game Mega Series is all tied up, 4-4, going into the final game tonight. The entire nation will be watching as this one is for the coveted Nine Game Mega Series Trophy.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and as always you can listen to the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (5-3, 3.98) against Las Vegas LHP Brett Cecil (1-2, 2.70).

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers recap from The News Tribune.
  • Rainiers players assigned to the Arizona Fall League are Nick Franklin, Vinnie Catricala, and Bobby LaFromboise.
  • The Mariners lost in ugly fashion on Wednesday night. No link because why would you want to read about that?
  • Greg Johns has a little speculation about Mariners September call-ups here.
  • This is the official song of the Nine Game Mega Series.
  • Larry Stone sold me on it – I just bought Larry LaRue’s book, “Major League Encounters.”
  • In the PCL, Reno outfielder Adam Eaton was deservedly named Most valuable Player.
  • However, Eaton has been on the disabled list while the first-place Aces have stumbled toward the finish line. Reno lost in Fresno last night, 5-4.
  • The second place Sky Sox failed to capitalize, losing in the ninth inning to Sacramento, 4-3. The River Cats clinched the Pacific-South title with the win – it’s the sixth consecutive division title for the Yankees of the PCL.
  • Tucson beat Salt Lake and eliminated the Bees from playoff contention. The story covers Mike Trout‘s impact on the PCL season.
  • The Las Vegas newspaper has a feature on 51s pitching coach Bob “Steamer” Stanley. Quality read, covering the 1986 playoffs and Stanley’s subsequent life.
  • The American-South is still up for grabs, due to the surging Oklahoma City RedHawks. They beat first-place Albuquerque for the third day in a row last night, and a sweep today would pull the RedHawks within 1.5 games with four to play.
  • Memphis was bad on the field but did well at the gate, according to this story.
  • Nashville pitched its PCL-leading 12th shutout of the season against Iowa last night.
  • Round Rock is finishing up the season hot, and their hitters are on a tear right now.

Tonight is the final game in Vegas – then it’s on to Fresno to wrap up the season.


The Las Vegas Call-Up Wall

August 29, 2012

Going a little off-kilter for today’s post: I want to show you guys one of the “underground” things in the PCL that I think is really cool: the Las Vegas 51s Call-Up Wall.

Las Vegas clubhouse manager Stevie Dwyer has a little alcove off the visiting locker room that he uses as an office for himself and his assistants. It’s a sliver of a room, shaped like a shoe box.

Along one wall, he has hung up the locker nameplate of every visiting player who has been called up to the majors from the Cashman Field locker room since he started working as the clubbie years ago.

It’s a unique homage to every player who got called into the manager’s office and received the good news that they were going to the big leagues. Perhaps not coincidentally, the manager’s office is on the other side of the Call-Up Wall.

Here are some shots – click on it to enlarge:

The nameplates are sorted into columns by year.

Here is a group of Tacoma players who got called up in 2007:

I’m sure you all recall the John Parrish era. Tacoma was in Vegas on September 1st that year; thus there were a lot of call-ups.

Here is a column of more recent vintage:

Sometimes the clubbie has the called-up player sign his nameplate.

The Rainiers lost last night, 6-5. Tacoma had 15 hits and left 13 runners on base – if the Rainiers were in contention right now, it really would have been a tough loss.

Alex Liddi is on a mini-tear right now. He had three hits and two RBI’s yesterday, and he now has nine RBI in the last four games. He’s batting .330 with five home runs in August, with only 14 strikeouts in 106 at-bats this month. I think Mariners fans can look for him to see some time in the big leagues when the rosters expand.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 and it airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Danny Hultzen (1-3, 5.14) against Las Vegas LHP Bill Murphy (6-5, 4.72).

Links:

Game eight of the Nine Game Mega Series is tonight. Tacoma leads the Mega Series, four games to three. It’s tense!


Bully For The Bullpen

August 28, 2012

The Rainiers opened up the season-ending eight-game road trip with a 7-5 victory in Las Vegas, and this win serves as a perfect example of the one aspect of this year’s Rainiers team that has been strong from the start of the season to the finish: the bullpen.

Tacoma relievers Brian Moran, Chance Ruffin, and Danny Farquhar combined to pitch 4.2 shutout innings, protecting a slim two-run lead the whole time.

Tacoma built a 7-0 lead with a series of big two-out hits. Alex Liddi hit a two-out RBI double in the first, Luis Rodriguez smoked a two-out, two-run double in the second, and Liddi crushed a three-run homer with two outs in the fifth.

Darren Ford was on-base three times and scored three runs, and Rodriguez went 4-for-5 for his first four-hit game of the season.

Tacoma starter Andrew Carraway carried a one-hitter into the fifth, but his control deserted him and he allowed five runs to score before the bullpen saved the day.

