That’s A Winning Streak

April 14, 2014

Tacoma has won back-to-back games for the first time this season, after picking up an 8-3 win in Albuquerque on Sunday afternoon.

The Rainiers improved to 4-5 on the year, and can reach .500 and claim their first series victory of the year with a win tonight in the final game of the brief road trip.

Tacoma returns home on Tuesday night, with a 6:05 game against Salt Lake. The Rainiers will be starting a rehabilitating Taijuan Walker. Excellent seats are available, so come on out to the park!

Yesterday’s game was a full-team effort. It was a tense affair, with Tacoma leading 4-3 before scoring four insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning to break things open.

You can read about the offensive stars in the newspaper story (first link down below), so let’s talk about the pitching here.

Chance Ruffin was in trouble through most of his 4.2 innings as the starter, but boy did he battle through the jams. Ruffin did not allow a run, giving up three hits and three walks. He struck out seven batters, too.

Clay Rapada relieved Ruffin and inherited a jam in the fifth, but he escaped to preserve a 1-0 lead. However, he gave up a three-run homer to Dodgers prospect Alex Guerrero in the sixth inning, and Tacoma was down 3-1.

The Rainiers rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to regain a 4-3 lead, and then it was Nick Hill‘s turn to shine. He pitched scoreless ball for 1.2 innings, eventually giving way to Logan Bawcom with two outs in the eighth.

With the tying runner on second base, Bawcom found himself in a prolonged battle with Isotopes leadoff hitter Walter Ibarra. On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Ibarra smoked a liner – right at second baseman Nick Franklin, who caught it to end the inning.

Pitching with a much more comfortable five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Carson Smith easily finished things off.

The Rainiers will try to make it three straight wins tonight. Scheduled starting pitcher Blake Beavan isn’t going to pitch – he was summoned to Seattle – so the Rainiers are having a bullpen game.

Monday’s game is at 5:35 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 5:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Brandon Maurer (0-0, 1.42) against Albuquerque RHP Stephen Fife (0-2, 14.73).

Links:

  • Tacoma took the lead on Nick Franklin‘s two-run double in the seventh inning. It came from the right side of the plate – a valuable at-bat, Franklin tells The News Tribune.
  • The Albuquerque newspaper focused on Cuban defector Alex Guerrero, who homered in his Isotopes debut.
  • The Mariners pitched well against Oakland on Sunday, but that doesn’t really matter when you only get three hits.
  • It was a rough day for the Mariners offense, but it’s nothing to get too worked up about just yet according to John McGrath.
  • Lloyd McClendon, just like everyone else in the majors, is still trying to decide if he likes the new instant replay system.
  • The Mariners are one of the teams Jonah Keri focuses on in this week’s edition of “The 30.”
  • Here’s a PCL prospect round-up that leads off with Albuquerque outfielder Joc Pederson.
  • Sacramento swept a doubleheader from Salt Lake and took over first place in the Pacific-North. The River Cats swept the four-game series and are now 7-5. They played a DH yesterday and are not playing today (unlike the rest of the league).
  • Lots to talk about in the Las Vegas 10-4 win at Fresno. Grizzlies reliever Dontrelle Willis suffered an arm injury, rehabilitating Mets outfielder Chris Young went 5-for-5 with two dingers, Fresno third baseman Adam Duvall took the PCL home run lead with five, and Vegas infielder Danny Munro (a former Fresno State star) opened up about his PED use.
  • Reno knocked off El Paso, 6-4, despite a three-run homer from Chihuahuas prankster/director/DH Cody Decker.
  • Iowa picked up a road win in Memphis, 6-3, on the strength of a two-run homer by Matt Szczur. That’s pronounced “cesar” – thank goodness! The Iowa Cubs placed “polarizing” prospect Javier Baez on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.
  • Oklahoma City outfielder Domingo Santana had a great game against New Orleans on Sunday. The Triple-A rookie hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth, and then singled home the winning run in the tenth inning.
  • Infielder Pete Orr had a big day as Nashville topped Omaha, 4-3. Sounds starter Mike Fiers is off to a great start and he could be one of the better pitchers in the PCL this year.
  • Round Rock and Colorado Springs got postponed due to “cold temperatures, rain and snow.” At least they didn’t have locusts.
  • Baseball America has its nation-wide minor league weekend recap.

