Triunfel Comes Up Clutch

July 31, 2012

Tacoma trailed in the ninth inning, 2-1, with runners at second and third… and Carlos Triunfel came through with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to center field, leading Tacoma to a 3-2 win over Tucson on Tuesday night.

And with that, Tacoma won the Nine Game Mega Series against Tucson, five games to four. The first ever Nine Game Mega Series Trophy goes to Tacoma, where it will be displayed and cherished at Cheney Stadium for years to come.*

Triunfel had the clutch hit, but lots of credit should go to starting pitcher D.J. Mitchell. Mitchell lasted seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs – both of which were unearned, due to infield errors. Mitchell walked one, struck out four, and threw 92 pitches (62 strikes).

Mitchell had his sinker going on Tuesday – it was much better than in his Rainiers debut last week; he was able to get 13 ground outs compared to four fly outs.

The Rainiers have a rough travel day on Wednesday – hence this brief blog post. The team wakes up at 3:30 AM in Tucson, takes a 4:15 bus to the airport, flies to Las Vegas, then to Tacoma – and we do, thankfully, arrive early enough to mix in a quality nap before heading to the ballpark for the game.

Tacoma starts an eight-game homestand on Wednesday, with Oklahoma City in town. The RedHawks are the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, and they have not visited Tacoma since the 2010 season. Former Sacramento skipper and old nemesis Tony DeFrancesco is the Oklahoma City manager – and as usual, he has his team winning. The RedHawks are 62-48, and 1.5 games behind first place Albuquerque in the American-South.

It’s actually kind of amazing that Tony D has his team in a race right now, once you consider that the parent Astros are, um, 35-70. Yowza.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it’s Microbrew Wednesday at Cheney Stadium – $5 micros at the first base concession stand. Tacoma starts LHP Steve Garrison (0-3, 4.64) against Oklahoma City RHP Jake Buchanan (0-0, 9.00). Catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Links:

  • Last night’s Rainiers game was an excellent battle – read all about it in the game story from The News Tribune.
  • Jack Z says that the Mariners are going to slow down Danny Hultzen, Ryan Divish writes. Right now Hultzen is listed as Tacoma’s Thursday starter. I’ll let you know if anything changes.
  • The Mariners won their sixth in a row, beating Toronto, 7-2. Trayvon Robinson had two hits and a walk, Dustin Ackley homered and drove in three, and Jason Vargas is absolutely dealing right now – he went 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in July.
  • The Mariners made all of their moves the day before the trade deadline. Jack Z explains the situation in this story.
  • Oklahoma City lost at home to Omaha, 12-5, and the RedHawks are coming in to town riding a three-game losing streak. It’s always bad when the opening line of the story in your hometown newspaper says you were “lit up” (and just a few words later we get a gratuitous “drubbing”).
  • Most of the above story is about Oklahoma pitching coach Burt Hooton, who has a plaque on the Tacoma Wall Of Fame on the first-base side of Cheney Stadium. Check it out and say hi to Burt if you are coming to the ballpark this week.
  • I don’t have a link for this, because it’s not up yet and I’m doing this before bed, but it’s worth noting that Salt Lake starter Barry Enright (recently acquired from Reno) pitched a complete-game, three-hit shutout in Las Vegas last night. That’s no easy feat.

OK, long travel day. Come see us during this homestand, should be a good time!

* in a secret, hidden location of course – to keep this precious heirloom away from scoundrels, vandals and thieves.


Hultzen’s Day

June 23, 2012

Today Danny Hultzen makes his Triple-A debut, pitching for Tacoma at Colorado Springs on Saturday at 5:05 pm (Pacific time). Here are some quick Hultzen facts:

  • second player chosen in the 2011 draft, from the University of Virginia
  • started his pro career this season at Double-A Jackson
  • went 8-3 while leading the Southern League with a 1.19 ERA
  • gave up just 38 hits in 75.1 innings – opponents batted .151 against him
  • allowed just two home runs
  • did not allow a run in his last 26.2 innings pitched
  • starting pitcher in the Southern League All-Star game

Hultzen joined the Rainiers on Wednesday night and watched the Reno series from the dugout (or the stands if he was charting pitches). Now he’ll finally take the mound in a Rainiers uniform, starting on Saturday.

Let’s take a look at what Hultzen did, leading up to his Triple-A debut.

Friday:

10:30 pm – watch final out of Rainiers 6-4 win over Reno 

11:15 pm - arrive at team hotel, pack for road trip

midnight – go to bed (I hope by midnight!)

