Our new pals are coming to town. Please open your arms and welcome the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, who just buried Salt Lake in the standings, allowing Tacoma to open up the biggest lead of any of the four division leaders in the PCL.
The Sky Sox just defeated Salt Lake four times in a five-game series, and the Rainiers now have a 3.5-game lead with eight to play. Tacoma’s magic number to clinch the division title is down to five.
The Rainiers helped themselves yesterday, blasting Portland 17-8. It was the second time in four days – and also the second time in at least 15 years – that the Rainiers hit seven home runs in one game. Tacoma leads the PCL with 172 home runs; Las Vegas is second with 164.
Brad Nelson homered twice and had five RBI, but nobody on this team is hotter than Matt Mangini right now. Mangini went 4-for-5 with two homers yesterday, and over his last nine games he is batting .523 with 23 hits in 44 at-bats. He’s had multiple hits in seven of the nine games, with three 4-hit performances. Mangini has raised his season batting average from .286 to .313 in just nine days.
As for all of these home runs, it’s a product of a few things. First, we have had a very strong wind blowing out to right-center. Second, the Rainiers are stocked with left-handed power hitters. Third, they were facing a lot of bad pitching in the two seven-homer games. It was a harmonic convergence.
OK, now that we’ve laid out the welcome mat for the Sky Sox, let’s see if we can beat them a couple of times and clinch the division at home. Tonight’s game is at 7:00, and it’s radio only (as are all remaining games) on 850 AM and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com. The Rainiers start LHP Mauricio Robles (1-1, 4.50) against Colorado Springs LHP Josh Muecke (7-6, 5.24).
On the broadcast front, yesterday marked our final Comcast Sportsnet TV game of the season. I want to thank everyone who made those telecasts possible, from producer Ross Miller and his crew, to the camera men and women, and to my partners Jeff Heaverlo, Doug Sisk, Bucky Jacobsen, and Brooke Olzendam. Hopefully 2011 will bring more Rainiers telecasts, and the new stadium should mean improved camera locations allowing for better angles and more stable shots.
Now for some links:
- The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune was inked by Grant Clark.
- Luke French pitched in Seattle like he did in Tacoma. I voted for French for PCL Pitcher of the Year, but it’s going to be tough for him to beat out Eric Hacker and Michael Kirkman. I had one of 32 ballots.
- The Sky Sox beat Salt Lake in the bottom of the ninth yesterday on Jay Payton’s hit. You know it’s almost over when the Salt Lake Tribune is calling them the “Bumbling Bees.”
- Sacramento took over first place in the South, beating Fresno, 2-1. The RiverCats won four of five during that series, and will win the tie-breaker if needed. Fresno goes to Salt Lake City tonight.
- In the American-North, Memphis has won six straight and trails Iowa by just a half-game. The I-Cubs scored four in the top of the ninth to stun Omaha, 8-7, and remain in first place.
- In the American-South, Albuquerque won four out of five against first-place Oklahoma City, pulling within two games with eight to play.
- They’re not in a pennant race, but Las Vegas won its final home game as dramatically as possible: a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.
- Las Vegas catcher J.P. Arencibia went 4-for-4 in that game. He’s a lock for the MVP award*, and it may be close to unanimous. I could see Mark Trumbo getting a vote or two out of Salt Lake, and possibly one of the Iowa sluggers getting a little support – that’s about it.
- Nashville outfielder Brendan Katin had seven RBIs yesterday.
- Former Rainiers pitcher R.A. Dickey explains how he does it.
- Here is the weekly Mariners minor league wrap from USS Mariner.
The final home series at “Original” Cheney Stadium gets underway tonight – make sure you come out to the park this week!
* Caveat: I’m a bad MVP predictor, and an against-the-grain voter. Last year Daren Brown and I both voted for Eric Young Jr., and those were the only two votes he got – the Colorado Springs people didn’t even vote for him! Several years ago when Scott McClain won the award for Sacramento I was stunned – I didn’t even have him on my short list, and I made an inquiry to the league office to release the voting totals – I simply didn’t believe it.