It’s Sacramento vs. Omaha For All The Marbles

September 12, 2011

(I almost went with “whole ball of wax,” but I like “all the marbles” better).*

Sacramento won Game Five against Reno yesterday, 13-2, to complete an impressive comeback and win the Pacific Conference series.

Sacramento travels to Omaha to begin the best-of-five PCL Championship Series on Tuesday at 5:05 (Pacific).

Reno won the first two games of that series, but Sacramento – who has been streaky all year – won three straight “elimination games” to take the series.

Yesterday, in the series final, Ryan Langerhans hit a two-run homer off Sacramento starter Lenny DiNardo in the second inning, and Reno led 2-0 in the middle of the third.

The River Cats offense took off in the third, with a five run rally. Reno pitchers had big problems throwing strikes, issuing ten walks. Ten walks in a Game Five!

Chris Carter drew four walks, and Josh Donaldson – batting right behind Carter – had four hits. Donaldson, Adrian Cardenas, and highly regarded outfield prospect Grant Green each had three RBIs for the River Cats.

DiNardo ended up lasting seven innings and earning the win; he was the focus of the newspaper story from The Sacramento Bee.

I’m guessing we’ll have the pitching match-ups for the championship series tomorrow, and  I’ll post them when I get them, and I’ll make a pick, too.**

I remember this day last year – it’s the calm before the storm. Tacoma had just beaten Sacramento in Game Five at Safeco Field, with Ryan Feierabend tossing a gem and Matt Mangini launching a game-breaking home run.

The next day – the Monday – was an easy travel day to Memphis, where we arrived in time to grab some BBQ and have a relaxing evening off before starting the championship series on Tuesday.

And then the rout was on.

There are a few interesting links from the weekend:

  • For a walk down memory road, Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com has an excellent piece on the best team to never win the World Series – the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
  • The Mariners struck out a whole lot over the weekend – Geoff Baker has a look at some numbers.
  • Other events from the weekend: Alex Liddi had his first major league hit, a Friday night double; and Steve Delabar tossed a 1-2-3 inning on Sunday in his MLB debut.
  • There were many 9/11 remembrances all over the internet yesterday. I will pass along one, this ESPN story on Salt Lake starting pitcher Eric Junge.
  • Sacramento is going to try to win the PCL title without slugger Jai Miller, who was called up by Oakland.

I’m definitely choosing Mariners over Monday Night Football tonight – it’s Felix Hernandez against the Yankees; this is always fun.

* at what point in our history was a ball of wax considered to be a thing that people wanted?

** Gosh, I hope I don’t have to pick Sacramento.


Omaha Advances; Game Five In Sacramento Today

September 11, 2011

The PCL playoffs are heating up, in a big way.

Omaha has advanced to the Championship Series, and they will host the first two games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Omaha will play either Sacramento or Reno, who play a deciding Game Five today at 1:05 pm in Sacramento.

Saturday’s results:

at Omaha 4, Round Rock 2 (ten innings). Another extra inning game, Omaha won the series on a walk-off two-run home run by Kila Ka’aihue with one out in the bottom of the tenth inning against Round Rock reliever Tanner Scheppers. Omaha starter Sean O’Sulivan allowed just two hits in eight innings to set the stage for the win. Newspaper story from Omaha. Omaha wins the series, three games to one.

at Sacramento 8, Reno 2. Sacramento scored six early runs and knocked out Reno starter Gaby Hernandez in the fourth inning. Wes Timmons homered and drove in four. The home team has won each of the four games in this series, and Sacramento hosts today. Newspaper story from Sacramento. The series is tied, two games each.


No Sweeps In First Round

September 10, 2011

Both teams that were trailing 2-0 in the PCL playoffs were able to avoid sweeps with victories on Friday night.

at Sacramento 5, Reno 2. Chris Carter hit his third home run of the series, helping Sacramento get into the win column. Over 12,000 attended at Raley Field. Newspaper story from Sacramento. Reno leads the series, two games to one.

