Win Streak Ends In Round Rock

May 24, 2016

Ike Davis spiked an early three-run homer, a Rainiers rally fell short, and Tacoma’s six-game win streak ended on Monday night in Round Rock, Texas.

Davis’s three-run shot to center in the second inning gave the Express a 3-0 lead, and they added another run on an RBI single in the fourth to make it 4-0.

Per usual, the Rainiers fought until the end and nearly completed a comeback.

Down 4-2 with one out in the ninth, runners were at first and second. Dario Pizzano sliced a single down the left field line, scoring one run while advancing the tying runner to third. However, Pizzano tried to stretch the hit into a double – which would have put the go-ahead run in scoring position – but the former Rainiers outfielder James Jones gunned him down at second base.

That brought Zach Shank to the plate with two outs and the tying runner at third, and he lined out to the right fielder to end the game.

It was a good first game to the series, which should continue to be entertaining: Round Rock is also hot right now, having won six of their last seven games.

However, the Express lost three key players prior to last night’s game: middle of the order sluggers Joey Gallo and Jared Hoying were called up by Texas, and Patrick Kivlehan was placed on waivers to open up a 40-man roster spot – so he’s unavailable for now.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Ike Davis hit a three-run homer, Tacoma couldn’t get anything going against major league veteran Kyle Lohse until the sixth inning, and Round Rock ended the Rainiers six-game win streak with a 4-3 decision on Monday night.

Today: Tacoma (27-17) at Round Rock (24-19), 5:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: Texas Rangers.

Season Series: Round Rock leads, 1-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Donn Roach (3-2, 6.43) at RHP Chi-Chi Gonzalez (1-4, 6.12).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has a seven-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 8-for-27 with four home runs, and he has scored at least one run in each game… Mike Zunino has nine RBI over his last four games… Stefen Romero has reached base via hit or walk in 14 straight games… Luis Sardinas has a five-game hitting streak, going 10-for-19.

Look Out For: Jurickson Profar has an 11-game hitting streak, and both Patrick Cantwell and  Ryan Strausborger have hit safely in eight straight.

Ex-Rainiers: Round Rock is loaded with ’em. James Jones and Tom Wilhelmsen are on the active roster while Justin Ruggiano is on the disabled list. Patrick Kivlehan is currently on waivers, but if he clears he’ll rejoin Round Rock.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story marvels about the 15-year gap between Kyle Lohse‘s last two starts against Tacoma.
  • The Mariners ran into Rich Hill and got shut out by the A’s, 5-0. Taijuan Walker pitched well but the defense was a problem.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook leads off with an item on the improved performance by the bullpen.
  • Leonys Martin is heating up for the Mariners while the Rainiers are facing the players who were traded for him.

PCL Game Reports:


Rainiers Finish Sweep & Hit The Road

May 23, 2016

Tacoma completed the four-game sweep of Iowa with an 8-1 victory on a damp Sunday afternoon, wrapping up another terrific homestand.

The Rainiers went 7-1 on the homestand, improving their record at Cheney Stadium to 18-5.

But now it’s time for a road trip, and the Rainiers are just 9-11 on the road.

Now, that’s not a bad road record. You’d like to get it up to or over the .500 mark, and as long as the team keeps cleaning up at home all will be fine.

The big issue in road games has been the starting pitching: Rainiers starters have a 7.55 ERA in road games, allowing 80 earned runs in 95.1 innings pitched.

Sixteen of the first 20 road games have been played in high-scoring ballparks: Albuquerque (8), El Paso (4) and Las Vegas (4).

The staff should get a break on this road trip. Round Rock’s Dell Diamond plays pretty fair unless the wind is howling, and New Orleans plays in an honest-to-goodness pitcher’s park. Maybe that will help Tacoma’s starting pitchers get rolling on the road.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma’s bullpen pitched 6.2 shutout innings after a rain delay caused starter Brad Mills to have a short outing, and the Rainiers finished a sweep of Iowa with an 8-1 win on Sunday. Boog Powell, Mike Zunino, and Stefen Romero homered for the Rainiers.

Today: Tacoma (27-16) at Round Rock (23-19), 5:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: Texas Rangers.

