Rainiers Split DH, Ending Streak At Six

April 19, 2014

The Tacoma Rainiers six-game win streak came to an end when Salt Lake rallied in the final inning and salvaged a split of Friday night’s doubleheader.

Tacoma won the first game, 2-1, when new outfielder Julio Morban doubled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. That made a winner out of starting pitcher Andrew Carraway, who lasted six innings and allowed just one run. Logan Bawcom nailed down the save.

Tacoma took a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning in game two, but Salt Lake all-star Efren Navarro hit a bases loaded double to cap a four-run rally giving the Bees a 5-3 lead. Tacoma scored one run and had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Triple-A rookie Michael Morin got pinch-hitter Endy Chavez to ground into a game-ending double play.

The Rainiers won the series, three games to one, and is sitting two games over .500 on the season with an 8-6 record.

Now the Sacramento River Cats come to town, and they are new Rainiers division rivals this year. Steve Scarsone returns as manager, but they have a ton of new faces on the roster. Outfielders Michael Taylor and Shane Peterson are the only mainstays from previous years.

Sacramento is off to a good start as usual, with a 10-6 record. They’ve won seven of their last eight games.

Just from looking at their stats, it appears that A’s management filled the Triple-A roster by signing a lot of minor league free agents who draw a lot of walks. These guys are going to take a lot of pitches. As former Rainiers manager Dan Rohn used to say back in the Moneyball heyday of walking Sacramento clubs, “the way to solve this problem is to just throw strikes.” Amen, Rohnie, Amen.

Saturday’s game starts at 5:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jordan Pries (Triple-A debut) against Sacramento RHP Marcus Walden (first PCL appearance).

Links:

  • The Raniers game story in The News Tribune focuses on the crazy number of transactions Tacoma has already had.
  • It sounds like Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is going to make a rehabilitation start for Tacoma, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
  • The Mariners lost the series opener in Miami Friday night on a walk-off grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento batters drew ten walks as the River Cats topped Fresno last night, 4-2.
  • Backup catcher Griff Erickson went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a homer as Albuquerque beat the El Paso Chihuahuas, 10-6. It was Bark In The Park night, and the Albuquerque Journal headline writer nailed it.
  • The Reno Aces finally slowed Las Vegas’s roll and they did it with a game-ending three-run homer by Didi Gregorius in the 11th inning.
  • Carlos Peguero hit his first homer for Omaha – and it was a tape-measure blast that gave the Storm Chasers the lead in a 3-2 win over Round Rock.
  • Nashville picked up a 5-1 win over Memphis in unique fashion: Kevin Mattison snapped a 1-1 tie with a pinch-hit grand slam.
  • New Orleans ace Brian Flynn met the Iowa Cubs and reigning PCL Pitcher of the Week Tsuyoshi Wada, and a terrific pitcher’s duel unfolded. Flynn and the Zephyrs got the win, 1-0.
  • Colorado Springs scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Oklahoma City, 10-9. Jackson Williams had the game-winning hit. Earlier, RedHawks first baseman Jonathan Singleton launched his sixth homer of the season, and he’s driven in 20 runs already.

Rain Yesterday, Two Today

April 18, 2014

We had Rainiers rainout No. 4 yesterday, and that means doubleheader today.

Tacoma and Salt Lake will play two seven-inning games, starting at 6:05 tonight at Cheney Stadium. There will be about 25 minutes between games, and yes the Friday Night Fireworks show will still go off after the second game. The weather forecast looks promising for both games to be played tonight.

There was some news yesterday, and it wasn’t good.

Tacoma first baseman Ji-Man Choi was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for methandienone, an anabolic steroid. Apparently this stuff is available over-the-counter in Korea but has been illegal here since 2001. At any rate, it’s against the rules which should have been well-known to Choi. Both the Mariners and Choi made brief statements which you can find right here.

So Tacoma is down a first baseman – and a heckuva hitter – until mid-June. Choi has left Tacoma and will be at extended spring training in Arizona while he serves the suspension.

The Rainiers made a bunch of roster moves yesterday:

  • Tacoma added reliever Stephen Pryor to the active roster, and placed reliever Nick Hill on the 7-day disabled list.
  • Choi was placed on the suspended list – he does not count on the Rainiers 25-man roster.
  • Outfielder Julio Morban joins the team from extended spring training, where he was recovering from a broken leg suffered at the end of the 2013 season. Morban is a highly regarded prospect and a good hitter who has been slowed by injuries.
  • Chantz Mack – a 2013 draft pick from “The U” – joins the club from extended spring training to provide outfield depth while James Jones is in the big leagues.
  • Right-hander Jordan Pries is here in Tacoma and he will be activated to start for the Rainiers tomorrow. He was pitching well at Double-A Jackson.

It should be fun to watch Morban play. He’ll probably DH quite a bit initially as he gets his playing legs back, and slowly be added to the outfield mix.

Friday’s doubleheader starts at 6:05 – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (0-0, 11.57) against Salt Lake LHP Justin Thomas (1-0, 6.10) in the first game, and the Rainiers are going with RHP Chance Ruffin (0-1, 7.45) in game two against a Bees starter to be announced.