Round Rock 9, at Omaha 8 (11 innings). It was tied 6-6 after ten innings. Joey Butler went 5-for-6 and drove in the tiebreaking run, and Chad Tracy had five RBI for the Express. Newspaper story from Omaha. Omaha leads the series, two games to one.

I bet one of these series ends tonight. I’m guessing Omaha will lock theirs up.


PCL Playoffs – Day Two

September 9, 2011

A quick Pacific Coast League playoffs update, from Thursday’s games:

at Reno 4, Sacramento 2. Reno’s Barry Enright delivered a gem, lasting 6.2 innings and giving up just one run at Aces Ballpark. Andy Tracy had three hits and Lucas May homered with two RBI. Sacramento’s Tyson Ross took the loss. Newspaper story from Reno. Reno leads the series, 2-0.

Omaha 7, at Round Rock 2. Vin Mazzaro carried a one-hitter into the seventh inning and allowed just two runs to earn the win for the Storm Chasers. Catcher Manny Pina homered and had four RBI for Omaha. Newspaper story from Austin. Omaha leads the series, 2-0.

Both series change locations tonight, moving to Sacramento and Omaha, respectively.

Check back on Saturday for the results!


PCL Playoffs Begin

September 8, 2011

Quick update on the PCL playoffs, which started Wednesday night.

at Reno 7, Sacramento 4. Angel Berroa hit two home runs and drove in four, and Ryan Langerhans broke open a 5-4 game with a two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth inning. Chris Carter went deep for Sacramento. Solid crowd at 5,738. Newspaper story from Reno. Reno leads, 1-0.

Omaha 4, at Round Rock 0. PCL Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza delivered seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, and Kelvin Herrera punched out four over two perfect innings for a combined shutout. Clint Robinson hit a two-run homer for Omaha. Att: 6,193. Newspaper story from Austin. Omaha leads, 1-0.

Also on the radar:

  • Alex Liddi made his MLB debut last night, in the Mariners 3-1 loss to the Angels. He went 0-for-2, but he handled both balls hit to him at third base, and one was a very tough play.
  • Toronto called up Adam Loewen, the Las Vegas outfielder who used to be a MLB pitcher.
  • We have a review of the wacky season in Colorado Springs: they set franchise records for attendance, transactions, HGH suspensions…

Going up to the M’s game tonight – should be fun!


Thoughts On The 2011 Season

September 7, 2011

The Rainiers season ended on Monday with a 12-9 loss to Fresno that served as a microcosm of the season as a whole.

Tacoma bashed the ball around the ballpark, hitting four homers and scoring nine runs. But it wasn’t enough to win a sloppy game that took over three hours to play.

The 2011 Rainiers set all-time franchise records for most hits (1491), total bases (2365), runs scored (893), and RBI (840).

They also set a franchise record for worst team earned run average (5.39).

It’s easy to point and say “that’s because the fences aren’t as tall as they used to be at the new Cheney Stadium,” but actually that’s not the reason. I’m going to run all the home/road numbers in an upcoming post and we’ll see that Cheney Stadium, despite being more of a home run park than it used to be, is still a pitcher’s park by PCL standards.*

Getting right down to it: the 2011 Rainiers were a great hitting team, but the pitching and defense struggled all season long. Thus, 70-74.

Alex Liddi accomplished another major individual goal in the final game, hitting two home runs to reach 30 on the year.

Liddi became just the sixth Tacoma player to ever hit 30 homers in a season, joining Adrian Garrett, Danny Walton, Kelvin Moore, Dan Rohrmeier, and Greg Halman.

Liddi, who was named team Most Valuable Player, also set the franchise record with 121 runs scored. His 104 RBI is tied for ninth-highest in franchise history.

Liddi also finished second on the single-season strikeout list, with 170.