Season Series: 0-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Adrian Sampson (4-2, 3.00) at RHP Kyle Lohse (1-0, 5.06).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has a six-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 7-for-23 with four home runs, and he has scored at least one run in each game… Mike Zunino has eight RBI over his last three games, and he has a five-game hitting streak… Stefen Romero has reached base via hit or walk in 13 straight games.

Look Out For: Everybody. Round Rock just won three straight games in El Paso, scoring double-digits in each game. All told, the team scored 43 runs on 60 hits the last three days, with a team batting average of .451 (60-for-133)… Jurickson Profar has a ten-game hitting streak, and Ryan Strausborger has hit safely in seven straight.

Ex-Rainiers: Round Rock is loaded with ’em. James Jones, Patrick Kivlehan, and Tom Wilhelmsen are on the active roster while Justin Ruggiano is on the disabled list.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

We made it to Texas on a red-eye flight. Was an unusual feeling, checking in to the hotel while other guests were sitting around eating their breakfast.


Rainiers Go For Sweep

May 22, 2016

Tacoma wraps up the eight-game homestand today with a day game against the Iowa Cubs.

The Rainiers won three-of-four against Omaha, and have now won the first three against Iowa. That makes for a 6-1 record on this homestand, raising the Rainiers season-long record at Cheney Stadium to 17-5.

Tacoma has won 11 of its last 12 home games.

Overall, Tacoma is 26-16. Last night’s win put Tacoma ten games over the .500 mark for the first time since July 29, 2013 when the club was 60-50.

The Rainiers have already had one four-game sweep this year, against Salt Lake, May 2-5. Let’s see if they can get another.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: The Rainiers won their fifth in a row on Saturday night, walking off Iowa 7-6. Luis Sardinas went 4-for-5, including the game-winning RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Tacoma bullpen was stellar once again, working 3.1 scoreless innings.

Roster Move: Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained thumb, so they called up Chris Taylor to replace him. The Rainiers are adding infielder Zach Shank from Double-A Jackson, and he will hopefully be here in time for today’s game.

Today: Iowa (18-22) at Tacoma (26-16), 1:35.

Opponent Affiliation: Chicago Cubs.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 3-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Drew Rucinski (2-3, 6.18) at LHP Brad Mills (0-0, 3.60).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has a six-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 7-for-23 with four home runs, and he has scored at least one run in each game… Dario Pizzano had his ten-game hitting streak end last night; he went 13-for-33 during the run… Stefen Romero has reached base via hit or walk in 12 straight games.

Look Out ForTaylor Davis is 4-for-8 in this series, which is just more of the same: last year in a four-game series against Tacoma, Davis went 8-for-17 with five doubles… John Andreoli is having an interesting series: he’s 4-for-13 with two homers, and he has struck out eight times.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here. It’s a Sunday home game, so Bob Robertson joins me on the broadcast.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • Christian Caple wrote the Rainiers game story, which includes commentary from Pat Listach on James Paxton‘s kind of odd outing.
  • My weekly Minor League Notebook for The News Tribune looks at Double-A starter Dylan Unsworth, and a couple of ex-Rainiers we’ll be seeing soon.
  • The Mariners are also going for a sweep today. Yesterday Franklin Gutierrez launched a tape-measure homer to support Felix Hernandez in a 4-0 win. Ketel Marte injured his thumb during the game.
  • I really enjoyed this column from John McGrath, about how a manager losing his job can be a good thing. And McGrath also has his weekly MLB Power Rankings.
  • Ryan Divish talked to some Mariners players about the proposed changes to the strike zone for 2017.
  • In Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook, we learn that the bullpen roles are evolving.
  • Jim Ray Hart passed away. The former third baseman played for the Tacoma Giants in 1963.

PCL Game Reports:

  • Nashville is the hottest team in the league. Josh Phegley‘s RBI single gave Nashville a walk-off 4-3 win over Sacramento, and that’s seven straight wins for the Sounds.
  • Archie Bradley was dealing in Reno’s 3-1 win over Omaha. Eight shutout innings in Reno – that’s rare.
  • Fresno starter Brady Rodgers struck out 11 in a 7-1 win at Memphis.
  • The Isotopes are having a rough homestand, and last night they lost to New Orleans, 9-2. From the story: “Saturday, a fan got hit with a flying bat in the ninth inning and an Isotopes employee dressed as a jar of salsa during an in-game chile race promotion went down with an injured left leg and had to be helped off the field in the fifth inning.”
  • El Paso pulled off a difficult trick: they scored eight runs in one inning and lost the game. Round Rock got ’em, 13-11, as Jurickson Profar went 4-for-5 with five RBI.
  • T.J. Rivera keeps hitting, and Las Vegas edged Colorado Springs, 4-3. Apparently the Mets considered sending Matt Harvey to Las Vegas.
  • Oklahoma City’s Zach Lee became the PCL’s first six-game winner in a 5-4 victory over Salt Lake. Julio Urias has not been called up yet.

The homestand ends today. We have a rare postgame flight (yay!) to Austin and will bus from there up to Round Rock for the series which starts Monday evening.

 


Zunino Oppo-Bomb Highlights Win

May 21, 2016

The Rainiers topped Iowa on Friday night, 9-4, for Tacoma’s fourth straight win.

Tacoma scored all of its runs in just two innings: a five-run bottom of the first, and a four-run sixth.

Mike Zunino capped the five-run first inning with a three-run homer, his tenth home run of the season.

While Zunino has hit longer home runs this season, Friday’s may have been his favorite: it was hit to the opposite field, a line drive that cleared the wall in right-center at Cheney Stadium.

Zunino is doing a lot of work to improve his offense while with the Rainiers, and one of the things he’s trying to do is not be so pull-heavy. Try to stay up the middle, which means sometimes hitting the ball to the opposite field.

So it was good to see him drive a pitch to right-center last night – and not just for a base hit, but a liner that cleared the fence some 370 feet from home plate.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma used two big innings to take down the Iowa Cubs last night, 9-4. Boog Powell and Stefen Romero each had three hits, while Romero and Mike Zunino each drove in three runs. Tacoma is 25-16 and has the best record in the PCL.

Today: Iowa (18-21) at Tacoma (25-16), 5:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Chicago Cubs.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 2-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Alex Sanabia (0-1, 47.25) at LHP James Paxton (4-2, 3.75).

Yeah, that’s Sanabia’s ERA. He’s pitched in one game and was hit with seven earned runs in 1.1 innings.

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has a five-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 6-for-18 with four home runs… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in ten straight games, going 13-for-33.

Look Out For: Alberto Almora went 0-for-5 last night, ending his 14-game hitting streak – biut he did make three great plays defensively in center. Almora hasn’t drawn a walk since April 23, 100 at-bats ago… Taylor Davis is 4-for-8 in this series, which is just more of the same: last year in a four-game series against Tacoma, Davis went 8-for-17 with five doubles.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

Cross-conference play continues in the PCL, and last night the American Conference beat its Pacific Conference foe in every game except one: the Rainiers-Cubs game. Here are the PCL Game Reports:

  • Omaha scored three runs in the ninth to upend Reno, 5-4, and holy smokes the Rainiers have a 6.5-game lead in the division standings and it’s May 21. Ed Lucas reported to Reno and went 0-for-4.
  • Memphis scored five runs in the third inning and took down Fresno, 8-7.
  • Nashville’s Daniel Mengden dealt again in a 2-1 win over Sacramento. Between Double-A and Nashville, Mengden has allowed four runs in 50 innings this season. Nashville has won six in a row.
  • This Julio Urias thing is getting ridiculous. The 19-year-old phenom tossed five more scoreless innings last night, extending his shutout streak to 27 straight frames. He’s 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA, and Oklahoma City shut out Salt Lake last night, 1-0. Is it time for the Dodgers to let him throw more than 75 pitches?
  • Colorado Springs lit up Las Vegas, 14-6. The Sky Sox had 19 hits, none were homers… and four were triples. Wut?
  • Albuquerque lefty Harrison Musgrave had an eventful and memorable Triple-A debut. But he lost to New Orleans, 8-1.
  • Round Rock scored 12 runs before making four outs in a 14-10 win at El Paso, ending the Chihuahuas six-game win streak. Oooooh… good headline: “Round Rock Cages Chihuahuas.”

The Rainiers will try to keep it rolling at 5:05.


Rainiers Continue Hot Play

May 20, 2016

Tacoma won the series opener against Iowa on Thursday night, 2-1, in a well-pitched game by both clubs.

The victory was the third in a row for the Rainiers, and it improved Tacoma’s record to 24-16 on the season.

The team is eight games over .500 for the first time this season, and the team has opened up a 5.5-game lead in the Pacific-North division standings.

