Unlikely Homer Boosts Rainiers

August 31, 2016

The Rainiers got a big home run from Mike Freeman and beat Fresno on Tuesday night, 5-3, to open up the lead in the Pacific-North division.

Second-place Reno got shut out in Sacramento last night, so the Rainiers now have a 3.5-game lead with six to play. The Magic Number to clinch the division is down to three.

Tacoma had a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning last night. Sam Gaviglio had provided a quality start, and some timely hits – including a big two-out RBI single by Jesus Sucre – had given Tacoma the lead.

But Fresno tied the game in the top of the eighth, getting their own clutch two-out RBI single from Colin Moran.

The Grizzlies brought in flamethrowing reliever Jandel Gustave to pitch the bottom of the eighth. He got two quick outs before Dan Vogelbach coaxed a walk.

Freeman was the next hitter, and he lined a two-run homer to right-center to give Tacoma the 5-3 lead.

This was an unlikely home run. Freeman is a good hitter, but he’s not a power hitter. He had two home runs in 423 at-bats this year before the eighth inning last night.

Gustave had not allowed a home run this season, in 56 innings in the PCL, plus three innings in the majors.

Freeman crushed the pitch. According to the ‘Trackman’ stats relayed to me by Video Guy Randy Chrisman, the pitch came in at 97 miles per hour, and went out at 104 mph.

Freeman turned around that fastball, and he helped turn Tacoma back onto the winning track. It was a big step toward clinching the division.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Mike Freeman‘s two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning spurred Tacoma to a 5-3 win over visiting Fresno. Tacoma leads the division by 3.5 games with six to play.

‘Magic Number’: Three. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Today: Fresno (70-67-1) at Tacoma (76-60-1), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tied, 7-7.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Brady Rodgers (12-4, 2.91) at RHP Joe Wieland (12-6, 5.78)

Rodgers was named the PCL Pitcher of the Year today, edging out Sacramento’s Ty Blach in the voting.

Hot Rainiers: Dan Vogelbach has reached base via hit or walk in 26 straight games, and he has drawn a walk in 22 of the 26 games… Daniel Robertson has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. He is hitting .343 since the all-star break…  Mike Freeman has reached base 15 times in his last six games.

Look Out For: Alejandro Garcia brings a seven-game hitting streak into tonight’s game… Nolan Fontana is 4-for-8 with a homer so far in this series… Derek Fisher is 5-for-9 with three doubles so far in the series… top closer James Hoyt was optioned back to Fresno by the Astros last week.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story is about playoff fever. Fresno was eliminated from contention with the loss.
  • The Mariners lost a crusher on Tuesday night, getting walked off in Texas. Seattle is a team in need of a hot streak ASAP.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook includes news on some possible September call-ups coming on Friday.

PCL Game Reports:

  • Sacramento’s Chris Stratton tossed seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over Reno – a big result for the Rainiers playoff hopes. Thank you, Chris! Let’s go River Kitties!
  • El Paso took a huge step toward clinching the Pacific-South with a 6-5 win over Las Vegas. The Chihuahuas have a 5.5-game lead with six to go. Carlos Asuaje won the PCL Rookie of the Year award, and then went out and got three more hits in the win.
  • Albuquerque’s playoff hopes took a huge blow when the ‘Topes lost at Salt Lake last night, 3-2. Todd Cunningham‘s three-run homer was all Salt Lake needed.
  • Will Venable had the game-winning hit as Oklahoma City walked off Memphis, 5-4.
  • Round Rock eeked out a 2-1 win at Omaha.
  • Michael Reed hit a grand slam as Colorado Springs walloped New Orleans, 13-5. The Sky Sox have hit a franchise record nine grand slams this year (for comparison’s sake, Tacoma has hit two this season).
  • Nashville tuned up for the playoffs with an 8-2 win over Iowa. Sounds second baseman Joey Wendle got called up by Oakland, but the A’s bumped up top prospect Franklin Barreto to replace him.

Grizzlies Stifle Rainiers

August 30, 2016

Fresno took the opening game of the series on Monday night, a 5-1 win at Cheney Stadium.