Let’s see if the Rainiers can get this series win tonight, and bring a three-game win streak back to Tacoma on Tuesday!


Gillespie, Bullpen Lead Rainiers To Comeback Win

April 13, 2014

One day after letting a close game get away, the Rainiers rebounded in a big way on Saturday and picked up a 9-7 comeback win in Albuquerque.

Tacoma trailed 6-1 after five innings, but Cole Gillespie got them back into it with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth. Gillespie also singled home the tying run in the seventh inning, and his double started the game-winning rally in the top of the ninth.

Andrew Carraway was a surprise starting pitcher for Tacoma, getting bumped up one day in the rotation. I didn’t know he was pitching until I arrived at the park; apparently the decision was made early in the morning.

Carraway didn’t allow a hit or run through three innings, but he was doomed by a five-run fourth.

After Carraway left the game with two outs in the fifth, the Rainiers bullpen took over and made the comeback possible.

Zach Miner, Logan Kensing, and Carson Smith delivered 4.1 innings of quality relief, allowing just one unearned run in a difficult pitching environment. Kensing earned the win, and Smith picked up his first Triple-A save.

The offense banged out 14 hits. Gillespie and James Jones each had three hits, and Nick Franklin had a pair. Ji-Man Choi singled once and walked three times, reaching base in 4-of-5 trips.

The Rainiers haven’t won two in a row yet this season. Let’s see if they can take care of that today.

Sunday’s game is at 12:35 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 12:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Chance Ruffin (0-1, 14.41) against Albuquerque RHP Red Patterson (0-0, 5.40).

Links:

  • We’ll start with the Rainiers game story, once again without quotes because of a long game and an earlier-than-usual deadline.
  • The Dodgers latest Cuban signing is infielder Alex Guerrero, and he was activated from the disabled list and is expected to debut for Albuquerque today.
  • My minor league notebook for the TNT looks at Gabriel Guerrero and D.J. Peterson down at Class-A High Desert.
  • Blake Beavan is getting the call to Seattle, filling James Paxton‘s rotation spot. Meanwhile, Taijuan Walker will continue his rehabilitation with Tacoma. Rainiers manager Roy Howell does not yet know which day Walker will start.
  • The Mariners lost on Saturday to Sonny Gray and the Oakland A’s, 3-1.
  • Ryan Divish has a Sunday MLB notebook and an ex-Mariner of the week.
  • Jerry Brewer has a column on the Mariners early solid play and the doubtful fan base. It is a strange moment in time right now.
  • John McGrath loves the ongoing “Kings Court” and occasional “Supreme Court” at Safeco Field.
  • The new trend in the majors is to have your best hitter bat second in the lineup. Good stuff from John Shea.
  • Ex-Rainiers slugger Mike Morse is becoming popular in San Francisco, and today he was the subject of an Ann Killion feature.
  • Did you hear about Raul Ibanez‘s 2,000th career hit? It was a pinch-hit, game-tying three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning last night. He’ll get a plaque at Cheney Stadium someday.
  • In the PCL, new Sacramento shortstop Tyler Ladendorf went 3-for-3 with three RBI in a 5-4 win over Salt Lake.
  • Reno ripped El Paso in Tucson, 11-1. Three Chihuahuas were ejected, all by the same umpire, and the group included rehabilitating major leaguer Cameron Maybin. Reno manager Phil Nevin is the subject of a Sunday feature. << excellent story alert!
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and pitched scoreless ball for seven innings in Fresno last night – although he was gone by the time Las Vegas won the game in a tenth inning homer by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 1-0.
  • Iowa starter Tsuyoshi Wada punched out ten in a 5-0 win at Memphis.
  • Round Rock snapped an 11-11 tie by scoring five runs in the 9th to beat Colorado Springs, 16-12. Somebody needs to check the humidor at Security Service Field – the two games there have been 11-10 and 16-12.
  • To the surprise of nobody who followed the Nolan Ryan saga last winter, there are already reports that the Round Rock Express will switch affiliations from Texas back to Houston after the season.
  • Speaking of the Astros, several of their top prospects are currently with Oklahoma City. Jon Singleton is one of them, and he had four RBI in a 12-1 woopin’ of New Orleans last night.
  • Nashville picked up a 5-2 home victory over Omaha.
  • Cody Decker‘s latest film details a weeks-long prank the Chihuahuas played on teammate Jeff Francoeur. This started in spring training and they finally came clean with him during the series at Cheney Stadium last week – the revelation at the end of the movie took place in the visitor’s locker room. Truly a herculean effort by Jorge Reyes and the rest of the club.