Saturday:

4:30 AM – wake up, shower, meet team at Cheney Stadium

5:30 AM – team bus leaves Cheney for SeaTac airport

7:30 AM – flight leaves SeaTac for Denver

11:10 AM (Mountain time) – arrive at Denver airport

11:30 AM - hold breath while hoping personal luggage arrives

Noon - get on team bus for 90-minute drive to Colorado Springs

1:30 PM – arrive at team hotel in Colorado Springs, check into room.

1:45 PM – eat or nap? That is the question.

3:00 PM – take bus to Security Service Field

3:20 PM – arrive in clubhouse, dress, prepare for start

6:05 PM (Mountain) – make Triple-A debut after long travel day in the highest-elevation professional ballpark in the country

That’s if everything goes off on time with no delays! Welcome to Triple-A, kid.

One other thing to consider: the Rainiers will be playing their first game at Colorado Springs with their new humid baseballs. I have no idea how this changes things – it’s supposed to help keep the scores down; we’ll see. I’ll be asking pitchers about it all series.

Tonight’s game is at 5:05 Pacific, and it will be broadcast live on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. The pre-game show starts at 4:50. If you are a subscriber, video with the Sky Sox radio broadcast over it should be available on MiLB.TV.  The Sky Sox did not name a starter for the game – I guess we’ll find out who it is when we get to the ballpark.

Links:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from Friday’s 6-4 win over Reno. That’s two in a row, baby!
  • The Mariners lost in San Diego, although Franklin Gutierrez went 4-for-5 with a homer.
  • Nationally, everyone keeps wondering if the Mariners should trade Felix Hernandez. Finally, we have a website that covers this important issue as thoroughly as possible. Click on http://www.shouldthemarinerstradefelixhernandez.com/ for all of the answers.

Sorry, that’s it for today – I couldn’t get to all of the links because my itinerary is similar to Hultzen’s.


Being Luis Jimenez

May 21, 2012

You are Luis Jimenez.

You are a big baseball star in your home country of Venezuela, where you can’t even go shopping without being recognized by fans. Just two years ago, you were the MVP of your league, playing for your hometown team, Cardinales de Lara. The team uses your picture on billboard advertisements.

You are known for your long home runs. You once hit one entirely out of your home stadium in Venezuela, and it was captured forever in this video (stick with it to the end).

Baseball in the USA has not come as easily for you. It took you 12 years and eight organizations just to get a fair chance to play at Triple-A. An attempt to play in Japan didn’t go well.

But now, things are getting good. You are playing regularly in Tacoma, and you are getting the hang of Triple-A pitching. You are batting clean-up, you are putting together good plate appearances in most at-bats, and you are launching long home runs, just like back home in Venezuela.

But still they yell at you.

Not at “home” in Tacoma, where the fans treat you with respect. But on the road in the PCL, you are a target for abuse.

So what if you don’t have the traditional body of an athlete. You’re a big guy, and you might be carrying a few extra pounds, but look at those home runs.

That one fan in Reno screamed at you about your weight. He was so loud, everyone in the ballpark heard it.

There was only one thing to do. You doubled off the center field fence. When he yelled at you again your next time up, you crushed a three-run homer onto the berm in right field.

That shut him up.

They were on you again in Omaha – some fans right behind the dugout, your dugout, making fun of you because of your weight.

So, you do it again: a line shot over the right field fence, a laser-beam of a homer that seemed to leave the ballpark in less than a second.

As you toss your bat and start jogging around the bases, you point at the fans behind the dugout. Not a threatening point, not at all – just a little point, a gesture that seems to say “tisk, tisk, tisk, you should not have angered me.”

When you round the bases and come back towards the dugout, you see that you have won them over – the entire section of Omaha fans is bowing down to you, cheering and laughing. Not laughing at you – laughing at themselves, and laughing with you.

That was the scene in Omaha on Sunday afternoon, when Jimenez scorched his ninth homer of the season to give Tacoma a 3-0 lead in the second game of the doubleheader.

Jimenez is now batting .312 with nine home runs and 32 RBI. He has walked more than he has struck out – 25 walks, and 23 K’s. He has a .416 on-base percentage, and he is slugging .582 for a .997 OPS.

He is still a long shot to ever reach the Major Leagues – he’s a 30-year-old Triple-A designated hitter, and these guys rarely get called up. But it does happen sometimes - just ask Bucky Jacobsen.

That’s just fine with us in Tacoma – we’ll take him. He’s become one of the most dangerous hitters in the PCL.

Tacoma split the doubleheader in Omaha on Sunday and got out of there with a split of the four-game series.

Anthony Vasquez tossed his first career complete game shutout in game two, a 3-hitter. You can read about it in the News Tribune game story – first link below, which also has a recap of the game one loss.

We are in Des Moines, Iowa today to start a four-game series with the Iowa Cubs. Iowa just lost three out of four to Salt Lake, dropping the final three after winning the opener.