Links:

Let’s play two!


Let’s Go Streaking

April 17, 2014

Tacoma won its fifth straight game on Wednesday night, taking down Salt Lake 10-8 in a game that was highlighted by one big inning.

Each team actually had a big inning, and Salt Lake was first: trailing 2-1 after three, Salt Lake scored five runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 6-2 lead. Grant Green – one of the hottest hitters in the PCL to open the season – hit a grand slam to cap the rally.

It didn’t take long for Tacoma to come back.

In the bottom of the fifth, Tacoma sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs in the club’s biggest single inning of the season so far. Cole Gillespie hit a two-run homer early in the frame, and new Rainiers infielder Gabriel Noriega hit the go-ahead two-run single to center.

Noriega had an excellent Triple-A debut, going 2-for-4 with the game winning hit and making a nice play defensively on a hard-hit ball up the middle.

The bullpen did the job again. Lucas Luetge went two innings and earned the win, Ramon Ramirez delivered a scoreless inning in his Tacoma debut, and Stephen Pryor worked an inning which was an important step in his rehabilitation program: he pitched in back-to-back games.

Tacoma has won five straight and is now 7-5 on the season. Meanwhile, Salt Lake is tanking – they’ve lost eight in a row!

Thursday’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. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (0-0, 11.57) against Salt Lake LHP Justin Thomas (1-0, 6.10).

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story for The News Tribune looks at the starting pitching performance of Anthony Fernandez.
  • Roster round-up: Nick Franklin and James Jones were promoted to Seattle (the Mariners placed Blake Beavan and Logan Morrison on the disabled list). Tacoma added Gabriel Noriega from Double-A Jackson, and will probably add an outfielder today, and will need to add a starting pitcher for Saturday.
  • Stephen Pryor‘s rehab ended and the Mariners activated him from the DL and optioned him to Tacoma – so he now counts on the Rainiers 25-man roster.
  • Taijuan Walker has a right shoulder impingement and is not going to throw for two weeks. This means that even if everything clears up, he’s unlikely to pitch in the majors until at least June.
  • The Mariners lost in gut-wrenching fashion on Tuesday night in Texas.
  • Bob Dutton writes that Brandon Maurer is in line to be the Mariners starting pitcher on Sunday.
  • The hottest team in the PCL right now is Sacramento, which won its sixth in a row with a 4-2 win over Fresno last night. Alden Carrithers drove in all four runs.
  • Albuquerque received a strong pitching performance from Zach Lee, who tamed the Chihuahuas for a 3-1 win.
  • Allan Dykstra plays for Las Vegas manager Wally Backman. He’s not related to Wally’s old teammate Lenny, but he still drove in three runs in the 51s 4-2 win at Reno. Vegas has won five in a row.
  • Rising Cubs prospect Kyle Hendricks pitched well and Iowa beat New Orleans, 6-3.
  • It was the Round Rock Express – not the Storm Chasers – who took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to right field last night in Omaha.
  • The day after outfielder George Springer was called up by Houston, Oklahoma City first baseman Jonathan Singleton had a big game in the RedHawks 8-6 win at Colorado Springs.
  • A good pitcher’s duel was spoiled by a bullpen blow-up in Nashville. Memphis scored six runs in the eighth and won, 7-1.
  • Baseball America’s minor league round-up includes notes from an 18-inning game in Class-A in which one team stole 11 bases.

Now, let’s head out to the ballpark and see if the Rainiers can make it six in a row.


Rainiers Win As Roster Revolves

April 16, 2014

The Rainiers kicked off the homestand with an 8-5 win over Salt Lake on Tuesday night. The victory extended Tacoma’s win streak to four in a row, and the team moved over the .500 mark improving to 6-5.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that Taijuan Walker had his rehabilitation start scratched due to shoulder stiffness. He was scratched before he ever threw a baseball – he was doing his pre-start stretching routine in the trainer’s room when this happened. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out – the Mariners will err on the side of caution here.

James Gillheeney filled in for Walker and allowed just one run over five innings to earn his first win of the season. The Rainiers banged out a dozen hits and built a 7-0 lead after two innings. The game tightened up but a different rehabber – in this case reliever Stephen Pryor – nailed down the save in the ninth inning.

There were roster moves before yesterday’s game, and there will be more before tonight’s game.

Yesterday the Mariners called up Blake Beavan, and optioned reliever Lucas Luetge to Tacoma. Tacoma placed catcher Humberto Quintero (left hamstring) on the disabled list, and activated catcher Manny Pina. Finally, reliever Jonathan Arias was placed on the disabled list, and Ramon Ramirez was activated from the DL to take his spot.

Today Nick Franklin flew to Texas to join the Mariners, who placed Logan Morrison on the disabled list. Shortstop Gabriel Noriega is joining the Rainiers, up from Double-A Jackson.

Tuesday’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. Tacoma starts LHP Anthony Fernandez (0-1, 4.35) against Salt Lake RHP Matt Shoemaker (first PCL game).

Links:


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.


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