OK, boys, let’s start a winning streak.


Rainiers Take Tough Loss In Road Opener

April 12, 2014

Tacoma played its first away game on Friday night, falling to Albuquerque 6-3 in front of a big crowd in the Isotopes home opener.

I’m going to go ahead and call this the Rainiers first tough loss of the season. The team took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning on Jesus Sucre‘s clutch hit, only to see things go south in the eighth.

First, Tacoma failed to get anything out of a bases loaded, one-out opportunity in the top of the inning. Then the bottom of the frame saw Tacoma relievers walk in the tying and go-ahead runs with the bases loaded, followed by a three-run triple by Nick Buss.

The hard-to-swallow eighth inning came after a tremendous start by 23-year-old left-hander Anthony Fernandez. Making his second Triple-A start, Fernandez showed why he is on the Mariners 40-man roster: he allowed just four hits and one run over six innings, striking out eight batters in one of the best hitter’s parks in the PCL.

The Rainiers are now 2-5 on the season, and they look to turn things around tonight.

Today the Mariners announced that pitcher Hector Noesi was traded to the Texas Rangers for cash or a player to be named later.

Noesi was designated for assignment earlier in the week, and apparently Texas claimed him off waivers which is why they worked out (or more accurately, will work out) a trade. Noesi reports to the Rangers big-league club because he is out of options.

Saturday’s game is at 6:05 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Chance Ruffin (0-1, 14.41) against Albuquerque RHP Henry Sosa (1-0, 1.50).

Links:

  • My Rainiers game story for The News Tribune has the blow-by-blow of how the game got away from the Rainiers. The game ended too late to get any quotes from manager Roy Howell, because…
  • There was a 25-minute delay due to a blackout, when three of the light standards went out. Half of the field was covered in darkness. I strongly agree with the writer’s assertion that the ‘Topes missed a golden opportunity to play some UFO on the sound system. They should have mixed in some Triumph, too.
  • Felix Hernandez regularly dominates the Oakland A’s, and he did it again last night. The Mariners bullpen stumbled a bit, but held on for a 6-4 win.
  • Who is going to replace James Paxton in the Mariners rotation? We should find out today, Bob Dutton writes in this notebook.
  • I agree with what Ken Levine wrote about advanced statistical analysis and baseball broadcasting.
  • Forgot to link this yesterday: Albuquerque’s Joc Pederson earned the No. 1 ranking on the first Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet of the season.
  • The game of the night in the PCL was played in Colorado Springs, where Tim Wheeler hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth, and after falling behind 10-8 Drew Garcia hit a three-run walk-off dinger in the bottom of the 11th inning for an 11-10 victory. And this all happened in the Sky Sox home opener.
  • Fresno outfielder Gary Brown drove in three runs, and the Grizzlies beat Las Vegas 5-1 in a highly successful home opener.
  • Nate Freiman hit a grand slam and Sacramento scored a come-from-behind 7-6 win over Salt Lake at Raley Field. The Kitties home opener was all about the fans.
  • When El Paso plays Reno in Tucson, it’s difficult to find a newspaper story on the game. Here’s a recap from El Paso radio man Tim Hagerty (the little dogs won, 2-1).
  • Apparently the road was the cure for the New Orleans Zephyrs: they ended their seven-game losing streak by spoiling Oklahoma City’s home opener, 8-4.
  • They played the last-ever home opener at Greer Stadium in Nashville last night, and the Sounds lost to Omaha, 5-4.
  • Sorry, no first-hand reports from the Memphis Redbirds home opener due to an annoying Commerical-Appeal paywall which I cannot find a way around. Oscar Taveras had three hits as the Redbirds beat Iowa, 8-5. Javier Baez sat out with back pain.

