Reno Trip Ends Tonight

August 24, 2010

The Rainiers play the final game of the four-game trip to Reno tonight at 7:05.

Reno has won two of three so far, including a 12-7 decision Monday evening that wasn’t very close – it was 11-0 going to the eighth inning. There really isn’t much to say about it – the Rainiers got hammered, plain and simple.

Salt Lake ended its five-game losing streak last night with a 7-6 win over Sacramento. The Bees gained a game in the standing and now trail Tacoma by 2.5 games with 14 remaining.

Tacoma has some conflicting streaks right now. The Rainiers have won 7 of their last 11 games overall, but they are struggling away from Cheney Stadium: Tacoma has lost 13 of the last 14 road games. Fortunately, the Rainiers begin a nine-game homestand on Wednesday, with the PCL-worst Portland Beavers coming to town for the last time in their franchise history.

Tonight’s game will be broadcast live as always, on 850 AM and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (2-1, 5.40) against Reno RHP Matt Torra (10-6, 4.07).

Some links:

  • Here is my Rainiers game story for The News Tribune, and here is the version from the Reno Gazette-Journal.
  • Former MLB star Mike Hampton pitched an inning for Reno last night – his first outing of 2010.
  • The Mariners lost in Boston last night due to an error by a normally sure-handed outfielder. A little rain in Boston is no problem for skipper Daren Brown.
  • Here’s the story on Salt Lake’s win over Sacramento last night. Mark Trumbo hit his 30th home run, and he has 104 RBI.
  • Fresno scored 11 runs in the sixth inning to beat Colorado Springs – amazingly, all 11 hits in the inning were singles. The Grizzlies now lead Sacramento by two games in the South. They start a 5-game series in Sacramento tomorrow. Fresno lost pitcher Matt Kinney to a drug suspension.
  • The Rainiers have five games with woeful Portland coming up, but maybe the Beavers aren’t so woeful after all: they have won six straight road games. Hmmmm. Kyle Phillips is hitting well for Portland.
  • The Dodger signed a two-year PDC extension with Albuquerque. It’s really looking like Round Rock (to Texas) and Oklahoma City (???) will be the only affiliate changes in the PCL – although I suppose Las Vegas is a wild card.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Matt Thornton is battling arm soreness.

Remember last time we were in Reno, and the Rainiers ran smack-dab into Bieber Mania? Well, check out who we’re barely missing on this trip:

Perhaps he'll play "Rivercat-Scratch Fever"

Advertisements

Mangini, Cortes Help End Road Streak

August 23, 2010

The Rainiers ended their 12-game road losing streak last night, beating Reno 7-5 in ten innings. Tacoma made it a 3.5-game lead over second place Salt Lake with 15 games remaining.

Matt Mangini had four hits and scored the winning run on Mike Carp’s triple. Mangini had two 4-hit games over the weekend – he did it on Friday night, too.

Dan Cortes was very impressive in relief. He worked 2.1 scoreless, no-hit innings while striking out three. There were reports that he hit 100 miles-per-hour on scouts radar guns last night. Cortes was moved to the bullpen on July 20 at Class-AA West Tennessee, and he has really seen his stock rise as a reliever. Combined between West Tenn and Tacoma, since the move to the bullpen, Cortes has pitched 19 innings, allowing 2 runs and striking out 27 while walking 5.

The Rainiers made a big announcement today, saying that if Tacoma holds on and wins the division, the first-round home playoff games will be played at Safeco Field. This, of course, is due to the Cheney Stadium renovation. There is more information on the official release. Plans for the championship series, should Tacoma reach it, have not yet been announced.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 pm in Reno, and it will be broadcast live on 850 AM and stream via www.tacomarainiers.com. Tacoma will start LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (2-1, 4.08) against Reno RHP Kevin Mulvey (6-8, 4.64). 

A few links for you:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, with quotes from manager Jose Castro and Mike Mangini. Here’s the story from the Reno newspaper, with remarks from Aces manager Brett Butler.
  • Here is the initial posting from the TNT on the playoffs-at-Safeco scenario.
  • Daren Brown got to experience what hundreds of other major league managers have over the last century: his team got absolutely clobbered in The Bronx. Brown’s managerial record is now 7-5.
  • Outfielder Michael Saunders is battling shoulder issues. It’s the same shoulder he had major surgery on after the 2008 season.
  • At the Times, Geoff Baker examined the Mariners roller-coaster ride since 2004. Larry Stone wrote about it, too. In his Long Geoff Baker Post, Baker astutely points out that the Mariners have too much future salary tied up in Ichiro and Chone Figgins.
  • Salt Lake has lost five in a row. The were down 9-0 in the third inning.
  • Fresno remained one game ahead of Sacramento in the south, winning via something called a “walk parade,” which sounds awful. You know what was entertaining? Dontrelle Willis.
  • Portland hit two grand slams in Las Vegas.
  • Here’s a piece on red-hot Iowa Cubs infielder Marquez Smith.
  • The new owners of the Oklahoma City RedHawks have a strong track record.

