Best Teams Advance

October 21, 2013

The World Series is set – it will be the Boston Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals, starting in Boston on Wednesday night at 5:00 (FOX).

There is a modern rarity here: the two teams with the best record in their respective leagues during the regular season advanced to the Word Series. This used to happen all of the time, but now that there are three rounds of playoffs with wild card teams it has become rare.

The last time the two teams with the best regular season records reached the World Series was 1999, when the Yankees played the Braves.

Boston’s Mike Carp will be the lone ex-Rainiers player in the World Series. He’s been coming off the bench during the playoffs – perhaps the NL-style games in St. Louis will create some additional opportunities for him (pinch-hitting for the pitcher, or subbing for Big Papi at first base).

This is the 1,000th blog post since the Rainiers encouraged me to start writing this thing on February 8, 2010, and we’ve had nearly 600,000 “views” with readership increasing each year.

Three posts from the past continue to get regular hits from search engines: The Felix Call-Up Story, The Simpsons At Isotopes Park, and Keeping Score.

Thanks for reading all of this time. We’ve survived a blog name change, foul balls nearly destroying the laptop I use to type these posts, poor grammar & myriad typos, and we’ve only been threatened with one lawsuit (so far). We intend to keep the blog going, thanks to you – so save that bookmark!

Links:

  • CBS national baseball writer Jon Heyman spoke with Eric Wedge and tried to get some clarity on why he walked away from the Mariners.
  • Bizarre story out from the Seattle Times news department, regarding some wire fraud between the wives of a current and former Rainiers player.
  • Ryan Divish shared his thoughts on both of the previous stories.
  • It was Daren Brown‘s turn to be featured in that massive “Greatest 21 Days” blog project. Check it out for the picture of a young Brownie if nothing else.

On Wednesday we’ll have a new post checking on Rainiers (and potential Rainiers) playing in the Winter Leagues.


Big Day For Freddy

October 7, 2013

It’s an action-packed Monday in the MLB Playoffs, with four straight crucial games being played. We’re already underway – Oakland is playing in Detroit right now.

So far the four ex-Rainiers in the playoffs haven’t really done anything – only Ramon Santiago has played, and that was as a defensive replacement for Detroit. The Red Sox have been rolling offensively – they haven’t needed Mike Carp yet.

Later tonight, an ex-Rainiers pitcher is going to take the mound in an absolutely must-win situation. At 6:30 the Atlanta Braves are turning to Freddy Garcia to try to save their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers lead the best-of-five series, 2-1.

“The Chief” made six starts for Tacoma on his way to the big leagues, going 4-1. It was a long time ago – he’s now 37 years old, and has won 156 Major League games. Freddy actually spent half of this season in Triple-A, unable to land a big league job but not feeling like he was finished yet. It turned out he was right: Garcia posted a 1.65 ERA over 27.1 innings late in the season for the Braves, and now he is starting their biggest game of the season.

The Braves chose Garcia over Paul Maholm and Alex Wood for this start. Injuries to Tim Hudson and Brandon Beachy helped make it happen.

Garcia’s best years are behind him, but he has a history of success in the playoffs (6-3, 3.28 in ten career starts). I’ll be pulling for him tonight.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish wrote about what went wrong for the 2013 Mariners.
  • The LA Times has a story about Freddy Garcia‘s unlikely playoff start.
  • The other ex-Rainiers starter in the playoffs is Detroit’s Doug Fister. He starts game four against Oakland on Tuesday.
  • The Mariners signed a 16-year-old Venezuelan pitcher.
  • A writer in Omaha named Lee Warren has started an ambitious project: he’s going to write a post on every Pacific Coast League MVP since 1946. His first installment is on 1946 Oakland Oaks first baseman Les Scarsella. I’ll be sure to let you know when he gets to the only Tacoma player to ever win the MVP (Dick Phillps, 1961 Tacoma Giants).

A Few Ex-Rainiers In The MLB Playoffs

October 4, 2013

The one-game Wild Card playoffs are over, and now the real MLB playoffs are underway.