 


Chihuahuas Take Series Despite Strikeouts

April 11, 2014

El Paso won the third and final game of the series on Thursday night at Cheney Stadium, taking a 5-2 decision. The Chihuahuas won 2-of-3 in the inaugural series between the two teams.

The highlight of the game was the relief work of Brandon Maurer. After recording his first out via an infield grounder, Maurer got his next nine outs via the strikeout. All told, he pitched 3 1/3 innings and recorded nine strikeouts. That’s right: 9-of-10 outs were strikeouts.

Maurer combined with James Gillheeney and Carson Smith to strike out 16 batters last night. That might end up as the season high for nine-inning games when we’re all done on Labor Day.

The Rainiers made some roster moves prior to Thursday’s game.

Nate Tenbrink was placed on the 7-day disabled list – he hasn’t played since the opener on Friday with a sore back. Leury Bonilla was activated from the disabled list to take his spot.

Also, Andrew Carraway joined the team and was added to the active roster, filling the spot previously occupied by Lucas Luetge (who was called up Wednesday).

Now we hit the road for our first trip of the season, and it’s a quickie: a four-game trip to Albuquerque.

This first travel day was kind of an awkward one: we got a direct flight from SeaTac, which is great – but it left at 6:30 AM, and the team bus to the airport was at 4:15 AM. Sleep was quite limited on Thursday night, but there was a little time for napping after arrival.

Friday night’s game is at 6:20 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 6:00 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Fernandez (0-1, 8.31) against Albuquerque RHP Zach Lee (1-0, 3.60).

Links:

  • Meg Wochnick wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune.
  • Both Larry Stone and Todd Dybas of competing newspapers have features on the aggressive play of Abraham Almonte.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Michael Pineda was embroiled in a pine tar controversy during his excellent start against the Red Sox last night. Seems like this happens every year, and the players on the field don’t really care about it.
  • John McGrath offers his thoughts on replay review after watching it in action for ten games.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Darren Ford – now with Fresno – suffered a scary-looking injury last night in Salt Lake City, but thankfully he is OK.
  • Apparently a new groundskeeper has turned the field at Cashman into a gem. We’ll see first-hand next road trip. Meanwhile, the 51s stunned Sacramento with a 5-run eighth inning.
  • Reno topped Albuquerque, 5-4. Mike Jacobs hit a big three-run homer.
  • Remember on Wednesday when Omaha crushed Memphis, 20-3? Well the very next night it was Memphis 10, Omaha 1. Baseball.
  • Javier Baez connected on his second homer of the year in Iowa’s 5-1 win over Nashville.
  • Round Rock whacked Colorado Springs, 14-8, down in Texas. It was the third straight win for the Express. Meanwhile, the Sky Sox play their home opener tonight and pitching prospect Tyler Matzek is going to try to conquer elevation.
  • Oh, boy. New Orleans lost its seventh in a row and finished its opening homestand with a 1-7 mark. Yikes.

It’s the Isotopes home opener tonight, so first pitch will be delayed until 6:20 and there will probably be a huge crowd. Should be fun!


Rainiers Win In First Thriller Of The Season

April 10, 2014

The Rainiers played their first real tight game of the 2014 season, and things went Tacoma’s way.

The afternoon started on an unusual note, as the Rainiers changed their starting pitcher on the day of the game. With James Paxton (strained muscle in his back) hitting the disabled list in Seattle, the Mariners wanted Blake Beavan to start Wednesday instead of Thursday, to line him up as a possible replacement for Paxton (Taijuan Walker appears to be the other candidate). Beavan found out he was pitching when he showed up at the park in the early afternoon.

Spurred by an early solo homer by Jesus Montero, Beavan carried a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning. The lead disappeared when Kyle Blanks lined a two-run homer in the sixth (right after Tacoma centerfielder James Jones made a great throw to nab a runner at home plate).

Beavan was done after six strong innings, but he left trailing 2-1. When Cody Decker ripped Logan Kensing‘s very first pitch for a homer to lead off the seventh inning, El Paso took a 3-1 lead. Kensing settled down and combined with Logan Bawcom to pitch one-hit ball for the remainder of the game.