Iowa has the PCL’s top home run hitter in Anthony Rizzo, who has 14. He has done most of his damage in away games – he’s hit just four homers at Iowa’s Principal Park.

Rizzo is a young slugger, but his path to Chicago is blocked by Bryan LaHair, who is still hitting well for the Cubs.

Tonight’s series opener is at 4:35 (Pacific), and the broadcast is on 850 AM and streaming right here. Tacoma starts RHP Forrest Snow (0-4, 8.17) against Iowa RHP Jay Jackson (2-3, 6.09).

Links:

Don’t forget, weird baseball times this week: 4:35 tonight, and then three straight 10:05 AM games Tuesday through Thursday.


Alive And Wet In Fresno

April 13, 2012

The Rainiers survived their first travel day of the season, arriving in Fresno for the start of an eight-game road trip.

The team bus left Cheney Stadium at 5:30 AM. Our 8:00 AM flight to Fresno was delayed slightly – they kept making ominous announcements about thunderstorms over the Fresno airport, saying that if we couldn’t land, the plane would be diverted to San Jose. I quickly checked my pocket schedule – San Jose is not a Pacific Coast League city.

The flight was also overbooked, and they made it clear that baggage wasn’t going to make it.

This last part I am used to – whenever we fly to Fresno, the plane isn’t big enough to take all of the baseball equipment and the personal bags. Those of us with the team know that our personal bags will get delivered to the hotel at night, when a later flight comes in. However, the dozen non-baseball people on the flight have no idea that they have zero chance of getting their bags. Sorry about that!

Moral of the story: if you are flying to Fresno and you want your luggage to arrive with you, make sure you aren’t on the same flight as the Rainiers.

The flight was bumpy the whole way, non-stop – it was a regular Knuckleball Express. This was strictly due to the weather, which got worse as we approached Fresno. The descent was shaky, but the pilots did a great job and got us on the ground safely.

When we landed, it was pouring rain in Fresno. However, the Fresno Grizzlies representative told us that it’s supposed to burn off in the afternoon, and we are going to try to play tonight.

Tonight’s game, if it goes off on time, is scheduled for a 7:25 start. We’ll start the pre-game show at about 7:10 on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming online right here.

Tacoma is scheduled to start RHP Forrest Snow (0-1, 7.20) against Fresno RHP Andrew Kown (1-0, 1.80).

Mariners outfielder Mike Carp met the Rainiers at the airport and will begin a rehabilitation assignment with Tacoma tonight.

Carp suffered a sprained right shoulder on March 29 in Japan, diving for a ball in left field. He’s currently on the Mariners disabled list. I’m not yet sure how long his rehab assignment is supposed to last.

Carp is ranked third on the Tacoma all-time career home run list. He could move to second this week:

HOME RUNS
1) Rick Renick 72
2) Tom Kelly 66
3) Mike Carp 65
4) Randy Bass 64
  Danny Goodwin 64
6) Bryan LaHair 60
7) Dan Rohrmeier 58
8) Kelvin Moore 57
9) Jeff Clement 52
10) Bob Perry 50

Links:

Time for a cat-nap and then the walk to the ballpark to get set up and see if we’re playing… I’ll let you know if it’s postponed.


The Fourth Of July…

July 5, 2011

… Tacoma Rainiers Style.

4:30 AM – wake up, clean up, and drive to Cheney Stadium.

5:00 AM – arrive at Cheney Stadium and find two Rainiers players lighting off fireworks in the parking lot. Both are giddy – they are from California, where it’s illegal to light a match on the 4th of July.

5:10 AM – in the Rainiers clubhouse, our Italian third baseman asks if July 3 or July 4 is “America Day.” He learns that it’s the 4th, and a certain Oklahoman explains that if it weren’t for the 4th of July, “we’d all be speaking German.” This is wrong on so many levels, I can only shake my head.

5:12 AM - Mike… Off-Mic learns that Italy Day is June 25.

5:15 AM – the team bus pulls out of Cheney, destination SeaTac Airport.

5:45 AM – we arrive at the airport and check in without incident. The Rainiers travel coordinator smiles, says goodbye, and runs back to Tacoma to go celebrate the holiday.

6:15 AM – I enjoy a toasted bagel at the N gates.

6:45 AM – while waiting to board, I run into couple who are good friends of mine, waiting for a flight at the next gate over. They are flying to Las Vegas for a week-long vacation before embarking on an international career adventure. I offer to trade them my ticket to Colorado Springs for their ticket to Vegas, and even tell them they get to call three Rainiers games. They don’t bite.

7:30 AM – we depart for Denver. The flight is half empty, meaning we get to spread out a bit. This is one of the few times all season that this will happen.