Other end-of-season award winners: Blake Beavan was named the team’s pitcher of the year, and Michael Saunders won the team’s gold glove award.

After the last game of the season, Alex Liddi, Michael Saunders, and reliever Steve Delabar were promoted to Seattle. I’ve got links to stories on them down below.

Delabar was the big surprise, and his story is crazy. He broke his elbow pitching in an independent league, and he still has a metal plate in his elbow, and now he throws 96 miles per hour with a nasty split. He wasn’t even signed to a contract with anybody in March! Great story, and from the little bit I was around him it seems like he’s a great guy, too.

There were some surprises on who was not called up. Specifically, the three outfielders who were not recalled, who are on the 40-man roster and were up earlier this year: Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero, and Mike Wilson.

Halman and Peguero hit well in Tacoma but neither improved their strikeout rates at all after being sent down. Perhaps this was a message?

As for Wilson, I don’t know what the organization is going to do with him. He raked all the way up until the last day of the season and can clearly help a major league team in the role of fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter/lefty-basher. He’s 28 years old so it’s not like he’s some young prospect with upside – this is what he is. If the Mariners had no plans for him they would have removed him from the 40-man roster, but they didn’t, so… I don’t know.

Also going to the major leagues: Tacoma pitching coach Dwight Bernard, who is very deserving. He’s never been asked to Seattle in five years as the Tacoma pitching coach so this is cool.

Add one more: I’m doing two games on the radio side, September 17-18.

The Pacific Coast League playoffs start today.

Best-of-five first rounds:

  • Omaha RHP Luis Mendoza (12-5, 2.18) at Round Rock RHP Eric Hurley (8-3, 5.55).
  • Sacramento RHP Graham Godfrey (14-3, 2.68) at Reno LHP Zack Kroenke (10-3, 5.89).

I’m pulling for Omaha (first playoffs since 1999!) and Reno (Sacramento ho-hum).

Links:

  • Larry LaRue wrote the News Tribune story on the final day of the Rainiers season.
  • Geoff Baker – who is really good at these types of things – has the Steve Delabar story. Crazy.
  • Here’s the video of Alex Liddi’s meet-the-Seattle-press interview.
  • Liddi’s call-up is generating some fun stories from the national baseball media, like this compilation of MLB players from Europe.
  • Some PCL stalwarts of the last two years got their first MLB hits yesterday: Michael Taylor (Sacramento) singled for Oakland, and Brett Pill (Fresno) became the first Giant to homer in his first MLB at-bat since Will Clark – leading to some “Pill the Thrill” cries.
  • Here’s an excellent feature on Salt Lake outfielder Reggie Willits, which digs into some of the pros and cons of being an up-and-down fringe major leaguer.
  • Reno is geared up for the playoffs – well, everybody except this columnist, who is a real party-pooper.
  • Sacramento is going into the playoffs hot – they won 17 of 21 to close the season. This probably means that Billy Beane doesn’t feel it’s necessary to send Hideki Matsui down for the PCL playoffs.
  • Matt Kata is the rock of the playoff-bound Round Rock Express.
  • Omaha has juggled its rotation to try to beat Round Rock. Pitching is the Storm Chasers strength. Their players are focused.
  • Angels prospect Mike Trout was named Baseball America’s Player of the Year. This is the biggest award in minor league baseball. The only Tacoma player to win it was Jose Canseco in 1985, and he didn’t spend much time with the Tigers.
  • What list includes Wladimir Balentien, Phil Hiatt, and Ron Kittle? The list of home run records by minor league, that’s what!

That’s it for today – I’m going to go pull weeds on the back patio. And you thought the off-season was all soap operas and margaritas?

* at least, that’s what I expect the numbers to say. I haven’t really looked into it yet!


Wrapping It Up

September 5, 2011

The Rainiers finish up the 2011 season with a 1:35 pm Labor Day game today against the Fresno Grizzlies.