Nick Franklin came through in the clutch in the eighth, hitting a two-out, two-run, game-tying home run off veteran reliever Blaine Boyer. It was Franklin’s third homer of the season, and he is now 9-for-19 at the plate this year.

The Rainiers won the game in the bottom of the tenth, walk-off style. Chris Taylor pulled a sharp grounder down the left field line for a one-out double, and then Endy Chavez blooped a single in to shallow center (Taylor had to hold up to see if the flare would be caught, and thus only advanced one base). El Paso decided to walk Franklin intentionally, loading the bases for Cole Gillespie.

Facing right-hander Jorge Reyes, Gillespie worked a full count before lining a hard single to left field, scoring Taylor with the winning run. Everyone poured out of the dugout to greet Gillespie at first base after the game-winning hit.

The win improved Tacoma’s record to 2-3. After three straight losses, it was great to see the team come back and tie the game in the late innings, then finish the job in the 10th.

The Rainiers can finish the opening homestand with a .500 record with a win today.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. El Paso starts RHP Keyvius Sampson (0-1, 2.08) against Tacoma LHP James Gillheeney.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has quotes from Beavan, Gillespie, and manager Roy Howell.
  • The Mariners placed James Paxton on the disabled list and called up Rainiers reliever Lucas Luetge. It seems like we are going to have a lot of roster moves in the next 4-5 days.
  • TJ Cotterill has a blog post for the TNT on who might get the call to replace Paxton. Bob Dutton has more information along that line right here.
  • Much of the Mariners early season success has been due to an improved offense. That all changed last night, when the Mariners were held to one hit by Garrett Richards and the Angels.
  • Taijuan Walker had a very successful rehabilitation start at Double-A Jackson last night, striking out ten over five shutout innings.
  • In the PCL, Salt Lake’s Grant Green nearly hit a game-tying home run, but the ball was caught and the Bees lost to Fresno, 10-7. Adam Duvall hit a grand slam for Fresno.
  • Top prospect Noah Syndergaard struggled with his tempo and was dealt his first Triple-A loss in Sacramento’s 7-4 win at Las Vegas.
  • Reno scored six runs in the first inning and waltzed to a 9-2 win over Albuquerque.
  • The big news was in the American Conference, where Omaha lashed 29 hits and whacked Memphis, 20-3. Omaha leadoff man Brett Eibner went 5-for-5 with two singles, a double, a pair of 3-run homers, and finished with 9 RBI. Rainier Beach High School product Matt Fields went 5-for-6 for Omaha.
  • Iowa Cubs starter Carlos Pimentel struck out ten batters over six strong innings in a 6-1 win over Nashville.
  • Walks doomed New Orleans in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to Oklahoma City, and the Zephyrs have lost six in a row.
  • Nick Tepesch pitched a nice game and Round Rock defeated Colorado Springs, 7-1. The Express added Jurickson Profar‘s little brother Juremi to the roster.
  • Baseball America’s daily round-up is here.

There is no Mariners game tonight. It’s Thirsty Thursday at Cheney Stadium. Do as you see fit.


Back On The Field

April 9, 2014

It was another unplanned night off last night – our third rainout of the season, in six days. The make-up game will be played as a part of a doubleheader on Saturday, May 24.

It wasn’t a bad day for former Rainiers reliever Bobby LaFromboise. He was with El Paso after the Padres claimed him off waivers at the end of spring training, and yesterday he was called up to the big leagues to be the “26th man” for the Padres doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. He didn’t pitch in the first game this morning, but maybe he’ll get into the second.

The forecast looks more promising for tonight and we should get one in.

Tonight’s game is 7:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. El Paso starts LHP Juan Oramas (0-0, 9.00) against Tacoma LHP James Gillheeney.

