The Rainiers dropped the final game of the Sacramento series on Tuesday, 6-2, settling for a split of the four-game series. The whole league had Wednesday off, and now we resume play tonight.
The Rainiers welcome the Las Vegas 51s to town, and tonight we start our first and only (use your monster truck rally voice) EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES of the 2013 season.
An EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES is always a home-and-home affair. Tacoma plays Vegas four times here at Cheney Stadium (through Sunday), and then the two teams fly to Las Vegas and play four more at Cashman Field on Monday. (I think the PCL should charter a private airplane with “EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES EXPRESS” emblazoned on the side of it to transport the teams – why they haven’t done this yet is a mystery to me. There would even be room in the back of the plane to ship the EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES TROPHY, which as you can imagine is quite large and unwieldy).
This is a rematch of last year’s NINE GAME MEGA SERIES between the two teams, when Tacoma went 5-4 over a nine-day stretch ending on August 30. However, the 51s were a Blue Jays affiliate then; these new Mets players are EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES rookies.
Tacoma had three MEGA SERIES last year, of varying lengths: a seven-gamer against Salt Lake (lost, 5-2), a nine-gamer with Tucson (originally scheduled for eight games, but a rainout forced a DH so let’s make it nine! Tacoma won, 5-4), and the nine-gamer with Las Vegas (Tacoma, 5-4).
This is the first EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES of the year for Vegas, too. They have another EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES right after the all-star break, against in-state rival Reno.
Las Vegas Preview
The 51s are the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate, managed by Wally Backman.
They’re coming in hot. Vegas carries a seven-game win streak into the EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES, having just swept Fresno at Chukchansi Park, and winning three straight at home against Reno prior to that.
The top prospect on the 51s is starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, who is considered to be one of the best prospects in all of the minor leagues. He’s scheduled to pitch on Friday night (against James Paxton) in what the New York media thinks might be his final Triple-A start. If you like watching prospects, you should definitely come to the game tomorrow night.
Vegas outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is on a home run binge, having gone deep nine times in his last 14 games. He has ten homers on the year, with nine in the last two weeks – ponder that for a moment. He homered twice on Tuesday in Fresno.
First baseman Josh Satin continues to be the 51s most consistent hitter, batting .311 with nine homers, 39 walks to 42 K’s, and a 923 OPS. Infielder Wilmer Flores leads the team with 39 RBI.
Two key players are on the disabled list: top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud has been out for most of the season (as usual), and PCL slugger Andrew Brown is currently on the DL (I don’t have details yet on his injury and if he may come back soon, but he’s a terror at the plate when he’s in the PCL).
The Las Vegas pitching staff is a former Rainiers party: D.J. Mitchell, Matt Fox, David Aardsma, and Sean Henn are all on it. Mitchell, Fox, and Henn were all with Tacoma just last season!
You know who really wants to win this series? Rainiers hitting coach Howard Johnson. He and Wally Backman are old buddies and former teammates on the 1986 Mets, and there are bragging rights at stake.
Tacoma won the first meeting of the year between the two teams, a four-game series sweep at Cashman Field, April 25-28.
The shocker of the 2013 season occurred on Wednesday, when Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre suffered a wrist injury and they called up Brandon Bantz from Tacoma.
I haven’t had a chance to talk to Bantz yet, but I can only imagine he was stunned by the news. We’re very happy for him in Tacoma, he spent all of last year as the Rainiers back-up catcher, and opened this year at Double-A to make room for Mike Zunino and Sucre. He’s an extremely hard worker and what you might call a Mariners organization soldier, so it’s great to see him get a chance to be a big leaguer even if it is for only a few days. Now, we hope he gets into a game.
To make room for Bantz on the 25-man roster, Carlos Triunfel was optioned to Tacoma – I expect him in the lineup tonight.
The had to add Bantz to the 40-man roster as well – Franklin Gutierrez was moved to the 60-day disabled list for this purpose. It’s back-dated, so Gutierrez is eligible to come off the DL on June 22.
These moves leave Tacoma with one catcher, which ain’t gonna cut it. Luckily Double-A Jackson was carrying three catchers, so they sent us one of theirs: Carlton Tanabe is up from Jackson and will back up Zunino while Bantz is in the big leagues. I’m not yet sure how the Rainiers are going to squeeze Tanabe on the roster; that will be worked out before the game tonight.
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 Blake Beavan (3-2, 4.91) Scratched! Looks like a bullpen day against Las Vegas RHP D.J. Mitchell (2-1, 6.61).
- Here’s the News Tribune game story from Tuesday’s Rainiers loss to Sacramento.
- The early leaders in the voting for the Triple-A All-Star Game are in. Go here to submit your online ballot. Vote for Rainiers, and as we say around town: vote early, vote often!
- The Mariners and White Sox out-weirded anything we’ve seen in the PCL this year, when the White Sox ended their eight-game losing streak with a crazy 7-5 victory in the 16th inning yesterday. ESPN’s David Schoenfield reminds us this is why we love baseball.
- Don Ruiz got some reaction from Brandon Bantz on his surprise call-up.
- John McGrath wrote about the perils of the baseball draft, using Tacoma manager John Stearns as an example. The draft starts today at 4:00, the Mariners select No. 12 overall.
- Ryan Divish has a draft Q&A that is focused on the Mariners, and Larry Stone has blurbs on ten different players the Mariners could select in the first round.
- Friend-of-the-blog Chris Crawford has a draft primer up on the Sports On Earth website. This is a good overview for casual draft observers such as myself.
- Reese McGuire is a catcher at nearby Kentwood High School who is expected to be an early first-round pick.
- All of this stuff going on, and Ichiro is coming back, too.
- Tom Verducci wrote an interesting piece about Dustin Ackley and passive/aggressive hitters, and where they come from.
- Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet is up, and Mariners Low-A outfielder Gabriel Guerrero has made the dreaded not-so-hot sheet.
- In the PCL, the Omaha Storm Chasers are excited to get fireballing pitching prospect Yordano Ventura. This is supposed to be some elite-level heat.
- Former Las Vegas manager Marty Brown – now piloting Buffalo of the International League – did something a bit different after getting ejected.
Make sure you eat healthy, get some exercise, and sleep well because an EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES is not to be taken lightly.