The Rainiers were down 4-0 after two innings and didn’t threaten much from that point forward. There were two innings in which the Rainiers got some runners on base after there were two outs, but couldn’t get that final two-out hit to bring ’em in.

Reno picked up a game on the Rainiers, by winning in Sacramento 6-1. The Aces are 2.5-games back with seven to go – and they come to Tacoma on Friday night for the final four games of the regular season.

Tacoma will try to get back on track today. A strong starting pitcher performance would be a big step in the right direction.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Fresno scored two runs in the first inning and two more runs in the second, coasting to a 5-1 win over the Rainiers in the opener of an eight-game homestand. Zach Shank had three hits to lead Tacoma, and the Rainiers bullpen pitched well.

‘Magic Number’: Five. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Today: Fresno (70-66-1) at Tacoma (75-60-1), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Fresno leads, 7-6.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Cesar Valdez (12-1, 3.08) at RHP Sam Gaviglio (3-2, 3.93)

Fresno made an unexpected change to its starting rotation yesterday, activating Mike Hauschild from the disabled list and starting him, and pushing back Brady Rodgers to Wednesday.

Hot Rainiers: Dan Vogelbach has reached base via hit or walk in 25 straight games, and he has drawn a walk in 21 of the 25 games… Daniel Robertson has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games. He is hitting .345 since the all-star break…  Tyler Smith is batting .304 in August.

Look Out For: Jon Kemmer has improved as the season has gone on. He’s hit safely in his last five games, and he’s batted .299 with eight home runs and a .966 OPS in the month of August… Nolan Fontana is batting .273 against Tacoma, and .186 against the rest of the PCL… Max Stassi homered and drove in four runs Sunday against Sacramento… top closer James Hoyt was optioned back to Fresno by the Astros last week.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

  • Reno blasted Sacramento, 6-1. Matt Koch delivered six shutout innings, and Carlos Rivero went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBI.
  • El Paso lost one to Las Vegas, 6-3, and now leads second-place Albuquerque by 4.5 games in the Pacific-South.
  • The ‘Topes picked up a game by whipping Salt Lake, 9-4.
  • Nashville toppled Iowa, 3-2, on an 11th-inning RBI single by B.J. Boyd.
  • The Oklahoma City Dodgers activated a coach and played him at first base in an 11-4 loss to Memphis.
  • Both Round Rock at Omaha and New Orleans at Colorado Springs were rained out. Since neither game mattered in the playoff races, they will not be made up.

Rainiers Get Big Win Leading Into Home Stretch

August 29, 2016

The Rainiers avoided a Reno disaster by taking the final game of the five-game road series on Sunday afternoon, 4-3.

It was a tension-filled game that Pat Listach managed like it was the seventh game of the World Series. He used five relief pitchers to cover the final 3.2 innings, trying to get the best match-ups possible while protecting a slim lead in a high-scoring environment.

Once Andrew Kittredge struck out Mitch Haniger with the tying runner on base to end the game, the Rainiers had a 3.5 game lead over Reno with eight games remaining.

Tacoma plays all eight remaining games at home: four against Fresno, and four against Reno.

The Aces are on the road for their final eight, travelling to Sacramento before coming to Cheney Stadium.

It sure would be nice to have things locked up before Reno arrives in town on Friday, but one day at a time…

Awards Week started today, when the Pacific Coast League announced its annual All-PCL Team as voted on by league managers and broadcasters.

Tacoma placed two on the team: Dan Vogelbach was named as the designated hitter, and Stefen Romero one of the three outfielders.

It’s the first time Tacoma has placed multiple players on the All-PCL Team since 2001, when three Rainiers made it: Todd Betts (1B), Ramon Vazquez (SS), and Denny Stark (RHP).