10:30 AM (we lost an hour on the time change) – arrive Denver, collect baggage, and hop on a charter bus for Colorado Springs. The bus has that “bus bathroom chemical” smell that you are all-too-familiar-with if you have spent your career in minor league baseball.

12:00 PM – (warning – politics!) – on the drive from Denver to our Colorado Springs hotel, we take the Ronald Reagan Freeway to the Focus on Family Headquarters exit. I can think of one co-worker who would be absolutely delighted by this.

12:15 PM – we arrive at our new, tremendously improved Colorado Springs hotel. I’m running on four hours of sleep, which includes an hour of weak airplane sleep, and the bed looks so inviting. But I’m also starving. I unpack and shuffle across the street for some food.

1:00 PM – Ted’s Montana Grill. Chicken sandwich. Nom nom nom.

2:00 PM – finish blog post, finish preparing for game (I had done most of my broadcast notes late at night after the home game on the 3rd).

3:30 PM – the best 15 minutes of the day: catnap!

4:00 PM – team bus leaves hotel for Security Service Field. I rock “David Comes To Life” on the iPod to get me going, and it works.

4:20 PM – prior to Game #84, team bus gets lost trying to figure out where to drop us off at Security Service Field.

4:30 PM – arrive at field, set up broadcast equipment, test lines - everything works!

5:03 PM – interview skipper for pre-game show.

5:10 PM – pound 16-ounce coffee from the master of strong coffee, Security Service Field visiting clubbie Steve.

5:15 PM – I prepare my stats and scorecard while the team is taking batting practice.

5:45 PM – I don’t usually eat this close to the game, but by golly – some local Guru has arranged to have pre-game burgers brought into the press box from Five Guys Burgers & Fries. And thus the diet takes the evening off.

6:00 PM – pre-record my pre-game show (yup, I cheat and pre-record it every day. There’s a radio secret for you!)*

6:15 PM – read all of the notes and materials distributed in the press box.

6:30 PM – back to the Rainiers locker room to grab coffee #2. Shotgun!

7:05 PM - broadcast 3 hour, 40 minute Rainiers 9-4 loss. The game is played in front of a lively crowd of 8,865.

11:00 PM – done with radio post-game show, interview skipper again, write News Tribune story, while keeping an eye on the fireworks show. It’s a very good show but not as long as Tacoma’s.

12:15 PM – ride back to hotel with Rainiers coaching staff in our rented soccer mom minivan. Rehash the game; plot future PCL domination.

1:00 AM – ahhhhhh, sleep!

Tonight’s game is at 6:05 (Pacific), and new Tacoma Rainiers left-hander Anthony Vasquez gets the start in his Triple-A debut. You couldn’t pick a tougher place for a pitcher to make his Triple-A debut than Colorado Springs (although Reno would be close). This is an extremely tough assignment for the kid – the Rainiers have moved Chris Seddon to the bullpen until the all-star break, and he will be there to back up Vasquez. The Sky Sox are starting Triple-A veteran RHP Billy Buckner (1-3, 5.19).

Catch the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online right here. The pre-game show starts 15 minutes prior to the first pitch, at 5:50.

Links:

  • Here is a severely edited Rainiers game story I wrote for The News Tribune. Cliff’s Notes: issuing walks is really bad in Colorado Springs.
  • We also have the Rainiers game from the perspective of the Colorado Springs Gazette, with quotes from Mike Jacobs.
  • The Mariners beat the A’s in a day game, allowing Larry LaRue to get quotes from seemingly everybody in uniform for his game story. I counted seven sources.
  • Ryan Divish wrote about Jose Yepez and the Mariners catching quandary. This is an informative and right-down-to-the-truth-of-it read.
  • In the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker focused on Justin Smoak and his big go-ahead RBI double. His notebook is about Michael Pineda.
  • Tacoma third baseman Alex Liddi is John Sickels’ Prospect Of The Day.
  • In the PCL, Reno earned a tough win on the road, ending Tucson’s eight-game win streak and increasing their lead to 9.5 games. David Winfree came off the disabled list and homered.
  • Tucson added top Padres prospect James Darnell and it looks like he’s going to play third base.
  • Salt Lake had a 10-3 lead over Las Vegas after eight innings – and they barely held on for a 10-9 victory. Ryan Shealy had seven RBI for Vegas.
  • Fresno beat Sacramento in the tenth inning on a bases-loaded single by Edgar Gonzalez. Sacramento has lost seven straight, so look for Billy Beane to sign Scott McClain, Dallas McPherson, Phil Hiatt, Bernardo Brito and Steve Bilko this week.
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs won with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Joe Thurston’s game-winning double.
  • Koby Clemens hit a pair of home runs and Oklahoma City beat Iowa, 3-2.
  • Well, it wasn’t exactly a walk-off balk, but it was close: Nashville beat Memphis, 5-4, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Chuck Fick drilled Brett Carroll with the bases loaded. A walk-off HBP.
  • Since Portland gave baseball the boot, attendance at Salem-Keizer is on a big up-swing. It turns out that Portland baseball fans are willing to drive 50 miles to go to a game.