Links:

  • Don Ruiz used the rainout to catch up with El Paso skipper Pat Murphy, who “couldn’t be more excited to be a Chihuahua.”
  • The Mariners won their home opener, picking up a 5-3 win over the Angels to improve to 5-2 on the season. Seattle is 4-0 against the Angels.
  • The News Tribune has a Mariners opening day photo gallery.
  • Seahawks mania spread to the Mariners home opener. John McGrath wonders if it might be just what the Mariners need.
  • James Paxton felt a strain in his back and left the game yesterday – so it’s a good thing that Taijuan Walker is set to throw 85 pitches in the Double-A Jackson home opener tonight. This should be Walker’s final rehab start.
  • Corey Hart had his first big game as a Mariner, Larry Stone writes.
  • It looks like Baseball America is going to do a daily minor league round-up – here is today’s.
  • Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus has a fun piece (for subscribers) looking at the minor league career statistical leaders among players who have never appeared in the majors. I know, that sounds confusing, but it makes sense once you look at it.
  • In the PCL, Albuquerque won its fourth in a row despite an inside-the-park home run by Reno’s Didi Gregorius.
  • Salt Lake beat Fresno in the 12th inning on C.J. Cron‘s walk-off home run – and friend-of-the-blog Steve Klauke called it.
  • Zach Lutz is swinging a hot bat, leading Las Vegas to a 5-1 start. The 51s beat Sacramento last night, 7-6. You might prefer to say that the River Cats “tubled.”
  • Colorado Springs split a doubleheader in Round Rock. Tyler Chatwood made a nice start.
  • New Orleans is in an early-season losing streak: the Zephyrs dropped their fifth in a row yesterday, an 8-1 decision to Oklahoma City.
  • Nashville pitchers struck out 13 Iowa Cubs in a 4-1 win last night. Cubs pitching coordinator Mike Mason thinks the Iowa staff is pretty good. Good stuff from Chicago on top prospect Javier Baez, his difficult start to the season, and player development.
  • The Royals have been raiding Omaha’s pitching staff, which might be why the Storm Chasers gave up six runs in the ninth inning and lost to Memphis, 9-4.
  • When we go to Fresno I’ll definitely try that tri-tip sandwich, but you won’t find me anywhere near the Grizzly Eggs.
  • I will link to any Pat Jordan piece, including one I have not read yet, because I know it will be awesome. If you have never read A False Spring just get started already.

The sun is out as I press “publish.” Let’s play tonight.


Tuesday Night Rainout

April 8, 2014

It sure was beautiful yesterday, wasn’t it?

The Tuesday night game between El Paso and Tacoma has been rained out. It will be made up in a doubleheader when El Paso comes back to town, on Saturday May 24. Start time will be the same as originally planned: 5:05 pm.

We still plan to play Wednesday. This current storm is supposed to pass through late tonight. Hopefully the forecast is correct and we are good to play on Wednesday night.

What all of this means in the big picture: even if you are a Rainiers die-hard season ticket holder, you are now allowed to stay home and watch the Mariners home opener guilt-free!


Chihuahuas Hit Like Big Dogs

April 8, 2014

The first-ever Rainiers vs. Chihuahuas game was a lesson for this broadcaster/blogger: don’t make fun of the Chihuahuas team name for an entire winter, or else they will hit four home runs and build a 9-0 lead.

El Paso went on to win the game, 9-5, the Rainiers fell to 1-3 on the season, and I apologize to El Paso for making fun of their dumb team name.

The good news yesterday was that Nick Franklin continues to hit. He went 2-for-3 with a homer and a single, and also drew a walk. Franklin is 8-for-15 with two homers to start the season.

Jesus Sucre also connected on a solo homer – and it was his first at the Triple-A level. Sucre had not homered since April 25, 2012 when he was playing for Double-A Jackson.

Tacoma could use a good starting pitching performance. So far Blake Beavan‘s complete game victory in the opener is the lone pitching highlight of the season. The team needs another one.

