Memphis Wins It All

September 19, 2018

Congratulations, again, to the Memphis Redbirds – this time for winning the Triple-A National Championship.

Memphis took down the Durham Bulls on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio. They won the Triple-A National Championship Game in a blowout, 14-4.

Redbirds infielder Alex Mejia took home the MVP award, going 5-for-5 with five RBI and three runs scored. Just a few days ago he had a walkoff squeeze bunt in the 11th inning of Game Three of the PCL Championship Series against Fresno.

Outfielder Lane Thomas provided the power, going 3-for-5 with a triple, a homer, and five RBI. Tommy Edman and Rangel Ravelo each scored three runs for the Redbirds.

Reliever Giovanny Gallegos pitched a scoreless ninth inning to end the game, and was promoted to the big leagues during the post game celebration.

Thus ends the 2018 Triple-A season.

The final affiliation switches revealed themselves yesterday, and there were some surprises. I’ll have a longer post about it later this week – probably Thursday afternoon. Until then, here are the final results:

  • Las Vegas – Oakland A’s
  • Round Rock – Houston Astros
  • Nashville – Texas Rangers
  • Fresno – Washington Nationals (!!!)
  • San Antonio – Milwaukee Brewers

More on this later.

Links:

  • Story (with videos and photos) on the Triple-A National Championship Game from MiLB.com.
  • Baseball America’s JJ Cooper was at the game and filed this story.
  • Here’s a story from the Memphis paper on the Redbirds championship season.
  • The Mariners were shut out by Josh James and the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, eliminating the M’s from AL West contention. They are still mathematically in the Wild Card hunt, for now.
  • The Houston Astros fired Triple-A Fresno manager Rodney Linares, which is somewhat shocking. Fresno had a great season, and Linares was an Astros lifer with 22 years in the organization.
  • I didn’t know this streak existed: the National League won interleague play this year – something it had not done since 2003. The AL had won 14 straight seasons. Story from Jeff Sullivan.

 

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Triple-A Championship Game Televised Nationally Tonight

September 18, 2018

The final game in all of Minor League Baseball gets played tonight in Columbus, Ohio: it’s the Triple-A National Championship Game, between the champions of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues.

The Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay affiliate) face the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals). Amazingly, it’s a repeat of last year’s game, because each league has a back-to-back champion.

The game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network, starting at 4:00 (Pacific). George Grande, Jim Kaat, and Jim Callis are the announcers. On my DirecTV it is channel 220. The internet says that it is 408 on Xfinity, and 40/540 on Click.

Memphis starts RHP Kevin Herget, while Durham is apparently going with RHP Chih-Wei Hu.

Durham won this game last year. I’ll have some PCL pride and pull for Memphis this time around.

The Triple-A season hasn’t even ended yet (barely!) and we are already into the affiliation shuffle.

On Monday, the Las Vegas 51s announced a new affiliation with the Oakland A’s lasting through the 2020 season. Oakland once again moves into the newest ballpark in the PCL – just like they did four years ago in Nashville.

This will be fun for the Rainiers/Mariners. Now we’ll get to see the A’s Triple-A team 16 times each season, instead of just four when they were in Nashville. It’s always good to keep tabs on your rivals.

In a surprise today, the ownership of the new-to-Triple-A San Antonio Missions (moved from Colorado Springs) decided to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers, whom they have had a relationship with for the past four years in the Springs.

That leaves three teams left.

Houston (from Fresno) is expected to link with Round Rock. It’s not official at blog post time, but apparently an announcement is imminent.

That leaves the Washington Nationals (from Syracuse of the IL, which is now with the NY Mets) and the Texas Rangers looking for a match, with Nashville and Fresno the remaining partners.

The Nashville Sounds will ultimately decide who they want – they are in a better ballpark with a better geographic location for both of the remaining major league teams. Fresno will get the team that is left standing.

I’ll share my thoughts on the final results of all of this when it is over.