The Rainiers had a good showing in the penultimate game of the season, beating Fresno 7-5 under the sunshine on a brilliant Sunday afternoon.

Tacoma was down 2-1 at the seventh inning stretch, getting a solid seven innings from starter Erasmo Ramirez.

Johan Limonta lined a two-run homer to right field in the bottom of the inning, giving Tacoma a 3-2 lead. Limonta has a .322 batting average with 14 home runs and 84 RBI despite not playing everyday this season.

Fresno scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning to regain the lead, but the Rainiers scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to win the game.

Alex Liddi singled home the tying run, and Carlos Peguero had a base hit to drive in the go-ahead run. Mike Wilson ripped a double to score Peguero, and Carlos Triunfel chipped in another RBI single.

It was win #70 on the year for the Rainiers, and a good all-around team effort that makes everybody happy at the end of the year.

On the radio pre-game, for my final sunday feature interview I spoke with hitting coach Alonzo Powell about the team’s offensive exploits. Tacoma set new single-season franchise records for runs scored, hits, total bases, and RBI. This has been a very successful season for the Rainiers offense.

Today’s broadcast begins at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Bob Robertson joins me in the booth for the last broadcast of the season. The starting pitchers in the season finale will be LHP Nate Robertson (6-6, 6.52) for Tacoma against Fresno LHP Matt Yourkin (9-8, 4.58).

The season may be ending today, but this blog will continue throughout the off-season. I’ll be back to post some end-of-season reflections on either Tuesday or (more likely) Wednesday, and then we’ll follow the PCL playoffs and the Mariners down the stretch. Also, I’ll continue to do my daily baseball reading and pass along any links that I think might be of interest.

To the links!

  • The News Tribune sent Larry LaRue to Cheney Stadium yesterday, and here is his game story. There is a lot in this story on Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero.
  • Here is video of Johan Limonta’s home run.
  • The Mariners are struggling again, although they did score five runs and collect 13 hits yesterday in Oakland. Franklin Gutierrez was injured and is out for the remainder of the season.
  • The Reno Aces are crawling into the playoffs – they have lost eight of the last 11 games. Tucson beat them yesterday without Anthony Rizzo, who was recalled by San Diego.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays general manager showed up at Cashman Field and said all kinds of good things.
  • The needed 13 innings to do it, but Sacramento beat Colorado Springs again on Sunday. Sacramento is 14-1 against the Sky Sox this year.
  • From the Des Moines Register, we have more on the MVP season of Bryan LaHair. Yesterday, Scott Maine nailed down the save as Iowa beat Omaha, 2-1.
  • Memphis slugger Nick Stavinoha has set numerous franchise records, but it looks like today will be his last game in a Memphis uniform.
  • Brett Tomko is 38 years old, he’s pitched for 12 different major league teams, and the Round Rock Express hurler ain’t quitting.

Off to the ballpark for one last game!


Big Crowd But Rainiers Lose

September 4, 2011

Tacoma’s hopes of finishing the season with a .500 record were dashed on Saturday, as Fresno defeated Tacoma 4-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 7,590.

The loss dropped Tacoma’s record to 69-73, assuring the team of its first sub-.500 record since 2007.

The Rainiers had a couple of scoring opportunities early in the game but only cashed in one of them.

For the second game in a row, Fresno’s bullpen was very tough. Fresno relievers have pitched ten innings without allowing a run in this series.

The crowd was outstanding, and the Rainiers have broken the franchise attendance record. We are up to a total attendance of 364,092 with two games remaining.

Special thanks to all of you for supporting the team and enjoying the new Cheney Stadium even though the club hasn’t played up to its recent winning standards this year. 