It’s that time of the year, when we find the ex-Tacoma players who are on playoff rosters. Let’s take a look:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Pittsburgh Pirates: no players, but first base coach Rick Sofield played for the 1977 Tacoma Twins.

St. Louis Cardinals: no players. Hitting coach John Mabry is a former Mariners player who appeared with Tacoma on rehab assignments in 2000 and 2003. Bench coach Mike Aldrete was a Tacoma Tiger in 1993.

Los Angeles Dodgers: no players. Hitting coach Mark McGwire played for the Tacoma Tigers in 1986,

Atlanta Braves: one player. Freddy Garcia pitched for Tacoma in 1998 and 2000. Two former Tacoma relievers are not on the playoff roster: Eric O’Flaherty (2006-2008 Rainiers) is injured, and Anthony Varvaro (2010 Rainiers) was not activated for the first round of the playoffs (even though he pitched in 62 regular season games with a 2.82 ERA).

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Detroit Tigers: two players. Pitcher Doug Fister (2009-2010) and infielder Ramon Santiago (2004-2005) are both former Rainiers players. The Tigers left ex-Rainiers star Matt Tuiasosopo off the playoff roster for the first round – he lost his spot when Jhonny Peralta came off the suspended list. Jeremy Bonderman was also left off the post-season roster. Pitching coach Jeff Jones was with the Tacoma Tigers from 1982 to 1984.

Oakland A’s: no players, but check this out: 20 of the 25 players on their playoff roster played in the PCL recently, most with Sacramento. Pitching coach Curt Young and third base coach Mike Gallego were both long-time Tacoma Tigers in the 1980s.

Boston Red Sox: one player. Outfielder Mike Carp has had an excellent season for Boston; he played for Tacoma from 2009 to 2012 and ranks second on the Tacoma All-Time Home Run list with 67. Also, hitting coach Greg Colbrunn appeared in a few Tacoma games in 2003.

Tampa Bay Rays: no players. No coaches. No nothin’.

Well, this was surprising: only four former Tacoma Rainiers players are on active post-season rosters for the Division Series. We usually have more than that!

Yes, the playoffs started yesterday, I’m a day late with this, and you can call me out on that if you want. That being said, my World Series pick is the Detroit Tigers over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish has an update on the Mariners manager search, with some rumored names, in today’s News Tribune.
  • Talk about coincidence: Wednesday’s post was about Danny Hultzen‘s shoulder surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews. Then that night I finally read my current edition of ESPN The Magazine, and there was… a feature on Dr. Andrews. It’s good reading.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Adam Jones is set to appear as a guest analyst on the TBS pregame/postgame shows.
  • Jason Churchill has an interesting post running down the free agent class and judging how they fit in with the Mariners.

It’s a weekend full of baseball and football on TV – have a great one!


Mariners Season Ends, Manager Search Begins

September 30, 2013

The Mariners lost the final game of the season on Sunday afternoon, finishing with a record of 71-91. It was the last game of the three-year tenure of manager Eric Wedge.

Wedge walked away from the job saying that he did not agree with Mariners upper management on their plans moving forward. This was a surprise, after GM Jack Zduriencik had stated that he and Wedge were in agreement on everything baseball-related.

Wedge quitting isn’t an unusual move in the normal working world: he didn’t like the direction his job was going, so he quit. But for a Major League Baseball manager? That’s really unusual.

The Mariners didn’t emerge from this situation looking very good. They may have trouble drawing interest from experienced managerial candidates, so we could be looking at a rookie manager next year.

Personally, I’m hoping Daren Brown is a candidate. I’d like to see him get another shot – a full season, this time.

Three other names I’ve seen thrown out there by respected baseball writers on Twitter: ex-Mariners infielder Joey Cora, former pitching coach Bryan Price, and A’s third base coach Chip Hale. You may remember Hale: he managed Tucson to the PCL Championship in 2006.

Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of the MLB regular season, but no! Texas and Tampa finished in a tie for the final wild card spot in the American League, so they will play a rare Game 163 tonight to break the tie and see who advances to the playoffs.