Hey, Vogelbach is heating up! Let’s get to the links.

Links:


Memphis Repeats As PCL Champions

September 16, 2018

The Memphis Redbirds shut out Fresno last night at Autozone Park, 5-0, and clinched its second straight Pacific Coast League championship. Memphis won the best-of-five series, three games to one.

The Redbirds became the first back-to-back PCL champions since Omaha did it in 2013-2014. The office produced a cute “Beak-2-Beak” logo.

Congratulations to the Redbirds, who had the best record in the PCL pretty much all season long after winning a whopping 91 games in 2017. The upper level of the St. Louis Cardinals farm system is loaded right now, and they have had excellent teams in Memphis these past two seasons.

On top of that, Redbirds manager Stubby Clapp is gaining some traction among national baseball media as a potential major league manager. We’ll see if he scores a big league job during the offseason. The back-to-back PCL titles will certainly help his cause.

In Game Four on Saturday, starting pitcher Jake Woodford was masterful. The 21-year-old Triple-A rookie tossed 7.1 shutout innings, giving up just three hits (all singles) and one walk while striking out six. Reliever Giovanny Gallegos – the hitting star in Game Four of the American Conference finals – recorded the final five outs to nail down the save.

Offensively, outfielder Randy Arozarena hit two home runs and drove in all five for Memphis. He hit a three-run homer off Cy Sneed in the first inning, and a two-run blast off Matt Ramsey in the eighth.

There is one game left for Memphis: the Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game, against the International League champion the Durham Bulls. This game will be played on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.

It’s a rematch, since both Durham and Memphis are back-to-back league champions. Last year Durham won the Triple-A National Championship Game, 5-3.

Links:

  • Here’s the story on Memphis winning the PCL title, from MiLB.com.
  • The Mariners won again in Anaheim on Saturday evening, and they will try to get a rare four-game road series sweep today.
  • Seattle Times writer Ryan Divish did his weekly Mariners Q&A, this time with a lot of focus on the status of Nelson Cruz.
  • The M’s are taking a look at Kristopher Negron as the possible utility infielder/outfielder for 2019, Divish reports.
  • The Oakland A’s have been told they will not be affiliated with Triple-A Nashville in 2019, according to reports. Nashville ownership gave ’em the boot – it was an odd alignment to begin with.
  • MLB teams get to decide on these things, too: the Houston Astros have informed the Fresno Grizzlies that they will not be renewing their affiliate. Look for the Astros to affiliate with a PCL team closer to home.

Redbirds Squeeze Out Win In 11th, Take Lead In PCL Finals

September 15, 2018

Checking in on a Saturday morning to give you a quick update on the PCL Championship Series.

Game Three was a fun one: Memphis won in the bottom of the 11th inning, 2-1, on a game-ending squeeze bunt.

It was tied 1-1 after ten. Keep in mind, there are no weird rules in extra innings during the playoffs. The games are played the traditional way.

Memphis’s Tommy Edman hit a leadoff single, and managed to go all the way to third base on a wild pickoff throw. With one out, Alex Mejia put down a perfect “safety squeeze” bunt and brought in the winning run.

Memphis leads the series, two games to one. The Redbirds can win back-to-back PCL Championships with a victory tonight or tomorrow.

Game Four is tonight at 4:35 (Pacific). Up against the wall, Fresno starts RHP Cy Sneed against Memphis RHP Jake Woodford. You can follow along live right here.

Links:


Rainiers & Mariners Extend Agreement Through 2022

September 13, 2018

Today the Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers announced a four-year extension of their Player Development Contract, lasting through the 2022 season.

The Rainiers first affiliated with the Mariners in 1995, and the agreement has become one of the longest in Minor League Baseball. The 2019 season will be the 25th year of the union.

Thanks to the Seattle Mariners scouting and development programs, we’ve seen some great players come through Cheney Stadium. From Alex Rodriguez to Freddy Garcia to Joel Pineiro to Felix Hernandez to Adam Jones to Shin-Soo Choo to Kyle Seager to James Paxton to… you get the picture. We’ve seen a lot of players who have gone on to have long major league careers.