Key to the Rainiers success has been the team’s play at home: Tacoma has gone 15-5 over the first 20 games at Cheney Stadium.

This is a nice change from recent years, in which the club has struggled at home in the cold months and then warmed up with the weather in June.

It’s been a great first 40 games for the Rainiers. Some stats for you:

  • Tacoma’s offense ranks third in the PCL in batting average (.280), second in runs scored (218 – El Paso leads with 232), and fourth in home runs (36 – Omaha is tops with 43).
  • The pitching staff ranks fifth in the league with a 4.18 team ERA. Control has been the key: Rainiers pitchers have issued the fewest walks in the PCL, just 99 for an average of 2.5 per game.
  • The Rainiers run differential of +30 is best in the league.
  • Tacoma batters are putting the ball in play. The Rainiers have the second-fewest strikeouts in the league, with 250 K’s or just 6.25 per game. Only El Paso has struck out less.

Here’s hoping it all continues for the next 104 games (or more!).

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Donn Roach had the best start of his year, lasting 6.2 innings and allowing one run on four hits. He struck out a season-high seven and did not issue a walk, and he retired the final 11 batters he faced. Tacoma beat Iowa, 2-1, with Luis Sardinas‘s RBI single in the sixth inning serving as the game-winner. Mike Baxter hit another homer, giving him four this week.

Today: Iowa (18-20) at Tacoma (24-16), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Chicago Cubs.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 1-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Jake Buchanan (3-1, 3.86) at RHP Joe Wieland (2-3, 9.10).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has ten hits and five walks in his last seven games, and he has homered in three straight games with four total dingers… Rob Brantly has gone 10-for-24 over a six-game hitting streak, with three homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in ten straight games, going 13-for-33.

Look Out For: Alberto Almora is running hot. He brings a 14-game hitting streak into tonight’s game, with 23 hits during the spree. He also never walks: he’s hasn’t drawn a free pass since April 23, 95 at-bats ago… Dan Vogelbach won the PCL Player of the Week award last week, he went 1-for-3 with a walk last night.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

Can the Rainiers make it four in a row?


I-Cubs Arrive; Unexpected Shake-Up

May 19, 2016

We’re back from our monthly off day and are ready to continue the homestand tonight, with the Iowa Cubs in town for a four-game series which runs through Sunday.

The I-Cubs have not duplicated the success of their major league affiliate, which has the best record in MLB. Iowa rolls into town on a three-game losing streak, and a record of 18-19 on the season.

But, Iowa has a lot of prospects. With the success of the major league Cubs, some of these Iowa players could become trade chips in July, or major league reinforcements when needed.

If you are coming to the ballpark this weekend – and by all means you should, duh – keep an eye on catcher Willson Contreras, who some analysts think is the best catching prospect in minor league baseball. Also watch sleek outfielder Albert Almora and first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who is a bulky hit-machine.

And if you like your ex-Mariners, Munenori Kawasaki is with Iowa!

The Rainiers had a roster move after Tuesday’s win, and it’s a real head-scratcher.

The Mariners activated Joaquin Benoit from the disabled list, and sent down reliever Mayckol Guaipe. That part made sense.

But the Rainiers needed to make room for Guaipe on the roster, and for some reason the Mariners released Tacoma third baseman Ed Lucas. This leaves the Rainiers with 11 position players and 14 pitchers – including a too-large nine-man bullpen.

I’d like to explain to you why they did this, but I have no idea. Jerry Dipoto and Andy McKay must have some reason for the move, but it’s a mystery to me.

It’s not like Lucas was going unused: he was the starting third baseman, and leads the PCL in games played.

Manager Pat Listach is now forced to cycle through Chris Taylor, Tyler Smith, and Luis Sardinas at some combination of second, third, and shortstop without a back-up infielder. Hopefully there aren’t any injuries.

Tacoma will not be getting Jabari Blash back from the Padres.

San Diego selected the slugger in the Rule 5 Draft, which meant they had to keep him in  the majors all year, or else expose him to waivers, and then offer him back to the Mariners.

Blash was taken off their roster a week ago, he cleared waivers, and was offered back to Seattle. The Mariners and Padres worked out a trade, with the Padres getting to keep Blash and the Mariners receiving a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The process means that the Rule 5 rules no longer apply, and the Padres are free to send Blash to the minors.

