On Sellouts

June 20, 2011

The Rainiers lost to Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon, 3-2, in front of a sellout Father’s Day crowd of 7,225.

It was the sixth sellout at the new Cheney Stadium.

Since several people have now asked me, I thought I should clarify what exactly defines a sellout – in the eyes of the Rainiers office, anyway. 

There is no exact capacity at the new stadium – and if you have been out to a game yet, it’s clear why.

There are a large number of seating areas for group outings in which the number of actual people in that area can fluctuate. The most notable examples are on the Party Decks on the third base side: A group could reserve an area that might seat 50 people in one configuration, or 75 in another.

Take that concept and apply it to the new areas down the right field line, and the add the fact that the new indoor seating areas upstairs have multiple configurations, and you can see how exact number of tickets sold can vary.

So, as a benchmark, the result is that any crowd over 7,200 is considered a sellout – to us, at least. That means that Cheney Stadium is operating at full capacity, and all of my Rainiers Front Office co-workers are running around like crazy, making sure everything is going smoothly.

So yesterday was sellout number six. The smallest sellout was 7,202 on opening day, and the biggest one was 7,359 on June 3.

Thank you, fans – we like sellouts, nothing is better than a packed ballpark – especially since our ballpark can now handle the crowds!

Tonight’s game – which will not be a sellout; when we start selling out Monday nights we’ll need to apply to for Major League expansion – will be at 7:05 pm. Tacoma starts either Luke French (3-5, 6.16) or Fabio Castro (5-2, 3.47) against Salt Lake RHP Matt Palmer (2-6, 7.69). French starts unless his wife goes into labor – then he’s out the door, fast, and Fabio takes over. The broadcast will be on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming online here. We’ll actually have a decent broadcaster in the booth today – because today is a Monday With Bob, and Bob Robertson will be joining me in the booth.

A word about Salt Lake starter Matt Palmer, who serves as a great reminder to me about how much I have to learn about this game.

Palmer was a regular member of the Fresno Grizzlies starting rotation from 2006 through 2008. He pitched a lot against Tacoma, and to me he just looked like an ordinary Triple-A pitcher – one of those guys who might get a brief call-up at some point, but wouldn’t ever get much of an opportunity in the bigs.

In fact, that happened to him in 2008 – he made three starts for the Giants, and spent the rest of the year in Fresno.

Then came 2009, when he joined the Angels organization and appeared in just two Triple-A games – while going 11-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 40 games and 121 innings pitched for the major league Angels.

Last year and this year, Palmer has split the season between Triple-A and Anaheim, performing just fine in the majors when called upon. He’s amassed about two full seasons of MLB service time now, with a strong likelihood of more to come.

The point is: I was wrong about Palmer. He’s pretty good, and this won’t be easy for Tacoma tonight, even though he’s been struggling recently with Salt Lake.

Links:

  • Here is the game story from The News Tribune on yesterday’s 3-2 loss, which I ignored in the main segment. Chris Seddon had a gutsy performance, but the Rainiers offense missed out on a couple of scoring opportunities.
  • The Mariners won the game and the series against the Phillies. Mr. Vargas tossed a shutout. Greg Halman made a nice defensive play – for the right reasons.
  • Larry Stone normally sits in the press box, but this weekend he attended two games as a fan, and he filed this post. It’s always a good idea for us cynical media types to sit in the regular seats from time to time.
  • We have the weekly Minor League Wrap from USS Mariner.
  • And, a Dustin Ackley weekend in review from Lookout Landing, as well as a blog post on Dustin Ackley and uniform #13.
  • Mariners #1 draft pick Danny Hultzen was terrific and his Virginia squad won its College World Series opener.
  • If you are a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, today’s Monday Ten Pack has two Mariners prospects in it.
  • In the PCL, Reno finally got a win in Las Vegas, 12-9. That means Tacoma is eight games back. Las Vegas starter Kyle Drabek was wild in his 51s debut (he had jumped from Class-AA straight to the majors).
  • Tucson beat Colorado Springs in the top of the ninth inning for the second day in a row. This keeps Tacoma alone in second place.
  • Fresno is giving Sacramento a tough time, winning two of the first three at Raley Field. Sacramento has lost 5 of 7 at home (the Rainiers were a big part of that).
  • Round Rock hit four homers in an 11-7 win over Omaha.
  • Breaking news: Memphis lost a baseball game. Two different Nashville Sounds hit two homers in a 5-3 win at Autozone Park. Funny: Memphis starter Nick Additon took the loss, but clearly the Memphis Commercial-Appeal computers weren’t having any of that “Additon” stuff. Perhaps the game was played at Autocorrect Park.
  • New Orleans has been tearing up the RedHawks in a road series at Bricktown – they go for a rare road sweep today.
  • Awesome Mascot Alert! The independent Joliet Slammers have named their mascot J.L. Bird. See the picture for yourself. Where do I buy season tickets?