The Player Development Contract means that the Mariners will continue to supply the Tacoma Rainiers players, manager, and coaches, along with assorted team training and medical personnel. The Rainiers operate the business side of Cheney Stadium, including the playing field and team travel. There is a long and tremendously boring list of shared expenses, such as bats and balls and uniforms and umpires. Rainiers pay for this, Mariners pay for that, this one gets split 50/50, etc.

We’re happy to be locked in with the Mariners for another four years.

There will be teams in the PCL that do not renew their current major league affiliations, and agreements will switch around a bit. News on changes in this area will start to develop over the next four weeks.

The PCL Championship Series continued on Wednesday night in Fresno.

Game Two: Fresno 10, Memphis 1. The best-of-five series is tied, 1-1.

Fresno scored six runs in the second inning and coasted to the win. Each team has won a game by blowout so far in this series. Last night Drew Ferguson and Kyle Tucker each had two hits, a homer, and three RBI to lead the Grizzlies. Nick Tanielu went 3-for-5 and scored twice.

Thursday is an off day for travel. The series resumes with Game Three on Friday night in Memphis, at 5:05 (Pacific). Fresno starts RHP Rogelio Armenteros against Memphis RHP Chris Ellis.

Your landing page for all live coverage of the PCL Playoffs is right here.

Links:

  • Here’s the MiLB.com story on Game Two of the PCL Championship Series.
  • I went to the Mariners-Padres game on Wednesday afternoon. I got to see the M’s fall behind 5-0, strike out a franchise record nine times in a row, battle back, and fall just short, 5-4. They got swept by the Padres.
  • Larry Stone writes that the Mariners are stuck in an unsatisfying limbo. This is an excellent look at the big picture – if you can stomach it.
  • Bob Dutton takes a look at how the Mariners fare in “control the zone” stats, and baserunning numbers. They do fine in walks drawn versus walks issued, because the pitching staff doesn’t walk many. But the hitters rank last in all of major league baseball in walks drawn.
  • Earlier this week, Dutton posted his Mariners minor league awards.

No blog on Friday. We’ll be back on Saturday to catch up on the PCL Championship Series.


Pat Listach Era Comes To An End In Tacoma

September 12, 2018

We received some big news on Monday, when the Seattle Mariners confirmed that they will not be renewing the contract of Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach for the 2019 season.

Listach managed the Rainiers for four years, reaching the PCL playoffs once. Here are the Rainiers record under his guidance:

  • 2015: 68-76
  • 2016: 81-62 (won division title)
  • 2017: 66-76
  • 2018: 66-73

His 281 total career wins ranks fourth among Tacoma managers in franchise history, which dates back to 1960.

A native of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Listach became Tacoma’s first African-American manager when he took the job in 2015. He had spent five of the previous six seasons on major league coaching staffs, with the Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros.

From my perspective, Pat’s biggest strength at the Triple-A level is his ability to communicate and relate with his players amid an extremely high-stress environment. These players are on the cusp of the major leagues, and the lifestyle changes that come with it, and everyone feels like they belong in Seattle and not in Triple-A. Listach is terrific at handling the clubhouse in these conditions.

He’s also great with fans and the media. If you are a regular at Cheney Stadium and bumped into Pat at some point, he probably stopped to chat with you for a bit. He’s a “people person.”

We’ll definitely miss him in Tacoma. Pat has been a joy to work with the past four seasons, and he’s a good friend. I’m sure he’ll find a job with another organization quickly.

So who is next in line? Good question.

Daren Brown is the Double-A Arkansas manager. He has already managed Tacoma for seven years, and working in the Texas League keeps him much closer to his family home in Amarillo. It’s possible that he may not be interested in leaving his current post – I’m not sure. We would love to have him back, of course.