Since my News Tribune story was chopped in half due to space restrictions, I’ve copy-and-pasted the entire original, unedited version after the jump. There are a bunch of numbers on the hitting streaks, etc, in the notes.

Read the rest of this entry »


Worst Travel Day In Ten Years

June 18, 2011

Thanks to a broken cockpit computer, the Tacoma Rainiers endured the team’s worst travel day in at least ten years yesterday – but the team still made it to Tacoma “in time” to play the Salt Lake Bees in front of a sellout crowd at Cheney Stadium on Friday night.

Salt Lake beat the fatigued Rainiers, 4-3, in a game that started 55 minutes late simply because the Rainiers team bus did not arrive at the ballpark until 6:45 pm.

After a night game on Thursday, the team woke up at 5:00 AM Friday at the Fresno hotel, and arrived at Fresno Yosemite International Airport at 5:45. Little did we know that we were going to be there for nine hours – if I had known, I would have stolen a Fresno Holiday Inn pillow. Heck, I would have happily left $20 on the nightstand as compensation.

We boarded our plane and pulled out of the gate on time at 7:30 AM. We would land at Sea-Tac at 9:30, and be at Cheney by about 10:30, giving everyone ample time to nap and take care of personal affairs after a 13-day road trip.

Well, the plane taxied about 200 feet before coming to a stop. I knew something was up, because you never have to wait to take off in Fresno, since there aren’t many planes there. You can only fly to about six cities from Fresno – the locals all know that the best way to escape town is to drive as fast as you can to LA or SF.

After we sat for about 20 minutes, they announced that a cockpit computer would not boot up, and we were going back to the gate. Another ten minutes and maintenance couldn’t quickly fix it, the computer needed to be replaced, and we would all get off the plane. To the airline’s credit they made this decision quickly, and we did not have one of those sit-on-the-tarmac marathons.

But then came the misdirection: a replacement was on site, it would take an hour, we’ll depart at 9:30. At 9:30 they announce that the new computer is actually being flown up from LA, and we’ll depart at noon. At 11:30 they don’t make an announcement, but word gets out that the earliest we will leave is 2:30, and even that is not for certain.

There is only one other flight to Seattle, it doesn’t leave until 7:00 pm and it’s full anyway. All other flights are booked full to different cities on a Friday afternoon, so there are no options going through Salt Lake City or Denver or LA that are open for our group of 30 people.

Meanwhile at the home office, Rainiers management/ownership decides that they will pay for a private charter to get the team home*. They start making phone calls to private airlines and calling in favors with corporate partners to see if anyone has a  plane available that can seat 30 people plus equipment, and can get to Fresno right now. The answer is no, no, no… it turns out that even charter airline companies cannot act that quickly.

At this point I’ve been sitting in the Fresno airport for nine hours on an unanticipated Day 14 of a road trip – so I begin plotting my escape. I make a couple of phone calls - I can rent a car and drive three hours to either San Jose or Sacramento and catch the 8:00 pm flight. I’ll be home! But I can’t do that until I know the game has been cancelled. Or I could risk it, and just leave. At this point I’m so frazzled from the road and that stupid tiny airport with its annoying loop of overly loud “Welcome To Fresno” announcements from their mayor who if I lived there I would never vote for just because of the airport announcements that I don’t even care anymore. Miss the game? Heck, I’ll miss the rest of the season. Just let me go home.

I wasn’t the only one with crazy (sane?) thoughts. The majority of the team was getting a bit loopy with insanity when an announcement was made at 1:45 pm: Flight #xxx to Seattle, your airplane has been fixed. It will depart from Gate 16 at 3:00.

So we were off! The plane left “on time” and landed in Seatac at 4:50. We got our luggage and hoofed it the half-mile to the bus area (longest walk in the PCL). Of course the bus wasn’t there – we waited 15 extra minutes for it.

Then, off we went at 6:00 from Sea-Tac to Tacoma on a Friday afternoon down I-5. A traffic nightmare. We were bumper-to-bumper in gridlock until we got to the bottom of the hill when a police escort (!!!) picked up our team bus and led us through Fife, the Highway 16 construction-zone interchange, and past the gameday traffic into Cheney Stadium. Our bus driver was a monster, getting into the spirit of the police escort and hauling ass past pulled-over vehicles with the guys on the team hollering encouragement - I think he really enjoyed it.