Tacoma has won four of the first six games against Las Vegas and can clinch their second Nine Game Mega Series trophy of the season with a win today.

The key to the success against Vegas has been pitching: Las Vegas is batting just .184 over the first six games of this series, and they are hitting just .139 with 17 hits in the last four games. The 51s team batting average has dropped from .301 to .297 during the series – that’s a big move for this late in the season.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can listen on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Hector Noesi (1-5, 5.71) against RHP Shawn Hill (9-1, 4.64).

Tacoma will add outfielder Casper Wells to the active roster today, and that will require a roster move.

Links:

  • We have a Rainiers report of sorts from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners won because Felix Hernandez absolutely dominated, once again.
  • The Minneapolis newspaper has a great story on Felix’s gem.
  • Greg Johns chimes in with some Felix Fun Facts.
  • Jerry Brewer bumped Felix up his theoretical Cy Young Award ballot.
  • In the PCL, the big story here in Las Vegas surrounds a possible affiliation change. Las Vegas general manager Chuck Johnson has a great quote.
  • Reno moved a step closer to the Pacific-North title, beating Fresno on a squeeze bunt in the tenth inning. Brett Butler loves the squeeze.
  • Colorado Springs was beaten up by Sacramento, and the Sky Sox playoff chances took a hit.
  • Salt Lake lost at home to Tucson, and the Bees are on the brink of elimination. Maybe Peter Bourjos can save the day.
  • Fresno outfielder Xavier Nady – who is, of course, a Cal Bear – is hoping to help out the Giants down the stretch.
  • With the New Orleans series against Round Rock moved to Texas because of the storm, the Zephyrs will bat last in Round Rock’s home ballpark. They start with a doubleheader today.
  • Nashville leads the PCL in one-run victories.
  • Omaha put a whuppin’ on Memphis. That is how you spell whuppin’, right? I’ll ask Daren Brown, he’ll know.
  • Oklahoma City picked up a game against first-place Albuquerque last night as Mike Hessman hit his league-leading 32nd home run. The RedHawks pretty much have to sweep the series.

We are down to the final seven games of the season – one week left. Here is the big question for the final seven days: will the high temperature dip below 100 anywhere on this road trip? Seems unlikely.


Rainiers Close Out Cheney In Style

August 27, 2012

It may not be one of the better seasons of Tacoma Rainiers baseball, but the 2012 Rainiers closed out the home portion of the schedule in perfect fashion on Sunday afternoon.

In front of 7,128 fans on a pleasant but not-too-hot day, Tacoma hit a couple of home runs and had great pitching to earn a 2-1 victory over the Las Vegas 51s.

Alex Liddi hit a solo home run to left field in the first inning, and Carlos Peguero launched a towering drive off the top of the scoreboard in right-center for a solo home run in the second inning.

Tacoma starter D.J. Mitchell made the two runs stand up. The right-hander lasted 6.1 innings, giving up just three hits and one (unearned) run. Mitchell was only in trouble in one inning, the fifth, when a run scored and runners were at the corners with one out. He escaped that jam and settled in for the win.

Prior to the game, the Rainiers announced their team awards. Bobby LaFromboise won the Pitcher of the Year award, and he showed why on Sunday: he retired the final eight batters of the game, in order. He struck out the side in the eighth inning. LaFromboise lowered his season ERA to 1.46, and he kept his Cheney Stadium ERA at 0.00 in 23 innings. He’ll go into 2013 having never allowed a run at Cheney.

The other awards went to Hitter of the Year Luis Jimenez, and Carlos Triunfel took home the fielding award.

The attendance of 7,128 pushed Tacoma’s final season attendance up to 352,032. That’s the third-highest single-season attendance figure in franchise history – we thank you for coming out and supporting the team.

The season is not over yet. Tacoma finishes up with an eight-game road trip to Las Vegas and Fresno, and I’ll keep on posting updates here on the blog (note: this blog lives on during the off-season, too – check all winter for the latest player news and baseball links).

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 in Las Vegas, and you can listen to the game on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (5-7, 4.51) against Las Vegas RHP Sean O’Sullivan (14-5, 4.06).

