Final Homestand Opens Tonight

The Rainiers return home for the final homestand of the season, starting Saturday night. It’s a nine-game homestand, with the Reno Aces in town for the first four, and the Las Vegas 51s showing up for the last five games.

Tacoma lost to Nashville in Friday, 7-2. The team went 3-5 on the Tennessee road trip, splitting at Memphis but going 1-3 at Nashville.

Now it’s time to return home, and I am intrigued by the Reno series.

Reno has had a big lead in the division all year. They have clearly had the best team in the Pacific-North, and they appeared to be running away with the division.

Things have changed.

The top three in their lineup all year were Adam Eaton, Jake Elmore, and Ryan Wheeler. They got elected to start the all-star game as a trio, and they even batted 1-2-3 for the PCL All-Stars.

Elmore and Wheeler are now in the majors with Arizona. Eaton – the best player of the three – is still in Reno, leading the PCL with a .385 batting average.

Reno has gone outside the organization to fill the holes, trading for Tyler Bortnick from Tampa and grabbing a second baseman named Kuhn from Charlotte of the International League.

The results haven’t been good lately. Reno needed a dominant performance by Trevor Bauer to beat Round Rock and end a six-game losing streak (all at home!) last night.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs has pulled within five games of Reno, and Salt Lake is red-hot and sitting six games back with 17 games remaining.

The Rainiers have a golden opportunity to play the role of spoiler in this series – and that would be a wonderful way to close out this season, especially considering the fact that Tacoma has gone 2-10 against Reno so far this year.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Hector Noesi (1-4, 7.04) against Reno RHP Joe Martinez (10-10, 5.79).

Sorry, no links today. We are flying home from Nashville all day on Saturday, and when we land we are going straight from SeaTac to the ballpark to play the game.

I wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune – it’s not posted as I type this, but here is what I sent them (unedited):

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For Tacoma starting pitcher Andrew Carraway, the Rainiers Tennessee road trip included both a feast and a famine.

The later occurred in Nashville on Friday night, when he lasted just one inning and allowed five runs in Tacoma’s 7-2 loss to the Sounds. Nashville won the series, three games to one.

Carraway was coming off an excellent start on Sunday in Memphis, in which he allowed just four singles and one run in seven innings.

In the first inning on Friday at Greer Stadium, Carraway got the first batter in the first inning to ground out – and then the next five had extra-base hits.

Eric Farris, Khris Davis, and Jordan Brown hit consecutive doubles, making it 2-0. Then Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi hit back-to-back home runs, and it was 5-0 just six batters into the first inning.

Carraway struck out the next two batters to end the inning, but after a 45-pitch, five-run first he did not return to the mound for the second inning.

“He got the first guy, but after that he was behind in the count, and he left pitches up in the zone,” said Tacoma manager Daren Brown. “He just didn’t have it today.”

Green, the Milwaukee Brewers minor league player of the year last season who is having a disappointing 2012 campaign, homered again in the fifth inning and went 3-for-4 with three RBI.

Nashville starting pitcher Brian Baker kept the Rainiers off-balance for six innings, allowing two singles and two walks to earn the win.

“Baker obviously did a good job,” said Brown. “We just didn’t get anything going tonight.

Tacoma (53-74) did not get a runner past first base until the eighth inning, when Nick Franklin doubled home Brandon Bantz with two outs. Luis Jimenez drove home Franklin with a single for Tacoma’s second run.

Steven Hensley was a bright spot for the Rainiers. The right0handed reliever pitched two perfect innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced.

Short Hops: The Rainiers have been mathematically eliminated from the Northern Division race, but the team has a chance to play a “spoiler” role when they host Reno in a four-game series starting today… Tacoma pitchers have made 18 errors this year, including three on Thursday. That’s the second-highest total in the PCL, behind Tucson’s 19… prospect watchers should enjoy Sunday’s game in Tacoma, when Danny Hultzen faces off against Reno’s Tyler Skaggs in a battle between highly-regarded left-handers.

On Tap: Tacoma’s final homestand of the 2012 opens on Saturday, with the Reno Aces arriving for the first four games. Tacoma starts Hector Noesi (1-4, 7.04) against Reno’s Joe Martinez (10-10, 5.79).

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