Tonight’s game is at 5:00 (Pacific, televised on TBS) and the winner will fly to Cleveland and face the Indians in the do-or-die AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

In the NL Wild Card Game, it will be Cincinnati at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

So, we have three days of win-or-go-home baseball. This will be fun to watch.

Links:

  • We’ll start with Ryan Divish’s season wrap-up.
  • Geoff Baker’s news story for the Seattle Times has all of the surprising quotes from Eric Wedge.
  • Larry Stone wrote that the Mariners manager position is something of a joke.
  • Jerry Brewer has a column about the disconnect in the Mariners front office.
  • It’s hard to disagree with Dave Cameron’s assessment of the Mariners season.
  • The Mariners will have the No. 6 pick in the June draft. That’s a protected slot, so they can sign free agents without losing their first round pick.
  • In case you missed it amid all of the Seahawks mania, Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez tossed one of baseball’s oddest no-hitters on Sunday. He was standing in the on-deck circle when he finished his no-no.
  • Nashville manager Mike Guerrero has been promoted to major league coach for 2014 by the Milwaukee Brewers.

I’m pulling for the Rays tonight.


Omaha Wins It All

September 18, 2013

The Triple-A season came to a finish last night, as the Omaha Storm Chasers defeated the Durham Bulls in the Triple-A National Championship Game, 2-1.

Omaha starting pitcher Chris Dwyer had a perfect game through six innings, and ended up tossing seven innings of one-hit ball.

Omaha missed some early scoring opportunities, and things got dicey in the ninth before Zach Jackson closed it out.

Even though it’s just an exhibition game, I’m glad the PCL team won it.

The Rainiers posted their 2014 schedule today – it’s right here.

Right now it’s just the dates; the game times and promotions will be added later.

A few things immediately stick out:

  1. It sure looks weird with all of those El Pasos and Albuquerques. The realignment certainly changed thing up!
  2. We’ll be done playing division rivals Sacramento and Reno in July, with only head-to-head games against Fresno in August.
  3. Cross-conference play is very late, wrapping up with the second-to-last series of the year. No idea why they did that, but it certainly detracts from the division races.
  4. It’s nice to see the regular season finish right on September 1 – I wish it could be like that every year.

The game times and promotions will come out some time this winter.

Links:

  • We start with the game story from the Omaha newspaper. In this notebook, we learn that Chris Dwyer was rewarded with his first-ever big league call-up.
  • MiLB.com has a game story, and a one-pager with links to video highlights from the Triple-A National Championship Game.
  • The Mariners lost in Detroit, 6-2. The positive was a decent start by Brandon Maurer.
  • In Ryan Divish’s notebook, he reports that Rainiers reliever Forrest Snow was suspended 50 games for “drugs of abuse.” He’ll serve his suspension next season.*
  • Presented without comment, this awkward slide.

The off-season is almost upon us. The Mariners have two weeks left, and then we’ll have the MLB Playoffs which should be a lot of fun. The American League pennant race – particularly the wild card chase – is a lot of fun to follow right now.

* While I have no idea what Snow was caught with, and I’m definitely not condoning anything, I will point out that MLB’s list of “drugs of abuse” includes substances that are legal in the state of Washington. Still, everybody knows what they are being tested for.


Omaha Wins PCL, Plays In Triple-A Championship Game Tonight

September 17, 2013

Congratulations to the Omaha Storm Chasers, who won the PCL Championship by defeating Salt Lake in a best-of-five series over the weekend.

It’s the second PCL title in the last three years for the Kansas City Royals Triple-A club, which also won it all in 2011.

The result is more proof that anything can happen in the baseball postseason. Omaha entered the playoffs with a losing record (70-74), but that was good enough to win its division. In the playoffs, Omaha got red-hot, winning six of seven postseason games.

It was a stunning result. Not only was Omaha a mediocre team all season, but their parent club is in the wild card hunt – so they called up a half-dozen Omaha players before the PCL playoffs even started. Many of Omaha’s playoff heroes spent the majority of the season with the Royals Double-A team.

Tonight Omaha meets the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) in the Triple-A National Championship Game. It’s a one-game exhibition between the champions of the Pacific Coast League and the International League.