Links:

  • We lead off with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, with quotes from D.J. Mitchell.
  • The All-PCL team was announced, and the Rainiers were shut out. I thought Luis Jimenez was going to win at designated hitter, but Jerry Sands of Albuquerque snuck in there instead – even though he never DH’d the entire season. Here is the article, and here is the whole team with stats. The major awards get announced throughout this week.
  • Excellent content alert: marc w of USS Mariner did a long interview with Andrew Carraway.
  • The Mariners got hosed by the Pale Hose in Chicago yesterday – well, actually it wasn’t the White Sox, it was the weather that got them, but I thought it would be fun to type “hosed by the Pale Hose.” And you know what? It was fun to type.
  • Here is a national look at the progress the Mariners have made.
  • The weekly Minor League Wrap from USS Mariner is up.
  • In the PCL, the Pacific-North tightened up last night – but is it too late? Reno lost to Fresno 6-3 when Xavier Nady blasted a pair of dingers for the Grizzlies.
  • Colorado Springs pulled within three games of Reno by downing Tucson, 6-1. Reno wins the tiebreaker, so the Springs has to gain four games in eight days to win the division.
  • Like a Monty Python skit, Salt Lake is not dead yet. The Bees are four games out after knocking off Sacramento, 4-2. The other Luis Jimenez had a big three-run homer for the Bees.
  • Iowa crossed the 500,000 mark in attendance but lost again. PCL home run leader Mike Hessman blasted #31 for Oklahoma City.
  • This is incredible to me: New Orleans had 15 hits and drew seven walks – that’s 22 base runners – and scored *two* runs in a 7-2 loss at Omaha yesterday. The Zephyrs left 18 runners on base in a nine-inning game!
  • Round Rock and Nashville went to the ninth inning tied 5-5, and then the Sounds scored six runs to win big.
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs were supposed to host Round Rock tonight, but they moved the series to Texas to avoid Tropical Storm Isaac.
  • Oklahoma City has had 154 transactions. You can’t even tell the players with a program.
  • We have opposition to the new ballpark in El Paso, and they are using Fresno as an example. Fresno is the only city I’m aware of where a new ballpark did absolutely nothing to revitalize a city’s downtown.
  • The Tucson paper has a column on the struggles of Triple-A baseball in the city.

It’s weird finishing up on the road – this is not normal; usually Tacoma closes the season at home on Labor Day weekend. I heard we are finishing at home next year.


Erasmo Back In Form

August 26, 2012

Pitching led the way as Tacoma evened the series with Las Vegas by knocking off the 51s on Saturday night, 4-1.

Erasmo Ramirez was in prime form, carrying a three-hit shutout into the eighth inning before allowing an unearned run. Ramirez struck out six and walked two – he needed a start like this; his previous few starts were inconsistent.

Shawn Kelley relieved Ramirez and recorded the final five outs, earning a save while lowering his PCL earned run average to 0.95.

Offensively, the Rainiers had just enough: a big two-out, two-run double by Carlos Triunfel for the early lead in the second inning, and a pair of RBI-singles from Alex Liddi.

The Nine Game Mega Series is now tied, 2-2. The final Tacoma game is today before the series moves to Las Vegas.

Today’s game is at 1:35, and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP D.J. Mitchell (1-2, 3.47) against Las Vegas RHP Bobby Korecky (3-2, 3.45).

This is our final home game of the 2012 season today, as the season concludes with an eight-game road trip. Thank you to all of the fans who came out and enjoyed the games this year – it may not have been the best season on the field, but it was still fun. I hope you had a great time at the ballpark.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • My minor league notebook for the paper leads off with an item on the turnaround of Chance Ruffin, and has an update on former Rainiers slugger Jeff Clement.
  • The Mariners lost again, despite two home runs by Kyle Seager. Big game today as the M’s try to avoid the sweep.
  • It’s Larry Stone’s Sunday baseball package in the Seattle Times: a column about the importance of the upcoming Mariners off-season, a MLB notebook with an interesting item on Roger Clemens and the Hall of Fame, power rankings, and thumbs up-and-down.
  • Read John McGrath’s catch-all column for the anecdotes, and stick around for the life lesson at the end.
  • When I get old and grouchy (no, I’m not there yet – be quiet!) I’m going to rag the umpires like Hawk Harrelson.
  • Or maybe I’ll get old and classy, like Vin Scully. He’s coming back for 2013. It’s always cool when the major league stars want to meet the broadcaster.
  • Indeed, it does seem that there is a disparity in the number of Latinos who fail MLB drug tests.
  • John Sickels has a report on Mariners outfield prospect Jabari Blash.
  • In the PCL, the Pacific-North may have been won last night by Reno. After learning that second-place Colorado Springs had lost, Reno overcame deficits in the eighth and ninth innings and beat Fresno in the tenth, 8-7. Reno has a four-game lead with nine to play.
  • Aces outfielder Adam Eaton seems to be the favorite for the MVP award. The newspaper story quotes this blog – not sure if that is good news for the blog (“we’re going places!”), or an act of desperation by the Reno newspaper (“nobody else will talk, so let’s quote that damn blogger.”).
  • The Sky Sox were shut down by Tucson veteran Bear Bay.
  • Good story from the Tucson paper on new pitcher Thad Weber, who talks about the head-spinning turmoil of being claimed on waivers.
  • Salt Lake hit three homers and edged Sacramento, 4-3. The River Cats “magic number” is four.
  • Soon-to-be-traded Albuquerque outfielder Jerry Sands has had a wild 24 hours – he homered to help his temporary team beat Memphis, 4-2. ‘Topes skipper Lorenzo Bundy hasn’t had an easy time with this situation – you can tell from his quotes.
  • Nate Adcock tossed a gem and Omaha shut down New Orleans, 5-1. The Zephyrs are back to four games out of first, behind Albuquerque.
  • Iowa played good defense in a 4-1 win over Oklahoma City, and the Cubs are going to cross the 500,000 mark in attendance today.
  • Round Rock won again in front of a big crowd – the Express have gone 21-10 over their last 31 games.
  • Best story in the PCL today: a mountain lion tried to walk into the Harrah’s casino that is next door to Aces Ballpark. Instead, it got tranquilized and released into the wild. If only that would happen to me when I go to Harrah’s – I’d have a lot more money.