Class-A Modesto manager Mitch Canham had a lot of success in 2017, but his team fell back this year. His youth (33 years old) and lack of high-level playing experience (a total of 41 games played in Triple-A) are very large hurdles to clear when it comes to relating to players at this level.

Denny Hocking managed at Low-A Clinton this season, and he seems like a candidate. Hocking was a Rainiers coach in 2017, and he has plenty of PCL and Major League experience.

Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach David Berg is also a candidate. Prior to joining the Rainiers in 2017, Berg managed six seasons in the Marlins system including two at the Double-A level. As a hitting coach, it seems that his players like him.

The Mariners may make a hire from outside of the organization. Whoever lands this job is going to need to be able to handle the challenges of dealing with an unsettled Triple-A roster while working in a somewhat experimental Player Development Department that emphasizes mental and psychological growth over traditional baseball instruction. An open mind will be required. It’s not for everybody!

The Pacific Coast League Championship Series began last night, and defending champion Memphis ran away with a 10-4 victory over Fresno. It was Game One of the best-of-five series.

The Redbirds were up 5-0 in the fifth inning, and 7-2 in the sixth. Leadoff man Tommy Edman went 4-for-5 with a double, a homer, and three RBI. Wilfredo Tovar added three hits and drove in two.

Game Two is today at 7:05. Memphis starts left-hander Tyler Lyons against Fresno RHP Trent Thornton.

Your landing page for all live coverage of the PCL Playoffs is right here.

Links:


PCL Championship Series Set

September 10, 2018

The PCL Conference Finals ended on Sunday, and we have two teams ready to duke it out in the PCL Championship Series. Both are recent winners.

Memphis won the American Conference title, and is bidding to become a repeat league champion. Fresno won the Pacific Conference finals, and the Grizzlies last won the league title just three years ago.

PACIFIC CONFERENCE

Fresno 10, El Paso 1. Fresno wins the series, three games to two.

Lots of drama in the series, but not much in the final game. Fresno won two road games at El Paso, returned home and lost games three and four to El Paso… and then wiped them out in Game Five.

The Grizzlies had 13 hits, with five different players notching multiple hits. Starting pitcher Brock Dykxhoorn went five innings allowing one run, and four Fresno relievers followed by tossing one scoreless inning each. Fresno had a healthy lead (5-1) by the fourth inning, and broke it wide open with three more runs in the sixth.

AMERICAN CONFERENCE

Memphis 4, Oklahoma City 3 (10). Memphis wins the series, three games to one.

Oklahoma City went into Sunday’s action needing to sweep a doubleheader – something it did on back-to-back days to end the regular season and reach the playoffs.

These were nine inning games (playoff rules, apparently), and the second game would only be played if necessary.

In the opening game they were tied after nine innings, 1-1. Oklahoma City’s Henry Ramos hit a two-run homer in the top of the tenth to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

Memphis started to rally in the bottom of the tenth, scoring a run and advancing the tying runner at third with two outs. Alex Mejia came through with an RBI single, tying the game. A walk put two men on, and the Dodgers intentionally walked the next hitter to load the bases, since the pitcher was up next and Memphis was out of pinch hitters.

The pitcher scheduled to bat was reliever Giovvany Gallegos, who had one professional at-bat. He got behind in the count 0-2, then singled in the winning run and sent Memphis to the Championship Series.

PCL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Memphis is looking to become the first back-to-back champions since the Omaha Storm Chasers took the title in both 2013 and 2014. Fresno last won the league title in 2015.

Best-of-five series, with an off day for travel. All times Pacific.

  • Tuesday: Memphis at Fresno, 7:05.
  • Wednesday: Memphis at Fresno, 7:05.
  • Thursday: off.
  • Friday: Fresno at Memphis, 5:05.
  • Saturday: Fresno at Memphis, 4:35 (if necessary).
  • Sunday: Fresno at Memphis, 3:05 (if necessary).

Your landing page for all live coverage of the PCL Playoffs is right here.

Links: