Almonte Leads Rainiers To Win, Says Goodbye

July 31, 2014

Note: tonight’s Rainiers game in Salt Lake City is on national TV, as the CBS Sports Network’s Minor League Baseball Game of the Week. Check out the beautiful Salt Lake ballpark and watch the Rainiers at 7:00 (Pacific). Channel Finder: Click! 423/667 (HD), Comcast: 412/633 (HD), DirecTV: 221 Dish: 158.

Last night Abraham Almonte reached base four times, hit a three-run homer, singled in a big insurance run, and lead the Tacoma Rainiers to a 6-3 victory at Salt Lake.

Today he and reliever Stephen Kohlscheen were traded to the San Diego Padres for major league outfielder (and former PCLer) Chris Denorfia.

This move strengthens the Mariners outfield but obviously it’s a big hit to the Rainiers.

Almonte is batting 267/333/390 with six homers and 31 RBI. He’s 7-for-11 stealing bases. The season stats don’t really tell the whole story: Almonte struggled mightily in the majors in April, and he continued to struggle in Triple-A in May. But since June 1 he is batting .309 in 178 at-bats for Tacoma, and he has looked like the player he was last season when he was the Rainiers team MVP.

Kohlscheen opened the season in Double-A and was promoted to Tacoma in mid-June. In 15 games for Tacoma, he’s 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA. He pitched 24.2 innings and had a 22-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kohlscheen doesn’t light up radar guns but he’s really tall and gets great downhill plane on his pitches, making him very effective.

Almonte is getting a promotion in the deal – he reports to San Diego tomorrow. I believe Kohlscheen is on his way to join El Paso, who is playing in Las Vegas right now.

Trade No. 2 just happened: in a three-team deal, the Mariners send Nick Franklin to Tampa and acquire major league CF Austin Jackson from Detroit.

This is a great trade from the Mariners standpoint, simply because Franklin is blocked in their own organization by Robinson Cano. The M’s just didn’t need him.

I think that Franklin is going to become a good major league player, and I hope he does with the Rays. That being said, the M’s didn’t need him, and they did desperately need a quality big league outfielder, so here we are.

This trade should help the Mariners try to reach the playoffs this year, and it fills a big hole in the lineup for 2015 as well.

OK, back to the current Rainiers team: Jordan Pries picked up the win yesterday, allowing three runs after just four batters in the first inning and then giving up no more runs while making it through seven innings. That’s a nice recovery.

Tacoma is back to .500 at 56-56, and is still seven games behind first place Sacramento. Reno is sandwiched between the two teams, in second place and three games behind Sacramento.

I’m hoping the Rainiers have some players coming in today, because they lost three from the roster and gained none in today’s deals. Tonight’s lineup will be interesting.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Forrest Snow (1-2, 1.52) against Salt Lake RHP Chris Volstad (0-0, 5.40).

Links:

That’s it for today. I’ll have more links to articles analyzing the Mariners trades on tomorrow’s blog.

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No Comeback In Salt Lake City (This Time)

July 30, 2014

I thought the Rainiers were going to do it again.

After back-to-back come-from-behind walk-off wins at home, the Rainiers hit the road and were trailing Salt Lake 5-3 going to the ninth inning on Tuesday night.

With one out, Humberto Quintero singled. Then Xavier Avery had a pinch-hit single, and the tying runs were on base with the top of the order coming up.

But Bees reliever David Carpenter nailed down the save, getting Abraham Almonte to pop up and Ji-Man Choi to bounce out, ending the game.

The loss knocked Tacoma back under the .500 mark, at 55-56. But the Rainiers did not lose any ground in the standings, because first-place Sacramento also lost on Tuesday.

The Rainiers will try to bounce back and even the series tonight.

Wednesday’s game starts at 6:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Jodan Pries (7-6, 3.78) against Salt Lake RHP Caleb Clay (3-1, 3.43).

Links:

Off to the ballpark (well OK, lunch first and then the ballpark). Remember, TV game Thursday night that you can watch!


Walk-Off Warriors Do It Again

July 29, 2014

Tacoma walked-off Sacramento for the second day in a row, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday afternoon to emerge with a 4-3 victory.

Ji-Man Choi singled home the tying run, and Justin Smoak hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to bring in Nick Franklin with the winning run in the last of the ninth.

The victory gave Tacoma a 3-2 series win over Sacramento, pulling Tacoma within seven games of the first-place River Cats. Tacoma earned a split of the season series , 8-8.