That’s it for today. After the jump are a series of very poor-quality non-baseball photos posted strictly to make the Blog Supervisor insanely jealous.

Read the rest of this entry »


Road Woes Continue, But Lead Remains

August 22, 2010

The Rainiers lost their 12th consecutive road game on Saturday night, dropping the opener in Reno by a score of 5-2. Still, Tacoma leads the division by 2.5 games over Salt Lake, which also lost on Saturday.

Michael Pineda got hit last night – he was hit harder than in any outing for Tacoma this year. He lasted 4.1 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits. The hits were hard – five of them went for extra bases, including two home runs. After the game, manager Jose Castro said he didn’t have his good stuff, or his good location.

Pineda is now at 135.2 innings pitched for the season, and if the Mariners maintain their pre-season plan of keeping him right around 140 innings pitched, then his next start may be his final one. I’ll let you know when I hear anything definitive.

The Rainiers offense was shut down last night by Reno left Zach Kroenke, who has now pitched 15 innings against Tacoma without allowing an earned run. The good news: we won’t face Kroenke again this season.

The Rainiers will try to end the road losing streak today, with the game set for 5:05 pm. Tacoma starts LHP Ryan Feierabend (3-6, 5.59) against Reno RHP Cesar Valdez (4-9, 6.13). Both starters have struggled lately, so we could have a high-scoring game. The broadcast airs on 850 AM and streams online via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Let’s do the Sunday links:

  • Here is my game story for The News Tribune. It’s all play-by-play – the game ended too late for me to get quotes before deadline. Looks like the Reno paper had the same problem – although I admire the writer’s restraint in describing the ugliest charity-auction jerseys I have ever seen in my lengthy career.
  • My Minor League Notebook for the TNT focuses on Rich Poythress and Nick Franklin.
  • The Mariners hit three homers but lost in New York. Russell Branyan has some good quotes about hitting home runs in this story. Larry LaRue has a couple good items in his notebook.
  • Outfielder Michael Saunders is still bothered by shoulder problems.
  • ESPN’s Jim Caple completed his series on baseball in Washington with a story on Seattle. Check the links from earlier this week if you missed any.
  • Today, the Rainiers can thank Sacramento’s Bobby Cramer for shutting out Salt Lake last night. The Bees have lost four straight games. It’s a big series for Sacramento, too – they picked up a game on Fresno last night, and trail the Grizzlies by just one game. Dontrelle Willis joined Fresno and will pitch in relief – he reportedly hit 93 mph.
  • Sky Sox starter Samuel Deduno shut down Fresno – he’s coming back from a fractured elbow.
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal caught up with J.P. Arencibia, who is back in Vegas.
  • Albuquerque had a nice win in the 10th inning last night, giving them hope in their division. The next week will decide it for Albuquerque.
  • Iowa Cubs won on a three-run homer by Marquez Smith – who has six homers in his last ten games.
  • Omaha’s David Lough had a huge game and the Royals remain just 2.5 games behind Iowa.
  • 19-year-old Round Rock starter Jordan Lyles bounced back from the beat-down the Rainiers gave him and had a nice start against Oklahoma City – but the Express lost in the ninth.

Now, I saw the TNT story on Jake Locker and the Heisman campaign, and he’s a great player, but… how can he win the Heisman if UW doesn’t go at least 11-1? And that’s just not going to happen.


Seventeen Games Left

August 21, 2010

Remember what happened last year when there were 17 games left in the season?

Last season Tacoma trailed fist-place Colorado Springs by 7.5 games in the standings with 17 games remaining. And of course the Rainiers had the amazing comeback, eventually beating the Skx Sox on the final day of the regular season to clinch the division title.

Well, here we are again: 17 games remain in the season. Yet this year, things are very different for the Rainiers: Tacoma is in first place, with a 2.5-game lead over second place Salt Lake. The other teams in the division are all but eliminated – in fact, Portland is already mathematically finished.

The Rainiers once led by nine games, but that 0-8 road trip scuttled the lead. But the Rainiers finished an eight-game homestand with an 8-4 win over Albuquerque last night, and Tacoma went 6-2 during the stand. Now we’ll see if they can carry the momentum into Aces Ballpark here in Reno.