Usually I try to write a closing sentence here, but after that J.L. Bird link, I’m sentenceless.


Rested And Winning

June 19, 2011

After the craziness of Friday, the Rainiers got a good night’s sleep, showed up at Cheney on Saturday, and cruised to a 6-2 win over Salt Lake.

Tacoma scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and never gave up the lead.

Nate Robertson started and allowed two runs (one earned) in 4.1 innings. He was pulled because he was at 95 pitches – he’s still building up arm strength after having bone chips removed from his elbow in March. Robertson was making just his fourth start.

The short start was no problem for the Rainiers bullpen. Cesar Jimenez and Denny Bautista combined to pitch 4.2 shutout innings, allowing one hit while striking out eight. Jimenez earned the victory, and Bautista the save.

Coincidentally, prior to the game I interviewed Jimenez for the Sunday Feature Interview on the pre-game show. He’ll talk about his two-year recovery from shoulder surgery, and his home town of Cumana, Venezuela – tune in at 1:20 on Sunday afternoon, on 850 AM or streaming online right here.

Offensively, the Rainiers relied upon two of the pillars from last year’s PCL Championship team: Mike Wilson and Matt Mangini. Each player had three hits, and they had back-to-back two-out RBI hits in the fifth inning, when the Rainiers took control of the game.

The game was played in a steady rain, usually very light but occasionally heavier. It’s June 19th so let’s just stop it with that whole rain thing; that’s enough.

The Father’s Day game on Sunday starts at 1:35 pm, and there should be tickets available at the gate. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (4-3, 5.28) against Salt Lake RHP Ryan Chaffee (0-0, 0.00). Chaffee is up from Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and is making a fill-in start.

Sunday links!

  • Here is the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, written by Grant Clark.
  • My Minor League Notebook for the TNT is about the Mariners impressive  pitching prospects in the low minors, including the name to know at Everett.
  • The Mariners took a loss, but Dustin Ackley hit his first Major League home run. There, that was a much better sentence to type than “Felix Hernandez lost to Vance Worley.”
  • Here is the video of the Ackley home run – you get it two times, first with the TV call and a second time with the radio call. Pretty cool – it reminds me a lot of the home run he hit in his first Triple-A at-bat, at Reno last year the day after the all-star game. Except he didn’t get a standing ovation in Reno (I seem to recall a collective groan from the Aces fans).
  • John McGrath wrote about the possibility of expanded playoffs, and he’s not sure how he feels about it. Me too, John, me too.
  • Up at the Times, Jerry Brewer has a fun column on Miguel Olivocheck it out.
  • Your links to the Larry Stone Sunday MLB package: a feature comparing the Phillies and Mariners starting rotations, a notebook on how the U2 tour is ruining baseball (I knew I didn’t like ’em!), and power rankings.
  • Here is Ryan Divish’s Sunday baseball column.*
  • In the PCL, Reno lost in Las Vegas in the bottom of the ninth inning. Tacoma is now seven games out of first place – nice to see Vegas playing Reno tough, and winning the first two games of that series. Former Rainiers infielder Ramon Vazquez is now with the 51s.
  • From Reno, we have a feature on the man the Rainiers can’t get out: Collin Cowgill. He’s a PCL MVP candidate right now.
  • The Rainiers are alone in second place once again, because Colorado Springs lost a ridiculous game to Tucson: down 8-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Sky Sox scored seven runs and took a 9-8 lead – only to give up a pair in the top of the ninth inning and lose, 10-9. I hope someone checked on Dan Karcher after the game.**
  • Fresno starter Andrew Kown tossed six no-hit innings at Sacramento, but was lifted at 103 pitches. Still, the Grizzlies shut out the R-Cats, 3-0.
  • Since yesterday’s post required me to create a new tag – “whining” – I’m trying to be more upbeat. But then along comes a feature out of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on The PCL Grind, featuring former Rainiers shortstop Chris Woodward. He’s right about the day of the week – on my scorecard each game, I write down what day it is so I have it for easy reference.
  • Albuquerque reliever Joey Newby is a former Rainiers pitcher who has been told to quit so many times, he’s thankful for it.
  • Round Rock slugger Chris Davis hit two home runs, helping Brett Tomko earn a win over Omaha.
  • New Orleans infielder Joe Thurston had five hits and the Zephyrs picked up a road win in front of a big crowd in Bricktown.
  • The Memphis Redbirds are crazy-hot right now: they picked up their third straight walk-off win, and have won six games in a row, and 12 of the last 14.