The Rainiers have won six of the last eight games, and the team is 29-16 over ts last 45 games.

Tacoma is seven games back with 34 to play. That is not an insurmountable deficit. But the Rainiers are done playing Sacramento head-to-head, so they’re going to need to keep winning at a good clip while getting some help down the stretch from Sacramento’s opponents.

The Rainiers won’t be getting any walk-off wins for a while. The team embarks on an eight-game road trip today, starting with four games in Salt Lake City followed by four in Albuquerque.

Tuesday’s game starts at 6:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Taijuan Walker (4-1, 3.76) against Salt Lake LHP Randy Wolf (first game for Salt Lake).

Programming note: Thursday’s game at Salt Lake is the Minor League Baseball Game of the Week and will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network. Prepare yourself accordingly!

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners had an off-day yesterday, so Todd Dybas has a feature on Fernando Rodney. The Mariners open a series in Cleveland today, and in recent years bad things have happened to the M’s in Cleveland. Time to change that.
  • In case you aren’t aggravated enough just watching it, you can read Larry Stone’s article about how frustrating the Mariners offense is.
  • On that same subject, Ryan Divish spent part of his off-day writing this post.
  • We have our first casualty from the big Albuquerque-Reno brawl: Aces reliever Kameron Loe broke his hand in the fight (last note at bottom). Five Isotopes were suspended – the list is here.
  • Reno got shutout pitching from Charles Brewer and beat Albuquerque in the final game of the series, 6-0. Apparently six Reno players were suspended as well, but I can’t find a list. The Reno Gazette-Journal is doing a truly awful job of covering the brawl: they have not had any follow-up, or a single quote from anybody – not a player, manager, or league or club executive – and it happened in Reno.
  • Las Vegas hung on for a 5-3 win over Salt Lake last night. The Bees went 1-3 at Las Vegas, and have lost four of their last five games.
  • Fresno won in El Paso, 9-4.
  • Omaha held off New Orleans, 7-6, as Joe Saunders earned his first PCL win since 2007. The Omaha paper has a nice story on the power surge of catcher Francisco Pena.
  • Starting pitcher Ariel Pena – who threw hard but was wilder than a Wayne Coyne – Miley Cyrus party when the Rainiers faced him in June – is on a roll for Nashville. He shut down Oklahoma City last night for a 3-1 win.
  • Rehabilitating Justin Morneau played well, but the rest of the Sky Sox struggled in an 11-4 home loss to Round Rock.
  • We’ll finish off with Baseball America’s minor league round-up.

It’s raining here in Salt Lake City as I’m about to post this blog. Hopefully it will stop before game time – the last thing in the world we need is another doubleheader.


Rainiers Win In 14 Innings; Early Game Today

July 28, 2014

What a game on Sunday. I could – and would – write 2,000 words on it if we didn’t have an early game today. My apologies for not doing it justice, but the PCL schedule says we gotta rise and shine and get on to the next one.

Here’s the short version:

Tacoma’s pitching was excellent. Rehabbing James Paxton looked like he had good velocity, allowing one run in 4.1 innings. He did walk three but he notched five strikeouts, and three of the six hits he allowed were infield singles.

Sacramento starter Drew Pomeranz was great, lasting eight innings and allowing two runs. He carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth before Tacoma tied it up on Justin Smoak‘s sacrifice fly.

Through nine innings, it was tied 2-2. Both teams had left a bazillion runners on base, missing out on multiple scoring opportunities. So, we went to extra innings.

Then nothing happened (other than good relief pitching) until the bottom of the 13th inning, when Tacoma managed to not score after loading the bases with one out. That was a real bummer.

The bad trip got worse when Blake Beavan walked the first two batters in the top of the 14th, leading to a Sacramento run. It looked like the Rainiers were going to lose in 14.

But in the bottom of the 14th, the Rainiers rallied and scored two runs to win it. Ji-Man Choi hit a sac fly to score Leury Bonilla with the tying run, and Jesus Montero‘s two-out broken bat single scored the winner.

Tacoma got the win in the nick of time. Catcher Humberto Quintero was warming up in the bullpen, getting ready to pitch the 15th inning because Tacoma was out of properly rested pitchers.

The series is tied 2-2 going into the final game today, and the Rainiers can pull within seven games of first place with a win.