Tonight’s game is 6:05 – pregame starts at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. El Paso starts LHP Juan Oramas against Tacoma LHP James Gillheeney.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. In the story, Chance Ruffin explains what happened yesterday.
  • The Mariners have their home opener tonight, with James Paxton on the hill. Bob Dutton has a fun preview story.
  • Larry Stone gives us his takeaways from the Mariners 4-2 start.
  • Dave Boling writes that while it is a small sample size, but the Mariners improvement could be real.
  • Remember the other day when I wrote that 40-year-old Las Vegas outfielder Bobby Abreu was the oldest player in the PCL? Whoops! Omaha started Brett Tomko on his 41st birthday yesterday, and not only did he break some records but he also pitched well and beat Memphis, 3-2.
  • Salt Lake survived some late-game jams and held on for a 5-4 win over Fresno. Ex-Rainiers lefty Justin Thomas started for Salt Lake. The Bees have a local player in veteran reliever Brandon Lyons.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first start for Las Vegas, but he was long gone by the time the 51s walked-off Sacramento on Matt den Dekker‘s game-winning hit.
  • Albuquerque went to Reno, Joc Pederson kept hitting, and the Isotopes beat the Aces 4-2.
  • The Iowa Cubs picked up a 4-1 win over Nashville. Christian Villanueva hit a 3-run homer and Brett Jackson notched a couple of hits.
  • Oklahoma City outfielder Austin Wates had three hits and a homer in the RedHawks 6-4 win at New Orleans.
  • The Colorado Springs at Round Rock game was rained out. The local paper has an article on Express catcher Chris Snyder.

The Mariners game is sold out. The Rainiers game is not. You know what to do!


Topes Take Series; Chihuahuas Arrive Tonight

April 7, 2014

The weather was decent on Sunday – dry with spots of sunshine – but the Rainiers lost the game to the Albuquerque Isotopes, 9-3. The Isotopes won the series, two games to one.

Anthony Fernandez allowed eight hits and four runs over 4.1 innings in his Triple-A debut. He left the game trailing 4-2 in the fifth inning, and ended up taking the loss.

Tacoma’s offense was quiet. The team had just five hits, with Cole Gillespie and James Jones each getting two. Nick Franklin had the other hit.

Franklin and Gillespie have hit safely in all three games this season, and have been the leaders of the offense in the early going.

Tacoma used five relievers with varying degrees of success. Jonathan Arias, Logan Kensing, and Clay Rapada looked sharp. Lucas Luetge gave up a pair if runs (although he wasn’t helped by an error in the infield), and Carson Smith couldn’t find the strike zone in his Triple-A debut.

Now the Rainiers welcome the new PCL team to town: the El Paso Chihuahuas arrive for a four-game series that will take us through Thursday.

Formerly the Tucson Padres, El Paso is the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. A new downtown stadium is being completed in El Paso, but it won’t be ready until May so the Chihuahuas are opening the season on a 28-day road trip.

Manager Pat Murphy moved from Tucson to El Paso with the club, and he guided them to a four-game series split st Reno.

The Chihuahuas have two ex-Rainiers on the roster: reliever Bobby LaFromboise and catcher Adam Moore. The biggest name on the squad belongs to former major league outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who hit the first home run in Chihuahuas history on Thursday. I suppose their top prospects are pitchers Burch Smith and Keyvius Sampson.

Tonight’s game is 6:05 – pregame starts at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. El Paso starts RHP Branch Kloess against Tacoma RHP Chance Ruffin.

Bob Robertson joins me on the broadcast tonight, and he’ll work all Monday home games this season. Bob will call play-by-play during the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings.

Links:

  • Rainiers manager Roy Howell told The News Tribune that falling behind in the count was the big problem for Tacoma pitching yesterday.
  • The Mariners dropped the final game of their road trip in Oakland, 6-3. Still, a 4-2 road trip is an excellent start to the season. The Mariners home opener is Tuesday.
  • One positive from the big leagues yesterday was the scoreless inning tossed by reliever Dominic Leone in his major league debut.
  • Last year’s Rainiers first baseman Rich Poythress tweeted that he has signed with the Miami Marlins organization. We wish him the best.
  • If you want to read about what’s going on in the major leagues, start with Jonah Keri’s “The 30.
  • In the PCL, Reno wiped out El Paso yesterday, 9-1. Top prospect Archie Bradley tossed five scoreless innings for the Aces in his Triple-A debut. Archie Bradley is not Aces mascot Archie.
  • Las Vegas manager Wally Backman had one of his patented ejections, and it spurred the 51s to a 6-5 walk-off win over Fresno. Zach Lutz had the game-winning hit.
  • Salt Lake lost to Sacramento, 9-6, for a series split. The Bees were happy to see Taylor Lindsey knock his first Triple-A homer.
  • Top prospect Javier Baez had a brutal first week in Triple-A, getting ejected and into a fight with an Iowa teammate, but he did launch a pinch-hit homer for his first Triple-A dinger on Sunday. Iowa beat Memphis, 4-3.
  • Omaha received a strong start from Danny Duffy in a 6-5 win over Nashville.
  • Colorado Springs edged New Orleans, 2-1, and took three-of-four on the road.
  • No link today (story is behind a paywall), but Oklahoma City downed Round Rock, 9-1, behind five perfect innings from starter David Martinez. The RedHawks use a “tandem starter” system at the beginning of the season, so Martinez was going to be pulled after five innings regardless of the results.
  • Broadcasting tip: taking care of your equipment is a necessary part of the job. Buster Olney tells us how he breaks in a new microphone.

It’s a nice day today in Tacoma. Come on out to the ballpark!


A New Day

April 6, 2014

We suffered another rainout on Saturday night. That game with Albuquerque will be made up in a doubleheader on Friday, June 6. Start time will be bumped up at 6:05.

We’re hoping to get one played today. Start time is 1:35 – pregame starts at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here (So far this season I’ve done three pregame shows but only called one night of actual baseball). Albuquerque starts RHP Zach Lee against Tacoma LHP Anthony Fernandez – both pitchers are making their Triple-A debuts.

Links:

  • My first Minor League Notebook for The News Tribune is a look at where some of the top prospects in the PCL are playing.
  • Felix Hernandez brought his A-game to Oakland and the Mariners beat the A’s, 3-1. That guaranteed a winning record for the season-opening road trip.
  • New Mariners closer Fernando Rodney nailed down his first save. In this notebook: it sounds like Hisashi Iwakuma is going to rehab with the Rainiers when he is ready.
  • They are still talking about the Friday night “rainout” in Oakland, which was really a human error because the grounds crew didn’t tarp the field overnight on Thursday evening. John McGrath writes that the Mariners should have been awarded a forfeit. Mariners player representative Charlie Furbush had never dealt with anything like this before.
  • I knew this day was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less sad: it’s our first Sunday of the MLB season, and there is no Larry Stone’s Inside Pitch in the Seattle Times today. Let’s have a link of silence.
  • Ryan Divish tried to fill the void with his version of Stone’s power rankings.
  • Which Mariner are you? I got Kyle Seager.
  • Former Rainiers ace Michael Pineda was terrific in his Yankees debut yesterday. It’s been a long road for Michael, who is an easy guy to root for if you’ve ever met him.
  • Important notice for fans: your popcorn bucket is not a glove.
  • Down at Class-A High Desert, future “crafty lefty” Tyler Pike tossed five strong innings and D.J. Peterson went 4-for-4 in a 9-3 win.
  • In the PCL, we had an epic comeback: trailing 6-1 going to the ninth in Las Vegas, Fresno scored seven runs and emerged with an 8-6 victory. The final six runs scored with two outs.
  • Noah Syndergaard may be a great pitcher, but he lacks as a first base coach, Ron Kantowski writes amusingly.
  • At age 40, I think that Bobby Abreu is the oldest player in the PCL right now.
  • First Chiahuahuas-related headline alert: El Paso nips Reno. There will be more. Speaking of more, former Rainiers catcher Adam Moore had two hits for the little doggies.
  • Michael Taylor had a big game to help Sacramento defeat Salt Lake for the River Cats first win of the season.
  • The Rockies have some pitching prospects, like Tyler Matzek of Colorado Springs. He struck out 11 New Orleans Zephyrs over just five innings and earned a win last night.
  • Veteran Kevin Kouzmanoff helped Round Rock beat Oklahoma City last night, 7-4. Scott Baker had a good start, allowing one run in six innings.
  • It’s been a rough start for top Cubs prospect Javier Baez, who is 0-for-9 with six strikeouts and now one ejection for Iowa.
  • Omaha and Nashville split a doubleheader.

Let’s play a game today.


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