For all of you fathers out there, have a great Father’s Day! My father took me to my first baseball game – I remember parts of it, the box score takes care of the rest. If any of my fellow RGs want to get misty-eyed, check out the TOG on that game.

* That was a nice surprise. Help me, readers, where does a person purchase a case of Crown?

** That reminds me of a post I should do someday: Top-10 Places Triple-A RG’s Are Likely To Be Found Deceased. “In the booth, post-game, body discovered by a 19-year-old PR intern” will be on the list. Very pleased to report that “Body found in rubble of collapsed Cheney Stadium Press Box” is no longer a viable candidate.


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.


Delayed In Fresno

June 17, 2011

Just checking in via cell phone to let you know that there will not be an updated post today. The team flight home from Fresno has been delayed due to mechanical issues and we are stuck at the airport for a while.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05 and we’ll see you at Cheney.


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.


Rainiers Heating Up

June 15, 2011

Don’t look now, but the Tacoma Rainiers are starting to play good baseball.

Starting pitching has been the key. The Rainiers have had what I would consider a good performance from their starting pitcher in five of the last six games, and lo and behold, they have won five of the last six games.

Chris Seddon was terrific yesterday, winning his third straight start as Tacoma picked up a 6-2 win on Tuesday.

The offense was there as well: Tacoma had 10 hits, and the team has reached double-digits in the hits column in nine of the last 12 games.

Four players had two hits: Dustin Ackley, Josh Bard, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Sean Kazmar.

Tacoma has won three games in a row, 5 of 6, and 7 of the last 9. The team is 7-3 on this never-ending road trip.

At 31-35, the Rainiers are within four games of .500 for the first time since April 16, when the club was 3-7 on the year.  Just a little more digging, and we’ll get out of this hole.

It’s been a fun run: the defense has been better, the games have been crisper, and the all-around level of play has been stronger. Hopefully this will continue.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and as always you can hear it on 850 AM and streaming online. Tacoma starts LHP Fabio Castro (4-2, 3.79) against Fresno RHP Shane Loux (3-7, 3.74).

Links:

I have to go. Fresno RG Doug Greenwald is taking me to In N Out Burger, and I wouldn’t miss that for the world. In fact, if the only time he could take me was the middle of the fourth inning, I would just up and leave, and all of you listeners could just hang with ’em for a while.*

* Just kidding!


Wins, Babies, Sleep.

June 14, 2011

Tacoma won again on Monday, beating Fresno 8-3.

The Rainiers are now 6-3 on this marathon road trip, with three games left to play. One more win and we’ll call it a success – but it could turn out to be a great trip, with two or even three more wins.

Nate Robertson had his best start as a Rainier yesterday. He allowed just three singles and an unearned run through the first five innings before tiring in the sixth.

Michael Saunders had two extra-base hits, including the game-breaking two-run triple in the eighth inning.

Dustin Ackley returned to the lineup and went 3-for-5 with a hard double.