Monday’s game starts at 11:35 AM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 11:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (2-4, 4.12) against Sacramento RHP Matt Buschmann (6-5, 5.23).

We had roster moves before Sunday’s game: outfielder Julio Morban was promoted from Double-A Jackson, and reliever Logan Bawcom was activated from the disabled list. Third baseman Gabriel Noriega and pitcher Matt Palmer were placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Links:

  • In his final Rainiers game as a News Tribune intern, promising kid Andy Bixler has the Rainiers game story.
  • Ryan Divish covered the James Paxton rehab.
  • The Mariners lost to Baltimore on Sunday, but at least Chris Taylor had his first double and RBI.
  • In the awakening after Saturday night’s big brawl, Albuquerque topped Reno 5-2 in a peaceful game. There are no quotes in the report, making me wonder if both teams refused to talk about the fight. Reno remains five games out of first place.
  • Las Vegas topped Salt Lake 6-5 in a seesaw battle at Cashman Field. Matt Reynolds hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh for Vegas. Despite the win, manager Wally Backman was not pleased.
  • Jake Goebbert had three hits and three RBI as the Chihuahuas nipped Fresno, 4-3.
  • Memphis swept a doubleheader at Iowa, but the Cubs faithful were happy to see heralded prospect Jorge Soler launch his first Triple-A homer.
  • Justin Bour had a big game and New Orleans beat Omaha, 8-5.
  • Oklahoma City stunned Nashville, scoring four runs in the top of the ninth to claim a 6-5 win at Greer Stadium. Joe Sclafini had the game-winning hit, ending Nashville’s five-game win streak.
  • Round Rock pasted Colorado Springs, 8-2.

Today is the last day of the homestand – Tacoma plays 16 of the next 21 games on the road.


Cats Sweep Rainiers In DH

July 27, 2014

Sacramento swept a doubleheader from the Tacoma Rainiers on Saturday night, putting the Rainiers hopes of making a run at the River Cats for the division title in serious jeopardy.

The two wins opened Sacramento’s lead up to nine games over Tacoma, with 36 to play. The Rainiers could really use wins in the final two games of this series, which will be Tacoma’s final head-to-head games against the division leader.

Sacramento won the first game 8-5, as Daric Barton hit a key three-run homer and Andy Parrino drilled a two-run triple. Justin Smoak homered twice in the game, but the Rainiers needed more than that.

The second game was a pitcher’s duel that Sacramento won, 2-1. It was a “bullpen game” for the River Cats, and that’s not good for opponents: Sacramento’s greatest strength is its terrific bullpen. Four pitchers held Tacoma to just four hits total.

A few Tacoma highlights: Nate Tenbrink homered in the first game and doubled in the second, and it looks like he is dead-set on making up for lost time and helping the club down the stretch. Smoak hit those two dingers in the opener, and nearly had a third in the second game. Forrest Snow delivered another solid spot-start, but he got stuck with the loss in that 2-1 game. Stephen Kolscheen racked up six strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief, mostly on elevated fastballs to left-handed batters.

The Rainiers need a win badly on Sunday, and rehabbing Mariners starter James Paxton needs a strong start. It seems to me that these two things would go together quite well. It should be a beautiful day afternoon at Cheney Stadium – come out to the park if you can.

Sunday’s game starts at 1:35 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP James Paxton (0-1, 6.00) against Sacramento LHP Drew Pomeranz (0-0, 4.50).

Links:

Don’t forget, we have another day game on Monday at 11:35 AM. Start making your lunch plans for Cheney Stadium now!


Rainiers Streak Into Doubleheader

July 26, 2014

Tacoma won its fourth in a row last night, shutting out Sacramento 7-0 to pull within seven games of the first place River Cats.

Matt Palmer tossed six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, and Blake Beavan and Logan Kensing polished ’em off.

Offensively, Tacoma opened the bottom of the first inning with five consecutive singles. I’m not sure I’ve seen a team open the first with five singles in a row before. That ended up netting three runs.

Tacoma tacked on more runs in the early innings and won with relative ease. Sacramento even used catcher Luis Exposito to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning, in an effort to save pitching for today’s doubleheader.

Now 53-53 on the year, the Rainiers have reached the .500 mark for the first time since the team was 18-18 on May 13th. Tacoma was once 13 games under, but the team has gone 27-14 over the last 41 games to get back to even.