We close the season with two day games, and the first one is today at 1:35. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3-2, 5.60) against Fresno RHP Shane Loux (8-12, 4.70). As always, we’ll have the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Sunday Links are the Best Links:

  • Leading off, it’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune. The story focuses on the attendance record, and writer Don Ruiz snapped Rainiers team president Aaron Artman out of his Ducks depression to get some quotes.
  • Additional notes from yesterday’s Fresno at Tacoma game, from the Fresno Bee.
  • The Mariners were shut out by Brandon McCarthy and the A’s.
  • In my final Minor League Notebook, I took a look at how the Mariners affiliates finished this year.
  • Larry Stone wrote his Sunday feature column on Kyle Seager and the future of third base for the Mariners. His notebook has a bunch of good items, and he also has his power rankings.
  • We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: when Alex Liddi gets called up – possibly as early as Monday afternoon; or maybe not until next year – it’s going to be big news across the pond. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports has a column.
  • Colorado Springs also broke an attendance record yesterday – a huge crowd saw the Sky Sox get slaughtered by Sacramento, 16-4. Holy moly Sacramento is now 13-1 against the Sky Sox this year. Will they finish it out 15-1? I’ve never heard of a 15-1 season series since the league went to this current schedule format about nine years ago.
  • Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a solid feature on relief pitcher Winston Abreu, who personifies the Triple-A veteran. It took him 11 years to make his major league debut, and he’s still going strong at age 34. He’ll be a baseball lifer.
  • The Iowa at Omaha game last night was rained out. Will they make it up as a doubleheader today or tomorrow? Naaaah.
  • Oklahoma City infielder Anderson Hernandez saw his hitting streak end at 30 games, but the RedHawks won.
  • There are many deserving players around the Pacific Coast League who are hoping to get called into the manager’s office and receive some good news tomorrow. Memphis outfielder Andrew Brown is one of them.
  • Round Rock won its 85th game yesterday. That’s a whole lot in the 144-game PCL.
  • At least this team from Fresno lost.

We’re down to the final two games, and it looks to be perfect day-game baseball weather today.


Liddi Produces

September 3, 2011

The Rainiers lost the series-opener to Fresno on Friday night, 7-2, but Alex Liddi was able to achieve a rare accomplishment.

Liddi singled home Greg Halman in the bottom of the first inning for his 100th RBI of the season. With that RBI, Liddi became just the second player in 52 years of Tacoma baseball to reach 100 RBIs and runs scored in the same season.

Craig Kusick is the only other player to achieve the feat. Kusick scored 102 runs and had 104 RBI for the 1973 Tacoma Twins.

Kusick had the type of season in 1973 that would cause him to be a hot commodity in 2011. At the age of 24, in his first Triple-A season, Kusick hit .305 with 27 home runs. He also walked more than he struck out: he drew 103 walks next to 92 strikeouts. He had a .424 on-base percentage and a .518 slugging percentage.

Kusick shuffled between Tacoma and Minnesota during the 1974 and 1975 seasons, and he finally stuck in the big leagues in 1976, playing the next four seasons in a reserve role.

In 1980, after being sold to Toronto and released, Kusick signed a minor league deal with San Diego and spent a season-and-a-half with their Triple-A affiliate, the Hawaii Islanders. He retired after the 1981 season, and he passed away in 2006 in St. Paul, Minnesota at the young age of 57.

Check out Kusick’s Baseball Reference pages: major leagues and minor leagues.

Tonight the Rainiers play the final night game of the season, and there will be fireworks after the game at Cheney Stadium.

First pitch is set for 7:05, and you can listen to the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma will start RHP Jarrett Grube (4-3, 5.00) against Fresno LHP Geno Espinelli (2-5, 7.14).