The game starts at 4:00 (Pacific) and will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). The game is played at a neutral site: this year it is being hosted by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, who have a nice new stadium in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Durham starts RHP Jake Odorizzi – who actually pitched for Omaha last year; he was traded to Tampa over the winter in the James Shields / Wil Myers blockbuster. Omaha starts LHP Chris Dwyer.

I’ve scoured the rosters of both teams, finding just one former Tacoma Rainiers contributor: Durham Bulls hitting coach Dave Myers managed Tacoma from 1997 to 2000, before serving as Mariners third base coach for four years. Dave still lives here in Gig Harbor.

Links:

I’ll be watching the Triple-A game tonight – it’s the last minor league baseball game of the year.


Salt Lake Strikes Back

September 13, 2013

Lead by former Rainiers pitcher Jarrett Grube, Salt Lake won Game Three of the PCL Championship Series in a 9-0 whitewashing of Omaha on Friday night.

Omaha leads the best-of-five series, 2-1.

Grube pitched a complete game, two-hit shutout. The 31-year-old right-hander struck out 11 batters as the Bees fended off elimination.

Game Four is Saturday at 5:35 (Pacific), and Game Five (if necessary) will be on Sunday at 12:05.

The series winner will play the International League Champion on Tuesday in the Triple-A National Championship Game held in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Through Friday, the Durham Bulls lead Pawtucket 2-1 in the quest for the Governor’s Cup.

I’m going to be away from my computer all weekend, so to follow the PCL and IL finals please check out the official website of Minor League Baseball. I’ll be back with a post on Tuesday to recap the PCL finals and set the stage for the Triple-A Championship game.

Links:


Omaha Takes Big Lead

September 12, 2013

Because the PCL Championship Series opener on Tuesday was suspended in the second inning due to rain, we had what amounted to a doubleheader yesterday to start the series.

Omaha took full advantage of the twinbill, winning both games by one run to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Today is a travel day. with the series resuming in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

Game One

Omaha 3, Salt Lake 2. Former Mariners first baseman Ben Broussard singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Omaha pulled off a come-from behind victory.

This was the completion of Tuesday’s suspended game, which was halted by rain in the second inning with the score tied, 1-1. Former Gonzaga Bulldog Clayton Mortensen picked up the pitching for Omaha and turned in a very good outing.

Game Two

Omaha 2, Salt Lake 1. Omaha’s Brian Fletcher snapped a 1-1 tie by leading off the bottom of the ninth inning with a game-winning home run, giving the Storm Chasers the sweep. This one was a great pitcher’s duel between Tommy Hanson and Yordano Ventura before Fletcher ended it.

Crazy fact: Omaha hit into seven double plays during the two games, yet emerged with two victories.

Omaha has won seven straight games at the most important time of the year: the final two regular-season games to stave off elimination, all three games against Oklahoma City in the American Conference playoffs, and now the first two games of the Championship Series. That’s quite a run!

Links:


Finals Start Tonight

September 10, 2013

The Pacific Coast League Championship Series opens tonight at Werner Park in Omaha, NE, where the Omaha Storm Chasers host the Salt Lake Bees in Game One of the best-of-five series.

Omaha is in the finals for the third year in a row, but their appearance is totally unexpected. Omaha went 70-74 during the regular season, yet reached the playoffs by winning an extremely weak American-North division. It’s the first time an under-.500 team has reached the playoffs since the current format was created in 1998.

Of course, the under-.500 Storm Chasers beat up the best team in the league in the first round of the playoffs – the Oklahoma RedHawks and their gaudy 82-62 record. Omaha swept Oklahoma City in three straight games last week, taking the first two on the road. They did this despite losing more players to September call-ups than Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake won a very tense series against Las Vegas in four games. All four games were one-run decisions, and Salt Lake had two walk-off wins.

Salt Lake caught an unexpected break when the Angels sent down infielder Tommy Field yesterday – just one day after calling him up. He’s one of the Bees best players right now.

Salt Lake finished with a 78-66 record despite having a negative run differential during the regular season. The Bees were out-scored by opponents, 832-809.