We pulled up to Cheney Stadium at 6:45 and were greeted by a dozen staffers ready to unload equipment and get the team ready to play. We started up at 8:00 – as soon as we could; guys had to unpack, dress and stretch – and off we went.

What a crazy day – one of those days that somehow manages to make you laugh in amazement and want to quit the business at the same time.

Oh yeah – the Rainiers lost, 4-3, despite playing a surprisingly crisp and clean game. I went on a massive caffeine bender in order to make it through the broadcast, and I think it went OK.

—-

Tonight a properly rested Tacoma Rainiers baseball team hosts Salt Lake at 7:05. Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (1-2, 6.06) against Salt Lake RHP Eric Junge (3-4, 4.32). We’ll have the broadcast on 850 AM or online right here.

Roster note: Michael Saunders has left the team for a few days due to personal business. Luis Rodriguez reported yesterday, playing second base and batting leadoff.

Links:

  • Here’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • While the fans were waiting for the game to start, the Mariners game was shown on the Cheney Stadium video board. The sellout crowd applauded Dustin Ackley’s first major league hit, and the early innings of the M’s win over Philadelphia.
  • As always, Jeff Sullivan’s Mariners game wrap-up is awesome.
  • Larry LaRue has the low-down on the Mariners playing rotation now that Ackley is on the team.
  • Geoff Baker has a take on Ackley’s defense, with quotes from the man himself.
  • From Ryan Divish on the TNT Mariners blog, we have video of Ackley meeting the press. Here is Divish’s column on Ackley’s debut.
  • More thoughts on Ackley, from Jason Churchill.
  • Larry Stone avoided Ackley Mania and instead graced us with the Moneyball trailer. I’m thinking straight-to-DVD. It looks awful, and I’m a guy who thinks that the book is Top-10 Baseball Books Of All-Time material.
  • In a brief Minor League Notes post, John Sickels has an item on Mariners Class-A pitcher Taijuan Walker. I’ll have more on Walker and a few other hot pitchers in the M’s system in my Sunday minor league notebook.
  • In the PCL, there are rumors that Wily Mo Pena might get called up by Arizona, to serve as the DH in interleague games. I love Wily Mo, let’s get him up to the big leagues (and out of Reno’s lineup!). But first, Wily Mo Bobbleheads will be issued.
  • Big news from Sacramento, where team president Alan Ledford resigned. The River Cats attendance has declined over the years and they are a business in transition. Ledford always treated me well during his regular visits to the press box and I wish him the best.
  • Fresno’s Barry Zito is a bit of a whipping boy just because of his contract, but he seems to be universally acclaimed as a good guy – and he’s been taking care of his minor league teammates while on his rehabilitation assignments.
  • The Aces got cracked in Las Vegas, 6-4 (I’m pretty sure Cashman Field doesn’t have an Aces Cracked promotion). The Review-Journal did a nice piece on Reno manager Brett Butler, who is 15 years cancer free.
  • Colorado Springs moved into a tie with Tacoma for second place, eight games behind Reno, beating Tucson as Willy Taveras had a big game.
  • Chris Carter hit a home run, but his 20-foot infield single was the game winner for Sacramento against Fresno.
  • Memphis is smokin’ hot. The Redbirds scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Nashville, 1-0. That’s 11 wins in 13 games for Memphis.
  • Two months ago, Nashville starter Josh Butler was hit in the head by a line drive. He only missed one start, but the mental effects linger on. Scary stuff here.
  • Matt Dominguez, Bryan Petersen, Vinny Rottino, and the New Orleans Zephyrs brought the party to Bricktown last night. The RedHawks didn’t have a good time and went home early.
  • For the last time for the forseeable future, I am going to root for Mariners first round draft pick Danny Hultzen to get absolutely lit up. Upon second thought, let’s just hope he loses 1-0. Or maybe we can just rough him up a little bit, and bloop a bunch of singles or something - how about a 6-2 Bears win?

Great to be at home and have a normal day today! I’m sure the fellas enjoyed sleeping in beds instead of on an airport floor.

(there was once a funny photo here but now it’s gone).

* Bless them for trying, I appreciate this.


Rainiers Win Game, Lose Ackley, Face Zito

June 16, 2011

We’ve got a lot going on in Rainiers Land right now – I feel like Jose Yepez got kind of cheated, not making the headline.

Yepez went 4-for-5 with three RBIs as the Rainiers beat Fresno on Wednesday night, 11-4. It was a close game until the top of the ninth inning, when Yepez hit a bases-loaded double to break it open and start a five-run rally.

Matt Tuiasosopo also had a big game, which included a bases-loaded triple to give Tacoma the lead in the sixth inning, and make a winner out of Tacoma starter Fabio Castro.

Castro needs to stay in the rotation. This probably won’t happen, but… the Rainiers have won the last eight games he has started, and he ranks 4th in the PCL with a 3.47 ERA.

The Rainiers have won four straight games, and are 8-3 going into the final game of this painfully long yet highly successful 12-game road trip.

After the game – well actually, in the top of the ninth inning – we got word that Dustin Ackley was being promoted to Seattle. This is great news for Mariners fans, as Ackley will be fun to watch. He’s been ready for a couple of weeks now and should be just fine in the majors.

A word of caution for M’s fans: don’t expect much right away. Ackley has started slowly each of the last two seasons, and he might get off to a slow start at the plate in Seattle. Just stick with him, and he’ll be fine.

Luis Rodriguez was optioned to Tacoma and will presumeably play a lot of middle infield for Tacoma. He joins the team at home on Friday.

If you’re wondering about promotions of Class-AA middle infielders Carlos Triunfel and Kyle Seager, well so am I. The Southern League all-star game is this week, so we might see one or both after that. On the other hand, in recent seasons we haven’t seen prospects promoted from Jackson until after the Triple-A All-Star Game, which is in July.

Tonight the Rainiers face a rehabilitating Barry Zito. Tacoma has not faced Zito since the 2000 season, when he was a top prospect with the Sacramento River Cats. The Rainiers beat him twice that year, and he had a no-decision.

You can listen to the game at 6:50 pm on South Sound Sports 850, or streaming online. Tacoma starts knuckleballing RHP Charlie Haeger (1-1, 9.00) against Zito, who is stretched out – he’ll probably throw 80-100 pitches.

Links:

I’m elated that this is the final day of our 13-day road trip, and I can’t wait to fly home tomorrow morning. After tonight, the Rainiers will have 44 home games remaining, and only 32 away games.


Sleepy In The Big Easy

May 14, 2011

It’s just another day in the PCL.

On Friday night the Rainiers played a 3 hour, 43 minute game in Oklahoma City, winning 9-8 in the tenth inning when Dustin Ackley beat out a potential inning-ending double play grounder, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Extra innings on getaway day are required by Pacific Coast League Bylaws.

The team got back to the hotel around 12:30 AM, woke up at 4:45 AM, took a bus to the Oklahoma City airport, and flew to Houston.

Once we were in Houston, we had a two-hour layover before taking the quick flight to New Orleans. We arrived at our hotel in the French Quarter at 1:30.

The team bus to the ballpark was at 3:00, so players had to choose between getting an hour of sleep, or grabbing some lunch.

This type of travel is common when we play teams in the American Conference – this side of the league definitely has more difficult travel than the Pacific Conference cities, because most of the cities don’t have direct flights between them. It must be really tough on them to do this all season long. We are lucky to have only two road trips to the American Conference each season.

Anyway, the No Sleep League will be in action tonight. Tacoma plays New Orleans at 4:05 Pacific (850 AM and streaming here). The Rainiers will start RHP Blake Beavan (1-1, 5.26) against New Orleans RHP Jay Buente (2-0, 1.26). Buente leads the PCL in earned run average.

I sacrificed an hour of my precious sleep time last night to research the Zephyrs (these are the things I do for my loyal listeners – and also so that I don’t sound like an even bigger idiot than I already do on the air).

The Florida Marlins affiliate has an experienced lineup of Triple-A veterans, but their pitching is young and impressive. We are going to see some starting pitching prospects in this series, most notably Tom Koehler, who is 20-2 in AA and AAA combined between last year and this year. The Zephyrs also have some power-armed relievers with gaudy statistics. 

Last night’s game featured something I’ve never seen before: the Oklahoma City RedHawks batted out-of-order.

When a team bats out-of-order, it’s up to the opposing manager to point it out. When that happens, an out is declared. The manager can wait until later in the game to point it out, if he wants.

Robinson Cancel thought he was batting cleanup, and he walked with two outs in the first. Koby Clemens thought he was next, he batted and he walked.

It was at that point Tommy Manzella was due up, and Daren Brown figured it was time to end the threat, so he pointed out that Clemens was supposed to  bat before Cancel.

By rule, Manzella was declared out – even though he never saw a pitch. Officially, Clemens was the one who batted out-of-order – since Cancel’s mistake was “legalized” once Clemens saw a pitch.

Because of this, Clemens plate appearance (the walk) was completely negated in the statistics – it’s as if it never happened. Meanwhile, Manzella took an “0-for-1″ for not even batting – I suppose that the putout got credited to the catcher; that’s what they usually do in situations like this.

This is somewhat amusing, as Manzella got charged with an AB even though he never batted, and it wasn’t even his mistake – he was batting in the proper spot. I’d feel sorry for him if he hadn’t hit for the cycle against us on Tuesday.