Johan Limonta also contributed two hits, with a run-scoring double he launched over the center fielder’s head.

There was a roster move before the game. Luke French has left the team to join his wife as the couple is about to have their first child. Denny Bautista was activated to take French’s spot on the roster, and Fabio Castro was named as the starting pitcher for Wednesday, filling French’s rotation spot.

Speaking of babies, congratulations are in order to Rainiers Front Office staffer Brooke Bourn, who gave birth to twins Sophia and Lance yesterday. Now you can relax, Brooke!

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear is on South Sound Sports 850 AM, or streaming online. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (3-3, 5.56) against Fresno LHP Dan Runzler (0-0, 0.00). Runzler is a major league reliever who the Giants are converting into a starter – he won’t be in there for very long.

Links:

It’s day 11 of our 13-day road trip, and I’ve come to the conclusion that if you are going to go on a 13-day road trip in the PCL, Fresno is the perfect place to end it.

I’ve written before about how Fresno is the best place in the PCL for sleeping. This is the No Sleep League, except when you are in Fresno. It’s simply a slumber wonderland. Waking up before 11 am is very difficult here. I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow! 

* every day, someone on Twitter asks me when Ackley is getting called up. Do they really think I know? Only Jack Z knows.


Rainiers Silence Cats

June 13, 2011

Blake Beavan and Scott Patterson combined to toss Tacoma’s first shutout of the season, a 4-0 win over Sacramento on Sunday afternoon.

Beavan pitched eight innings in his finest start at the Triple-A level. He allowed four hits and three walks, and struck out six. Beavan has had four strong starts in a row, and he is now 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA.

Dustin Ackley had his first day off of the season yesterday – he had played in every inning of every game. He is here in Fresno and I expect to see him in the lineup tonight.

Tacoma won the series, three games to one. It was Tacoma’s first road series win of the year, despite that fact that the team is a solid 18-18 on the road. The club had split six straight road series prior to the Sacramento trip.

It was the first series loss for Sacramento, anywhere since the lost three of four to Las Vegas, April 11-14. Don’t cry for the River Kitties, though – they have the league’s best record at 40-24.

Tacoma is 5-3 on this road trip, which continues with four games in Fresno.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on 850 AM and streaming online here. Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (0-2, 7.36) against Fresno RHP Doug Mathis (0-3, 3.63).

Fresno just split a series at Salt Lake, getting shutout yesterday by Bear Bay. The Grizzlies have had a lot of rehabilitating SF Giants recently: Mike Fontenot and Pablo Sandoval have been playing, although I don’t think we’ll see the Panda tonight. Also, I’ve heard that Barry Zito is expected to start against Tacoma on Thursday.

Links:

My apologies for the late blog post today. They have not fixed the dial-up speed internet here at the Fresno hotel.


No Sacramento Sweep This Time

June 12, 2011

I’ll admit it, I was thinking about how fun it would be to sweep the Sacramento River Cats at their place.

I mean, nobody comes into The Litter Box err The Cat House err Raley Field and reels off four straight wins against the Cats. But Tacoma won the first two games of this series, and I tricked myself into thinking it could happen.

It didn’t.

Sacramento – the PCL’s best team – beat Tacoma on Saturday night, 11-4. The River Cats became the first team in the league to reach forty wins, improving to 40-23 on the year.

Tacoma can still win the series with a victory on Sunday. Sacramento has not lost a series since dropping one to Las Vegas April 11-14 – the River Cats have won or split 13 straight series.

The Rainiers have not won a road series yet this year – in fact, Tacoma has been the master of the road series split this season, splitting six consecutive four-game road series. The team has lost only one road series – three out of four at Fresno in April.

Sunday’s game is at 1:05 and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and streaming online. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (3-2, 4.76) against a Sacramento pitcher named TBA. TBA has filthy stuff so look out Rainiers! Actually, I’ve heard that Bobby Cramer might start – he was optioned to Sacramento by Oakland, but hasn’t reported yet – and I’ve also heard that it will be some kid from Class-A ball. So, you’ll have to tune in to find out. Personally, I’m hoping it’s some kid from A-ball.