So we’ve got a team with a losing record against a team that was supposed to have a losing record playing in the PCL Championship Series. What a strange season.

Schedule (all times Pacific):

  • Tuesday at Omaha, 5:05 – Game One, RHP Matt Shoemaker at LHP Chris Dwyer
  • Wednesday at Omaha, 5:05 – Game Two, RHP Jarrett Grube at LHP Justin Marks
  • Thursday – travel day
  • Friday at Salt Lake, 5:35 – Game Three, RHP Nate Adcock at RHP Tommy Hanson
  • Saturday at Salt Lake, 5:35 – Game Four (if necessary), RHP Brian Sanches at RHP Billy Buckner
  • Sunday at Salt Lake, 12:05 – Game Five (if necessary), LHP Chris Dwyer at RHP Matt Shoemaker

You can listen to the games online by selecting the team feed you want from the broadcast page. MiLB.TV subscribers can watch the games right here.

Since I was wrong on both of my first-round picks, take this for what it’s worth (read: nothing): I pick the Omaha Storm Chasers to win the title in four games.

I went to the Mariners game last night to see Taijuan Walker‘s final start of 2013. He looked sharp, retiring the final nine batters he faced to close off a highly successful season. Barring injury or trade, he’ll be in the Mariners rotation to open 2014.

More striking was the fact that seven of the ten Mariners starters played in Tacoma this season. That’s an extremely high number – in fact nine of the ten starters played in Tacoma on their way to the big leagues, with Kendrys Morales the lone holdout (and Kendrys played at Cheney stadium as a visiting member of the Salt Lake Bees in 2006, 2007 and 2008).

We got to witness Abraham Almonte‘s first Major League homer, a two-run shot that put the Mariners ahead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Then we got to see the Mariners lose the game in the ninth on walks and errors – which felt a lot like a PCL finish.

For a Rainiers fan, it was an entertaining night at a big league ballpark.

Links:

  • Omaha will be playing without outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who had the game-winning HR in the final game of the Oklahoma City series. Hernandez is leaving the team to have a baby – is he doesn’t name the kid Gorkys Jr (boy or girl) I’m going to be very disappointed.
  • Also from the Omaha newspaper: a column, and a sidebar of players to watch.
  • From the Salt Lake Tribune, we have a series preview that includes some big newsAndy Marte is injured.
  • Salt Lake City has not won a PCL title in 34 years – although there was a long stretch during that time when the city did not have Triple-A baseball.
  • MiLB.com has a preview of the PCL Finals.
  • Ryan Divish has the game story on the Mariners loss to Houston on Monday night.
  • Felix Hernandez‘s next start has been delayed due to back issues, so Brandon Maurer moves into the rotation.

PCL Championship Series Set

September 8, 2013

Salt Lake advanced to the PCL Championship Series, by knocking out Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon, 4-3. It will be a best-of-five series between Salt Lake and Omaha, with the first two games in Omaha beginning on Tuesday.

Salt Lake 4, at Las Vegas 3

Billy Buckner tossed a gem – perhaps giving Las Vegas manager Wally Backman flashbacks, as the newspaper story suggests – and Luis Rodriguez had a big RBI double as Salt Lake won another one-run game.

All four games in this tense series were one-run decisions. Las Vegas stranded the tying runner at third base in both the eighth and ninth innings in the final yesterday.

Salt Lake may have a problem moving to the finals: they lost one of their best players when infielder Tommy Field was recalled by the Angels today.

Meanwhile in Omaha, the Storm Chasers are taking the weekend off before the playoffs. They’ve had many different heroes, according to this series preview article from Omaha.

Links:

  • James Paxton earned the win in his Major League debut last night, beating Tampa Bay, 6-2.
  • From John McGrath’s notebook: Bobby LaFromboise received a belated call-up to Seattle, and Danny Hultzen threw a simulated game s he preps for the Arizona Fall League.
  • The Tacoma Craft Beer festival at Cheney Stadium yesterday was a big hit. Hopefully it will be an annual event at the ballpark.

No update on Monday – we’ll preview the PCL Championship Series on Tuesday.


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