The Aces just lost 3 of 4 at Oklahoma City, but prior to that series they were on a 9-2 run through American Conference foes. Reno is playing a bit better than the last time Tacoma saw them, which was a series split at Cheney from July 31 to August 3. But Reno got creamed last night, 15-1, and then had the tough travel day going from OKC to Reno today.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 pm. Tacoma starts RHP Michael Pineda (3-2, 3.67) against Reno LHP Zach Kroenke (5-3, 3.97). The broadcast is live on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Some quick links – sorry, had to rush through the blog today due to the travel schedule, among other things:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from the News Tribune, with quotes from manager Jose Castro who went over .500 as Rainiers skipper last night – he’s 6-5.
  • The Mariners shut out the Yankees, 6-0. Felix Hernandez came one inning short of tossing his fourth straight complete game against the Yankees. Cosmic coincidence: prior to Felix, the last pitcher to toss three straight CGs against the Yankees was current Rainiers pitching coach Jaime Navarro, in 1990-91 when he was a Brewer.
  • Geoff Baker wrote a bit more in a Long Geoff Baker Post about Felix being lifted after eight innings, and the Cy Young award.
  • I was greatly amused by the bloggers reaction to Daren Brown sitting Michael Saunders in favor of, ultimately, Jose Lopez in yesterday’s game. An impulsive David Cameron immediately determined Brown is unable to manage in the major leagues, while Jeff Sullivan would rather see some data. What is this, Opposite Day? Brown, but the way, is now 7-3 as M’s skipper.
  • The Rainiers can thank Lance Lynn of Memphis for shutting down the Bees last night, boosting Tacoma’s lead to 2.5 games.
  • Round Rock completed a four-game series sweep at Portland.
  • Fresno ace Eric Hacker became the PCL’s first 16-game winner since Donne Wall won 17 games for Tucson in 1997. Sacramento lost to Iowa, so Fresno now leads the division by two games.
  • MLB teams that might be scrambling for a Triple-A affiliate after this season can breathe easier: the Rockies re-upped with Colorado Springs for two more years.

That’s it for today; your sleep-deprived RG has to go to the park early and set up the broadcast equipment. Last time we were in Reno I could not locate coffee in the ballpark; tonight I will find it even if that means going for a walk downtown at 6:15.


A Little Breathing Room

August 20, 2010

The Rainiers made it a 1.5-game lead in the division with an 11-5 win over Albuquerque on Thursday night, coupled with Salt Lake’s soul-sucking loss at Memphis.

Tacoma played error-free baseball, blasted 16 hits, hit four homers and five doubles, and had good starting pitching from Blake Beavan. It was, in a word, a romp.

Meanwhile, the Bees were suffering a brutal loss.

Salt Lake trailed Memphis 5-1 going into the top of the ninth at Autozone Park. The Bees then put together a stunning rally, scoring six runs to take a 7-5 lead. For Salt Lake, it was Luis Figueroa’s two-out, two-run single that tied the game, and Mark Trumbo gave them the lead with a two-run single of his own.

The Bees turned it over to Bobby Mosebach in the bottom of the ninth, and he quickly recorded the first out. But then Amaury Cazana singled, and Joe Mather launched a homer – tie game, 7-7. The very next batter, Mark Hamilton, ripped an opposite-field homer to give Memphis the win – and the Rainiers a larger lead in the standings.

Hamilton homered twice in the game, including the walk-off shot. All right Hamilton!

That’s a brutal loss for Salt Lake – first they had a Shocker, and then they had a Meltdown. We’ll see how they respond in the series finale at Memphis tonight.

Meanwhile, the Rainiers close out their homestand with a 7:00 game tonight against Albuquerque, and there will be postgame Friday Night Fireworks. The Rainiers start the middle-man of the three straight 21-year-olds, LHP Mauricio Robles (0-0, 9.00). Albuquerque is going to start knuckleballing RHP Charlie Haeger (2-1, 5.23). The broadcast airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streams via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Some links:

  • If you want to read about the Rainiers feats of strength last night, check out Gail Wood’s game story for The News Tribune.
  • Geoff Baker wrote about the Seattle Rainiers. Not the old Seattle Rainiers – the current Seattle Rainiers.
  • Ryan Divish wrote an off-day feature on Luke French and his change-up.
  • The weekly Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet includes Blake Beavan and Dustin Ackley. And for the first time this season, a Mariners prospect made the Not-So-Hot Sheet.
  • The latest in Jim Caple’s series on baseball in Washington state checks in on the umpire who called for the forfeit in the Aqua Sox game two weeks ago. Also, here are more crazy stories from the Golden Baseball “League.”
  • Hey it just got posted – here’s Caple’s feature on Tacoma. He talks to many Rainiers players about the proximity of the majors, and the hurdles of Triple-A.
  • The Tacoma Weekly’s Karen Westeen did a “Q&A” with Rainiers outfielder David Winfree.
  • Here’s the story from Memphis on the Redbirds implosion and subsequent recovery against Salt Lake.
  • In the South, both Fresno and Sacramento lost – so Fresno still holds a one-game lead. The Grizzlies lost in the ninth to Omaha, while Sacramento did the same against Iowa. Surprisingly, the Grizzlies moved Tony Pena Jr from pitcher back to shortstop.
  • The future of Triple-A baseball is at a crossroads in Nashville. Here’s an awesome slide show from 1978 to go with the story – hopefully The News Tribune will run photos like this surrounding the Cheney Stadium remodel; they must have some great archival items.

That’s all for now – let’s see if the Rainiers can close this homestand with a win; they’re 5-2 on it so far.


Back In First!

August 19, 2010

With special thanks to RRS, or Hyphen, or @Hyphen18, or whatever we’re calling Ryan Rowland-Smith these days.

Rowland-Smith had his best Triple-A outing of the season last night, holding the PCL’s best hitting team* to just two runs and five hits over seven innings. Rowland-Smith struck out eight batters, and seven were swinging strike threes. He had a great change last night, which he used for the majority of his strikeouts. After the game, manager Jose Castro told me he was very happy with the way Rowland-Smith pitched inside with his fastball.

Despite Rowland-Smith’s outstanding outing, the game was very tight until the final out. Tacoma got to John Ely for three early runs, with Greg Halman lining his 28th home run of the season to open the second inning. Mike Carp added an important insurance run with his 21st homer of the year in the sixth, bringing Tacoma a 4-2 lead.

The defensive struggles continued for the Rainiers when right fielder Mike Wilson’s 10th error of the season led to an unearned run in the eighth. After that, reliever Anthony Varvaro escaped a jam – the tying runner was at third base with one out, and he struck out John Lindsey and Russ Mitchell to end the inning.

Then it was Dan Cortes time. This kid has really impressed me in his three games with the Rainiers: he’s big, somewhat menacing – OK, he looks plain crazy on the mound – and he throws 98 mph. Cortes projects as a future MLB closer – he should start thinking about his entrance music. He set down the side in order, collecting his second professional save (he moved from starter to closer just three weeks ago in Class-AA). The Rainiers won, 4-3.

With the win, Tacoma moved back into first place – a half-game ahead of the Salt Lake Bees, who got wiped out in Memphis last night, 13-3. Nineteen games remain.

Tonight’s game is at 7:00, and of course it’s Miller Lite Tasty Thursday at Cheney Stadium – you know what that means: $2 beer and $1 hot dogs. The Rainiers are set to start RHP Blake Beavan (1-1, 6.00) against Albuquerque RHP Seth Etherton (5-4, 3.95). Beavan’s two home starts have been outstanding; he got hit hard in his only road game. Etherton is a 33-year-old veteran who has allowed one run or less in 4 of his last 6 starts – he’s been the ‘Topes best starter recently. The broadcast airs on 850 AM and streams via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Let’s hit the links:

  • Gail Wood wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune. In the story, Ryan Rowland-Smith says he’s trying to not think about his mechanics while on the mound.
  • The M’s beat Baltimore last night, thanks to another great game from Matt Tuiasosopo. Mariners manager Daren Brown was reunited with a player he calls one of his “sons.” The M’s are 6-3 under Brown. But the Yankees and Red Sox loom… Brown told me last night he has never been to New York City before.
  • Mariners prospects Dan Cortes and Rich Poythress found their way into Kevin Goldstein’s daily minor league update, which is free today at Baseball Prospectus.
  • If you want to dig really deep into the M’s farm system, here is Jason Churchill’s list of the Top 11 Mariners prospects at the complexes in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
  • In the PCL, here’s the story from Memphis on the Redbirds 13-3 beatdown of Salt Lake. Get ’em again, Redbirds! They play at 5:05 Pacific today.
  • Sacramento pulled within one game of first place Fresno in the South. Clayton Mortensen finally earned his 12th win, while Fresno got shut out by Luis Mendoza.
  • Round Rock beat Portland on another grand slam by Collin DeLome – he hit one against Tacoma on Sunday, that’s two salamis in four days – the Hall of Famer would be well-fed if he was calling Express games.
  • In the Reno-Oklahoma City game, Kevin Mulvey and a rehabbing Rich Harden locked down in a pitcher’s duel.
  • When you read a story like this, you know that the PED-testing situation in the minor leagues is messed up. You can buy something, over-the-counter, in any mall in America, and get suspended 50 games.

