Rainiers Drop Ominous First Game In El Paso

Is this what El Paso is going to be like? I hope not.

The Rainiers blew two leads and lost an 11-10 decision on Saturday night in their first-ever game at Southwest University Park.

The ballpark is fantastic. It sits on a downtown city block, and has a lot of unusual quirks to it due to architects having to squeeze the stadium into the available space. I’ll post a photo blog this season for sure – hopefully on this trip (Tacoma comes back here at the end of the month).

The broadcast booth is a nice set-up, and the people who work here are extraordinarily helpful and friendly. One of the staffers here in El Paso even located my lost luggage – thank you, Lizette!

Hopefully last night’s opener was an anomaly, and this place doesn’t turn into Aces Ballpark, Part Two.

I wrote the game story for The News Tribune, but for some reason it wasn’t posted on their website. So here is what I sent them last night:

EL PASO, Tex. – It was déjà vu all over again for the Tacoma Rainiers, who dropped another slugfest to the El Paso Chihuahuas on Saturday night.

In a game eerily reminiscent of Tacoma’s 14-12 home loss to El Paso last Sunday, the Rainiers blew two leads and ultimately lost in the bottom of the eighth inning on Saturday, 11-10.

It was a disappointing result in front of a sellout crowd of 9,266 in Tacoma’s first-ever game at El Paso’s brand-new Southwest University Park.

“We score, they score,” said Tacoma manager Roy Howell. “Bottom line they just got one more than we did late in the ballgame.”

Tacoma held an 8-2 lead going to the bottom of the sixth inning, with Ty Kelly and Jabari Blash contributing big hits.

Tacoma starter Andrew Carraway was removed after holding El Paso to two runs over the first five innings, having thrown 89 pitches.

El Paso greeted reliever Chance Ruffin with five straight hits in the bottom of the sixth inning, culminating with a three-run homer by Brooks Conrad that made it 8-7.

After El Paso tied it up in the bottom of the seventh, Tacoma regained the lead in the top of the eighth with the help of some shoddy infield defense by the Chihuahuas.

Kelly reached on a fielding error by shortstop Tyler Greene, and Jesus Montero brought him home with a long double to right-center. Montero would score when Greene threw away Blash’s routine grounder with two outs, making it 10-8.

“This is a very fast field,” said Howell. “It has an Astroturf type of feel to it. Some of the mistakes defensively on both sides were due to the ball just skipping.”

El Paso won it in the bottom of the eighth. Jeff Francouer singled off Todd Coffey, who was making his first appearance since tearing his ulnar collateral ligament on July 2, 2012. When Jake Goebbert reached on an error, Coffey was replaced by Carson Smith.

Smith allowed run-scoring singles to Cody Decker and Greene to tie the game, and Jace Peterson singled to left to score the go-ahead run with one out.

Peterson and Conrad each had four hits for the Chihuahuas, who connected for 20 hits as a team.

Sunday’s game starts at 5:05 (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jordan Pries (3-3, 2.56) against El Paso RHP Matt Wisler (1-3, 8.85).

The CBS Sports Network released its remaining schedule for the Minor League Game of the Week, and the Rainiers are on twice. It includes a home game from Cheney Stadium this Thursday.

We’ll have more on this later, but please plan to attend the game Thursday – it would be great to have a packed house for a nationally televised game!

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune is embedded above.
  • My minor league notebook for the paper catches up with ex-Rainiers manager Daren Brown.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook is on the TNT blog today.
  • Lloyd McClendon used an unusual lineup and it worked in a 3-2 Mariners win over Detroit on Saturday.
  • John McGrath gives us a sneak preview of the Clay Huntington Broadcast Center, available this week online. This sounds really cool.
  • After 11 years in the minor leagues, former Rainiers pitcher Jarrett Grube was called up by the Angels and made his Major League debut last night.
  • The draft is this week. Here’s a fun story on MLB veteran Tim Hudson recalling his draft day in the pre-internet era.
  • In the PCL, Stephen Vogt had a big night and helped Sacramento to a 12-3 win at Fresno. Vogt was called up by Oakland today.
  • Rehabilitating Josh Hamilton had two hits, but his Salt Lake Bees lost in Albuquerque, 7-5.
  • El Paso pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne explained exactly how he defected from Cuba.
  • Reno overcame a 3-0 deficit and beat Las Vegas, 4-3. Vegas has lost 11 of 14 games. The newspaper focuses on Las Vegas infielder Josh Satin.
  • Ben Paulsen had a good night but is Sky Sox got whacked by New Orleans, 10-3.
  • Oklahoma City’s Jon Singleton slugged his 14th homer in an 8-6 win over Memphis. Memphis lost outfielder Oscar Taveras, who was called up by St. Louis and homered in his second at-bat.
  • Nashville starter Jimmy Nelson struck out 11 Iowa Cubs in a 2-1 win.
  • Ex-Rainiers outfielder Carlos Peguero went deep in Omaha’s 5-2 win at Round Rock. Peguero is batting .262-7-28.

On to game two in El Paso. It’s time for the Rainiers to, um, mark their territory in the home of the Chihuahuas.

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