There are some tickets available for walk-up purchase today, so come on out to Cheney Stadium for the final home game of the year.

The sun is out, so I’m going to go ahead and type this: as long as we get through today’s game, the Rainiers will complete a 72-game home schedule without a single postponement due to rain for the first time since 1998. It’s 2012, the year we took the rain out of Rainiers!


Hultzen Conundrum Continues

August 25, 2012

It’s been tough to get a handle on Danny Hultzen during his time with the Rainiers.

The Mariners top pitching prospect dominated Double-A Jackson, posting a 1.19 ERA in 13 starts. He certainly looked like he was ready for a promotion to Tacoma – I was even clamoring for it.

But a closer look at the Double-A stats show that there may have been a problem: he walked 32 batters in 75 innings for the Generals – and that’s too many.

Double-A hitters chase far more pitches out of the strike zone than Triple-A hitters, something Hultzen has learned here in Tacoma.

After last night’s first inning – which Hultzen did not finish, walking four batters including two with the bases loaded while recording only two outs – he has now walked 33 batters in 42 innings for Tacoma.

Hultzen hasn’t allowed many hits – when he’s throwing strikes, he is very, very tough. But walks have completely derailed him in most of his Triple-A starts.

Obviously, this is something that needs to be corrected – and I don’t know how to do it, that’s what pitching coaches are for. Hultzen has not been able to adjust from start-to-start, so it might require (I’m speculating here) a more serious mechanical change that would occur during the off-season.

At any rate, as Mariners fans we need to slow down our Danny Hultzen expectations. He’s unlikely to contribute this September, and we should not expect him to make the Mariners starting rotation next spring.

Major league hitters are even more patient and selective than Triple-A hitters. Hultzen is going to need to refine his control and go on a run of quality starts in Triple-A next year before he is ready for the next level.

One thing to remember: this is his first professional season. Expectations aside, the Mariners and us fans should be elated that he had the success he did in Double-A and reached Triple-A in his first pro season. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Tacoma lost last night, 4-2. The bullpen pitched 8.1 scoreless innings after Hultzen left, but the offense never really got going.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it’s our final home night game of the season. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (4-3, 4.43) against Las Vegas LHP Brett Cecil (1-1, 2.43). You can catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. Manager Daren Brown had a positive outlook on Hultzen’s rough game.
  • Rainiers reliever David Pauley was suspended 50 games by the Commissioner’s Office for failing a test for “drugs of abuse.” The Mariners placed him on the restricted list and activated Cesar Jimenez from the disabled list to take his spot in Tacoma. Pauley has gone home, and his future with the Mariners will be sorted out later.
  • The Mariners eight-game win streak ended in ridiculous fashion.
  • In the PCL, Reno got shut out at home by Fresno, 2-0. Adam Eaton did not play – he has a mild concussion; this is a big loss for Reno if he misses much time down the stretch.
  • Colorado Springs split a doubleheader in Tucson, leaving them three games behind Reno. They could have been two back but they lost the second game in extra innings.
  • Salt Lake defeated Sacramento and the River Cats magic number to clinch over Las Vegas remains at five.
  • Memphis has Lance Berkman in the lineup and the Redbirds topped Albuquerque last night, 9-8.
  • Chasing Albuquerque is New Orleans. The Zephyrs pulled within three games with a 6-0 shutout of Omaha. The story details how the big Red Sox – Dodgers trade could really hurt Albuquerque down the stretch – but I’m not so sure about that. Once the Dodgers add Gonzalez, Crawford, Punto and Beckett, they will have to send down four players…
  • Outfielder Tony Campana led the Iowa Cubs to victory.

Wow – it sure is a lot less time-consuming to put together the links when no newspapers are travelling with the Mariners.


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