A note on the broadcast: we will be brushing up against the end of the Washington Huskies football broadcast. Their game starts at 4:00 and should end right around 7:00 or 7:15. When the clock hits zero on the Huskies game, we’ll come right out to Cheney Stadium and pick up the Rainiers game. Hopefully we’ll be in time for the first pitch.*

Links:

  • We lead off with the Rainiers game story from Larry LaRue of The News Tribune. Also, we have some Fresno notes from the Fresno Bee.
  • Video highlights! We have the Carlos Peguero home run from Thursday, and Greg Halman’s Little League grand slam from Wednesday. The video on the second one was a little shaky – that play needed a seven-camera MLB TV set-up.
  • Cesar Jimenez pitched in his first major league game since 2008, but it didn’t go well and the Mariners got skunked in Oakland.
  • The Mariners activated Justin Smoak from the disabled list and he had a hit last night.
  • John Sickels previewed the Peoria Javelinas – that’s the Arizona Fall League team that the Mariners contribute players to.
  • Oakland called up Sacramento outfielder Michael Taylor, which meant… hugs for everybody!
  • Las Vegas pitcher Kyle Drabek has experienced a loss of control, but they’re working with him. In this story: Las Vegas first baseman David Cooper won the Mayor’s Trophy, which is a cool fan-chosen award they give out in Las Vegas every year.
  • Round Rock manager Bobby Jones won the PCL Manager of the Year award, and then his Express went out and beat Albuquerque.
  • Wow. Sacramento is 12-1 against Colorado Springs this year. In this story: Sky Sox manager Stu Cole is suspended.
  • Reno beat Tucson in ten innings, 2-1. Ryan Langerhans had the game-winning hit.

I’d like to see the Rainiers close this out with three straight wins, and finish the season at .500. The Rainiers have not finished under .500 since Daren Brown’s first season, 2007. 

* call me crazy, but I think Eastern might give them a good fight, and this could be a close game – which of course would make it last longer.


Rainiers Finish Off Tucson

September 2, 2011

Tacoma beat Tucson on Thursday night 7-3, winning the series three games to one.

The Rainiers are 69-71 on the year, and will finish at .500 if they can take three of four from Fresno to close the season.

Tacoma took the lead on Thursday when Greg Halman launched a long two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the third inning, giving the Rainiers a 4-3 lead.

It remained 4-3 until the eighth, when Tacoma tacked on three insurance runs – all after there were two outs.

Carlos Peguero returned from the disabled list and homered off the scoreboard in right-center field for his 12th homer as a Rainier. He also drew his first walk in 80 at-bats.

Luke French delivered a strong start in what is likely his final outing of the year. French allowed a three-run homer in the first inning, but he quickly settled down and allowed just four singles after that, lasting seven full innings. French struck out a season-high seven batters.

Scott Patterson recorded the final four outs – three by strikeout – to earn his eighth save.

Tonight Tacoma welcomes Fresno to town, and it is Friday Night Fireworks at Cheney Stadium. The game starts at 7:05 and the fireworks will follow. Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (9-6, 6.22) against a Fresno pitcher to be determined. You can catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here (I have now typed a variation of that sentence 141 times in the last five months).

 Links:

  • We lead off with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, as penned by Don Ruiz.
  • The Mariners lost a close one to the Angels, 4-3.
  • Larry Stone has a blog item on the release of Matt Tuiasosopo.
  • Fresno had a bullpen day yesterday, and six pitchers combined to limit Reno to just five hits.
  • Salt Lake got lambasted by Colorado Springs, 17-7, and the Sky Sox bashed out 20 hits. Paul McAnulty homered twice for the Bees.
  • In a playoff preview series, Round Rock beat Omaha last night in the series finale. They meet again in the playoffs starting Wednesday. Looking forward to the playoffs, Omaha might have a roster advantage over Round Rock.
  • Iowa didn’t have PCL MVP Bryan LaHair, who is being promoted to Chicago today, but the I-Cubs did have a strong start from rehabilitating Andrew Cashner.
  • Nick Additon tossed a gem and Memphis beat Albuquerque.
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs had their final home game of the season rained out. That’s a bummer. Hang on to your tickets, folks, you can trade them for tickets to any game… next April?

It’s fireworks night tonight (and Saturday) at Cheney Stadium. Come see us this weekend or else you’ll have to wait until next April.!