Hey Bud – lay off my Bears. I know we haven’t been to the Rose Bowl in a while. Just once before I die!

* Albuquerque entered yesterday’s game leading the league in runs scored and batting average – however, much of this is due to their home ballpark, which heavily favors hitters. Albuquerque bats .336 with a 936 OPS at home, and .266 with a 732 OPS on the road. They average 7.1 runs at home, 5.0 on the road. Their team ERA is 6.77 at home, 4.82 on the road.


A Closer Look At The Pennant Race

August 18, 2010

Albuquerque used a four-run top of the fifth inning to snap a 3-3 tie and eventually beat Tacoma Tuesday night, 8-4. It was the opening game of a four-game series at Cheney Stadium.

It wasn’t a banner day for the Rainiers, but there was one big positive: Brad Nelson, who had been struggling mightily, had his second straight two-hit game. Nelson blasted a two-run homer and ripped a long double, hopefully indicating that his bat is back for the stretch run.

The Tacoma loss, coupled with Salt Lake’s 8-2 win at Memphis, knocked the Rainiers back into second place, a half-game behind Salt Lake.

Let’s take a closer look at this pennant race.

First of all, that half-game is going to be in the final standings unless one of the teams has a game cancelled due to weather. Tacoma was only able to play three of four scheduled games against Oklahoma City in late May due to rain, so the Rainiers are going to finish with 143 games – while Salt Lake is set to play the full schedule of 144. 

Here are the schedules down the stretch – each team has 20 games left:

  • Salt Lake: 3 at Memphis, 4 vs. Sacramento, 5 at Col Springs, 4 vs. Fresno, 4 vs. Reno
  • Tacoma: 3 vs. Albuquerque, 4 at Reno, 5 vs. Portland, 4 vs. Col Springs, 4 at Fresno

Each team has 12 home games and eight away games remaining. Three of the five remaining opponents are common – just the current series against the American Conference foe is different, and then the Rainiers play Portland while Salt Lake has Sacramento.

I think the Rainiers have a very slight advantage because of the five games against last-place Portland, while Salt Lake has four against a Sacramento team that is in a heated pennant race of its own.

Another interesting note is that Salt Lake does not have its traditional home field advantage this year. The Bees have actually played better on the road (34-30) than at home (31-29) this season, which of course is very odd.

Well, the Rainiers can’t spent too much time worrying about what Salt Lake is doing. Tacoma will focus on tonight’s game, which starts at 7:00. Tacoma starts LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (1-1, 5.06) against Albuquerque RHP John Ely (4-2, 6.12). The broadcast is live in the usual spots: South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com.

A few links for you:

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, which focuses on Ryan Feierabend’s struggles yesterday.
  • Ex-Rainiers Luke French and Matt Tuiasosopo led the Mariners to a 4-0 win in Baltimore last night. That bumps Daren Brown’s record to 5-3.
  • Geoff Baker wrote about Mariners pitching project Tom Wilhelmsen.
  • The supremely talented Jim Caple* is writing a series for ESPN in which he goes on a  baseball tour in the state of Washington. He starts with a visit to Walla Walla, and then he crosses the border to Victoria, BC – seriously, you gotta read the Victoria story, the Golden Baseball League sounds like a complete joke. Caple came to Tacoma this week; that story is forthcoming and of course I’ll link it when it runs.
  • The man who hit the most famous home run in baseball history has died. Here is Bobby Thomson’s New York Times obituary.
  • The Omaha Royals are moving to a new ballpark and they are considering a name change – in fact, they are asking the fans for help. Hey, I’ve got an idea! How about the Omaha Golden Spikes?
  • Salt Lake starter Eric Junge pitched the Bees into first place. Salt Lake scored most of its runs against a struggling Memphis reliever.
  • The Grizzlies responded to manager Steve Decker calling them out in the press, and they beat Omaha last night, 5-2. Ryan Rohlinger hit a long home run.
  • Sacramento remains two games behind Fresno in the South. Chris Carter belted home run #28 in his first game back in Triple-A.
  • Here’s a story on the nightlife habits of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. I’d say, generally speaking, that it is accurate – Matt Miller’s first quote would describe your 2010 Rainiers, too – but it depends on the team personnel. There have been teams in the past…

The press box squirrel is gone, but not forgotten. He went 1-0 and if that win decides the pennant, we’ll have to make sure he’s on the ring list.

* Caple looks just like Rainiers trainer Tom Newberg.