I’m sure he’ll look sharp in his El Paso Chihuahuas uniform.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: No game yesterday, but on Tuesday the Rainiers beat Omaha 7-5 and won that series, three games to one. In his final at-bat for the Rainiers, Ed Lucas singled home the tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning before Rob Brantly‘s two-run single gave Tacoma the lead. Brantly had a huge game, going 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI.

Roster Move: Tacoma adds reliever Mayckol Guaipe from Seattle, and infielder Ed Lucas was released.

Today: Iowa (18-19) at Tacoma (23-16), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Chicago Cubs.

Season Series: 0-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Ryan Williams (3-1, 3.49) at RHP Donn Roach (2-2, 7.39).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has nine hits and four walks in his last six games, and he has homered in back-to-back games with three total dingers… Rob Brantly has gone 10-for-24 over a six-game hitting streak, with three homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in nine straight games, going 12-for-30.

Look Out For: Alberto Almora is running hot. He brings a 14-game hitting streak into tonight’s game, with 23 hits during the spree. He also never walks: he’s hasn’t drawn a free pass since April 23, 95 at-bats ago… Dan Vogelbach won the PCL Player of the Week award last week, but he went just 3-for-15 earlier this week in the series at Reno… Juan Perez has a five-game hitting streak.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

The entire PCL was off on Wednesday, but we do have a few interesting stories:

Roster turmoil is a part of Triple-A baseball, and the Rainiers have been fortunate to avoid it until today. It will be interesting to see how the team responds on the field.


Baxter Sends Storm Chasers Indoors

May 17, 2016

The Rainiers had their first walk-off win of the season on Monday night, and it was about as dramatic as could be.

Trailing 5-4 with two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mike Baxter launched a 2-2 pitch from Omaha reliever Malcom Culver over the wall in right-center for a 7-5 victory.

It was Baxter’s second home run of the game, and third of the season. Here’s the video of the walk-off – just click on it if it doesn’t come up automatically:

I laughed in the middle of the celebration because someone dumps the water cooler, and when the pile separates it’s a confused Dario Pizzano who is standing there covered with ice water.

The homer completed a pretty big comeback: Omaha scored five times in the top of the second inning against James Paxton, but did not score again the rest of the way.

Paxton averaged 96 miles per hour on his fastball and topped out at 98. Manager Pat Listach said it was the best stuff Paxton has had this season – but, in that second inning he got into some bad counts and left pitches in the middle of the plate where they could be hit hard.

Paxton, Justin DeFratus, Kraig Sitton, and Jonathan Aro combined to pitch seven straight shutout innings and enable the comeback.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma enjoyed its first walk-off win of the season, with Mike Baxter’s three-run homer ending it in a 7-5 win. The Rainiers will go for a series win today.

Today: Omaha (21-16) at Tacoma (22-16), 11:35.

Opponent Affiliation: Kansas City Royals.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 2-1.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Luke Farrell (2-0, 3.73) at RHP Adrian Sampson (4-2, 3.05).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has eight hits and two walks in his last five games, with the two homers last night… Ed Lucas has hit safely in five straight games… Rob Brantly has gone 7-for-20 over a five-game hitting streak, with a pair of homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in nine straight games, going 12-for-30… Chris Taylor has reached base via hit or walk in 33 of the 36 games he has played in.

Look Out For: Brett Eibner homered three times on Thursday against Memphis, including two in the fifth inning alone. He became the 21st player in PCL history to homer twice in one inning… defending PCL batting champion Jose Martinez is 6-for-12 with a homer in this series… 2013 first round draft pick Hunter Dozier might be breaking out this season – he went 3-for-4 last night, and has hit safely in six straight games.

Local Guy: Mill Creek native Travis Snider is on Omaha, trying to play his way back to the big leagues. Jackson High School Class of 2006.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 11:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • Mike Baxter wasn’t sure it was gone, we learn in the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Matt Calkins has a column on the evolving pitching style of Felix Hernandez. I like Felix’s comments here.
  • The Mariners open a series in Baltimore tonight, and it’s a return home for catcher Steve Clevenger.

PCL Game Reports:

Early game today, and then an off-day on Wednesday. I’m taking the day off, too – our next blog post will appear Thursday early-afternoon, before Tacoma hosts Iowa.


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