Today’s doubleheader is a make-up for a rain out from when Sacramento visited Tacoma in April. This is the final make-up doubleheader on the schedule for Tacoma: we’ll be all caught up from the incredible eight home rain outs in April and May after tonight’s games.

Saturday’s action starts at 6:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts LHP James Gillheeney (3-7, 5.75) against Sacramento RHP Zach Neal (3-5, 4.49) in the first game; Tacoma RHP Forrest Snow (1-1, 1.07) starts game two against Sacramento RHP Philip Humber (4-4, 3.91).

Links:

Let’s play two!


Hot Rainiers Open Big Series Tonight

July 25, 2014

Tacoma continued its excellent play of late, defeating Las Vegas on Thursday night 5-4 in a quick game at Cheney Stadium.

Starting pitcher Jordan Pries returned to form, allowing three runs (one earned) over seven crisp innings.

Abraham Almonte had three hits, including two inning-opening doubles which started rallies.

The big blow came off the bat of Ty Kelly, who launched a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning. Kelly has a career high 14 home runs this season.

Now Tacoma faces first-place Sacramento in a five-game series – which includes a Saturday evening doubleheader – and we’re going to find out if the Rainiers will be in a pennant race in August.

The Rainiers enter this series eight games behind Sacramento, with 39 games left. If they can win four of five against Sacramento, things will be very interesting. Taking 3-of-5 would be a little helpful, and keep Tacoma in the hunt. Losing three wouldn’t be a disaster, but it would make a comeback very tough with no more head-to-head games against Sacramento left.

If Tacoma loses four or all five, they won’t be mathematically eliminated but it would take an unlikely series of events for the Rainiers to get back in the race.

Friday’s game starts at 7:05 PM (Pacific) – the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show begins at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP Matt Palmer (1-8, 5.50) against Sacramento RHP Arnold Leon (9-4, 4.62).

Yesterday the Mariners promoted shortstop Chris Taylor and DH Jesus Montero to Seattle, sent Taijuan Walker back to Tacoma, and placed Willie Bloomquist on the disabled list.

Taylor went 1-for-3 last night, collecting his first major league hit (a single off Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles). It looks likes he’s going to get a chance to play up there.

I’m happy for Taylor, but a little bit disappointed – and here’s why: Taylor is currently 2nd in the PCL with a .328 bating average, and leader KiKe’ Hernandez is going to drop out due to a lack of plate appearances soon (he’s in the majors). Unfortunately, Taylor is 45 plate appearances away from qualifying for the batting title at the end of the season.

In 54 years of PCL baseball, only one Tacoma player has ever won the batting title – Troy Neel in 1992. It would have been a lot of fun to see Taylor make a run at it.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has reaction from Jordan Pries and manager Roy Howell.
  • The Mariners were shut out by Baltimore last night, 4-0.
  • Jesus Montero might be re-joining the Rainiers today, according to Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook.
  • Ryan Divish has an interesting blog post on Montero’s batting stance.
  • John Sickels wrote about Chris Taylor.
  • Buster Olney’s column today (for ESPN Insiders) explains new rules in the independent Atlantic League which are being installed next week to speed up play. They were designed by a group of MLB executives. I would willingly tithe a portion of my salary to the PCL league office to see these rules enforced in this league.
  • Also for Insiders, here is Keith Law’s analysis of the Stephen PryorKendrys Morales trade.
  • There are encouraging words about Mariners prospect Gabriel Guerrero in this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • Sacramento maintained its lead in the Pacific-North by whacking El Paso, 13-2.
  • Reno remained 4.5 games behind Sacramento by beating Salt Lake, 4-3. Some Dominican fans are bringing music to the games in Salt Lake City.
  • Wowza. Down 7-4 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Joc Pederson launched a grand slam off all-star closer Heath Hembree and Albuquerque beat Fresno, 8-7.
  • The Iowa Cubs added another top prospect in Jorge Soler, and we have a photo gallery. Soler went 1-for-3 with two walks, Javier Baez homered, and Iowa ripped New Orleans 11-2.
  • Some of us old guys remember when Carlos Pena was a top prospect. Pena homered in the ninth to give Round Rock a 2-1 win at Oklahoma City.
  • Nashville opened up a 2.5-game lead in the American-South with a 4-2 win over Colorado Springs.
  • Carlos Peguero slugged his 13th homer of the year in Omaha’s 3-2 win at Memphis.

Big series starts tonight – and don’t forget, there will be Friday Night Fireworks!