As you know if you’ve been reading for a while, Sunday links are the best links:

Off to Raley Field, where the on-field between-innings host is named Mike and he walks around with a shirt that says “Mike on the Mic” on the back. That shirt will be mine… seriously. There is a bounty on that guy’s shirt. If you can get it and bring it to me, I’ll put you on the pass list for the remainder of the season.

* OK, one of two broadcasters. My broadcast partner was Jim Olson, who did two or three years in the low minors before quitting and getting a real job that actually paid a decent salary. He was a better announcer than me and probably would have had a decent shot at the majors if he had decided to stick with it. He did take something out of baseball, though: he married Frank Catalanotto’s sister.


A Good, Clean Game

June 11, 2011

Luke French returned to his 2010 form and Tacoma beat Sacramento on Friday night, 5-2.

The Rainiers did not make any errors, and they issued only three walks. No defensive mistakes were made, the team ran the bases well, and the club took advantage of the scoring opportunities that it had.

It was, quite simply, a well-played game.

Tacoma is 4-2 at the halfway mark of this marathon 12-game road trip. The Rainiers have improved their road record to 17-17 on the year, and overall the club has pulled within six games of .500.

As I’ve been saying all along, the team is playing well on the road, but it needs to start winning at home. We can’t worry about that until Friday.

We’ll see if the Rainiers can continue their run tonight at 7:05. Tacoma starts RHP Charlie Haeger (1-0, 7.20) against Sacramento RHP Yadel Marti (3-1, 4.91). You can catch the broadcast on 850 AM or streaming online.

For reasons unknown to me, The News Tribune’s website does not have the Rainiers game story posted today. Conveniently enough, I happen to have the unedited version right here on my computer, since I, like, wrote it and stuff like that. So here it is.

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After walking a career-high eight batters in his last start, the Rainiers were uncertain what they were going to get from starting pitcher Luke French on Friday night at Raley Field.

What they got was a pleasant surprise: a return to his 2010 form, when French was the Rainiers ace and finished runner-up in the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year voting.

French allowed two runs over six innings and earned the win as Tacoma beat Sacramento, 5-2.

It was the fourth win in the last five games for Tacoma, improving the team’s road record to 17-17.

French (3-5) allowed a leadoff triple, two walks, and a run in the first inning before settling down. He did not walk another hitter and threw 65 of his 96 pitches for strikes.

“He bounced back from a tough start last time out,” said Tacoma manager Daren Brown. ”It was a good confidence builder for him after the last one.”

Alex Liddi staked Tacoma to a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning when he drove a Travis Banwart pitch over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. It was the 11th home run of the season for Liddi.

Liddi also hit two doubles and was 3-for-5 in the game, and he has four extra-base hits in the first two games of the series. The River Cats might be surprised by this, since Liddi went 5-for-30 with 13 strikeouts against Sacramento early in the season.

“We played them eight of the first 12 games in the season,” said Brown. “Liddi’s a different guy now, and that’s what you expect from a guy who’s 22 years old. He’s a better hitter now than he was then.”

Tacoma caught a break in the fourth inning, when Matt Mangini’s broken-bat fly ball fell in for a two-run single in shallow right-center field.

“When he hit it I thought it was just a fly ball, and the wind kind of pushed it toward right-center and knocked it down a little bit,” Brown said. “It was lucky for us.”

Tacoma (28-34) got shutout relief from Cesar Jimenez and Josh Lueke.

Lueke pitched a perfect eighth inning, but Sacramento loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Lueke retired Eric Sogard on a shallow fly to right, and he struck out Josh Donaldson to collect his sixth save of the season.

Sogard was 3-for-5 with a triple for Sacramento.

The River Cats have lost three straight games, but they still have the best record in the PCL: 39-23.

Short Hops: Liddi has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games, batting .365 with 27 hits and 18 RBI during the stretch… Tacoma picked up a game on first-place Reno and is now eight games back… the Rainiers have won four of their six games at Raley Field this season.

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Should be a fun one tonight – can the Rainiers win a series at the Cat House? That would be sweet.