The whole situation stemmed from RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco making an error in his paperwork. He had Cancel and Clemens flip-flopped on his paper lineup he exchanged at the plate meeting with the umpires, as compared to the big lineup card he had posted in the dugout. Whoops!

I’m in my 18th season broadcasting minor league baseball and I’ve never seen this before – and I did five years in the low minors. A former minor league umpire works for the RedHawks front office and he said in 13 years on the field, many in the low minors, he had only seen it one time prior to yesterday.

The Rainiers made a roster move in the bullpen today, getting Dan Cortes back from the Mariners, and sending reliever Edward Paredes to Double-A Jackson. Paredes really struggled with his command here, hopefully he can get back on track at Jackson.

Links:

  • Here is my Rainiers game story from last night’s 9-8 win in Oklahoma City.
  • You probably heard that the Mariners closer is struggling right now.
  • Carlos Peguero hit his first major league home run and he got the ball – with a little help from Felix.
  • In the PCL, division-leading Reno knocked off Omaha and took the series, 3-1. Cole Gillespie hit his 11th triple.
  • Colorado Springs hung 19 runs on Iowa – Matt Macri homered twice.
  • The had a three-hour rain delay in Nashville last night, but it was worth it for the Sounds.
  • Check out the video of this brawl from A-ball, where a Yankees first round pick goes after the catcher. It reminds me of the Charles Gipson/Bengie Molina fracas at Cheney Stadium back in 1999.

That’s all the links I have time for today – I’m going to sneak in a cat-nap before heading to the park.


Cycling In Oklahoma City

May 11, 2011

Tacoma lost the opener of the eight-game road trip in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, 10-5.

In the game, RedHawks shortstop Tommy Manzella hit for the cycle. He needed the home run in his final at-bat and crushed an Edward Paredes pitch well over the left field fence to complete the bicycle.

The Rainiers have now seen three cycles hit against them in the last four years (Jarrett Hoffpauir in 2010 and Joe Koshansky in 2008). Prior to that, the Rainiers had not been involved in a cycle – for or against – since 1997.

I wrote in the off-season about how we are due to see a triple play. I had a continuation post planned in which I was going to write about how we are due for a Rainiers player to hit for the cycle: nobody has done it for Tacoma since Raul Ibanez in 1997.  

For the full run-down on Tacoma’s loss yesterday, and more details on the cycle, click on my TNT story in the links below.

The fatigued Rainiers got back to the hotel around midnight last night, and I suspect I wasn’t the only member of the traveling party to sleep ten hours straight. I could have easily slept for two or three more hours, but duty called. We should be well-rested for tonight’s game.

I talked about this a little bit on the air last night, but it feels like tonight is guaranteed win night for the Rainiers. Here’s why:

  • Tacoma is 0-6 in games where the opponent starts a left-handed pitcher, and
  • Oklahoma City is starting left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith, the former Rainiers and Mariners lefty.

Rowland-Smith is an all-around good guy and we root for him to have success. So of course the Rainiers are going to beat him tonight – its destiny.

The game starts at 5:05 pm Pacific time, with the pre-game show starting at 4:50, and you can listen on 850 AM or on the online internet stream. Tacoma starts RHP Chaz Roe (0-3, 8.10) against Oklahoma’s Rowland-Smith (1-2, 5.18). 

Links:

You guys don’t want to read this, but it is Oklahoma City Thunder mania everywhere in this town. Tonight’s playoff game five is right down the street from Bricktown Ballpark. It’s going to be lively in this town tonight – but I’ll be pulling for the Grizzlies, for a number of reasons.


That’s Two Straight – Now For A Day Of Rest

April 27, 2011

Tacoma made it two straight wins by beating Salt Lake on Tuesday night, 8-4.

It was an all-around team effort: Fabio Castro had an excellent start, the bullpen was solid, and everyone in the lineup hit. The team went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position, which has been an early-season struggle for the club.

Mike Wilson came off the disabled list and hit a pair of doubles, Carlos Peguero had a two-out, two-run double, Josh Bard knocked a homer, and Alex Liddi hit a tape-measure line drive solo shot.

Here is the game story with more details and quotes from manager Daren Brown.

After 20 straight games, the Rainiers have their first day off of the season today. The team lands in Reno in the mid-afternoon and gets a relaxing evening off.

In the PCL we get one day off a month, and having it on the road is not a good thing. But we’ll make the best of it – personally, you will be able to find me either at the Sierra Nevada Tap House (yum yum) or in a No-Limit Hold ‘Em game at one of Reno’s finest downtown gambling palaces.

Tacoma’s next game will be Thursday at 6:05 in Reno. I’ll be back with a full blog post beforehand.


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