Here is the 2016 All-PCL Team:

  • C-Austin Hedges, El Paso
  • 1B-Kyle Jensen, Reno
  • 2B-Carlos Asuaje, El Paso
  • SS-Orlando Arcia, Colorado Springs
  • 3B-Rob Segedin, Oklahoma City
  • OF-Manuel Margot, El Paso
  • OF-Hunter Renfroe, El Paso
  • OF-Stefen Romero, Tacoma
  • DH-Dan Vogelbach, Tacoma/Iowa
  • RHP-Brady Rodgers, Fresno
  • LHP-Ty Blach, Sacramento
  • RP-James Hoyt, Fresno

Awards Week continues with the Rookie of the Year tomorrow. Vogelbach may get some consideration, but Asuaje, Arcia, and Margot are all rookies, too.

Tacoma’s best chance for a major award is probably Listach as Manager of the Year, which gets announced on Friday.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: The Rainiers salvaged the final game of the Reno series, using six pitchers to keep the Aces offense in check during a 4-3 win. Tacoma has a 3.5-game lead with eight to play.

‘Magic Number’: Five. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Today: Fresno (69-66-1) at Tacoma (75-59-1), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tied, 6-6.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Brady Rodgers (12-4, 2.91) at RHP Zach Lee (0-7, 7.04)

Rodgers was just named the right-handed starting pitcher on the All-PCL Team, and he has a good chance of winning the league’s Pitcher of the Year honor on Wednesday.

Hot Rainiers: Stefen Romero has hit safely in his last ten PCL games, with three home runs… Daniel Robertson has hit safely in ten of his last 11 games. He is hitting .348 since the all-star break…  Tyler Smith is batting .316 in August, and he has a five-game hitting streak.

Look Out For: Jon Kemmer has improved as the season has gone on. He’s hit safely in his last four games, and he’s batted .301 with eight home runs and a .982 OPS in the month of August… Max Stassi homered and drove in four runs yesterday against Sacramento… top closer James Hoyt was optioned back to Fresno by the Astros last week.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:


Rainiers Try To Avoid Sweep Today

August 28, 2016

When the Rainiers were travelling to Reno on Wednesday morning, the talk around the team was about how Tacoma could clinch the division title by winning four of the five games in Reno.

Things have worked out a bit differently.

Reno has won the first four games of the series, and pulled within 2.5 games of Tacoma. The series finale today is a big swing game in the standings: Tacoma will return home tomorrow with either a 3.5- or a 1.5-game lead over the Aces.

The Rainiers finish the season with an eight-game homestand: four against Fresno, followed by four against Reno.

Saturday’s game was the first close one of the series: Tacoma grabbed an early 6-2 lead in the third inning, but didn’t add-on in a ballpark which requires teams to add runs all game to win. Reno battled back, took advantage of some Rainiers defensive problems, and eventually won it 8-7.

Even if Reno sweeps, Tacoma will still have a 1.5-game lead. But the difference between that and a 3.5-game lead… well, today’s game is huge.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: We finally had a close game, but Reno prevailed 8-7. Zach Borenstein‘s pinch-hit, two-run triple with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning snapped a 6-6 tie and led Reno to the win.

‘Magic Number’: Seven. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Today: Tacoma (75-59-1) at Reno (73-62), 1:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks.

Season Series: Reno leads, 9-2.

Reno has won six of the seven games played this year at Greater Nevada Field, and the Rainiers are 17-46 all-time in this ballpark.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Cody Martin (9-7, 3.93) at LHP Anthony Banda (4-3, 3.64)

Hot Rainiers: Stefen Romero has hit safely in his last nine PCL games, with three home runs… Daniel Robertson has hit safely in nine of his last ten games. He is hitting .346 since the all-star break…  Tyler Smith is batting .323 in August, and he is 7-for-17 at Reno… James Ramsey has gone 8-for-19 over his last five games.

Look Out For: Everybody. Reno has scored 44 runs on 55 hits over the first four games of this series. Both Socrates Brito and Kyle Jensen have 11-game hitting streaks.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 12:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

  • Matt Flemer tossed a gem as Albuquerque toppled El Paso, 5-4, to pull within 4.5 games of first place. The paper has a story on a dip in the Isotopes attendance, which seems to be weather-related.
  • Fresno: not dead yet. The Grizzlies lit up a rehabbing Matt Cain and beat Sacramento, 6-2. Fresno trails Tacoma by six games and Reno by 3.5.
  • Gabriel Ynoa delivered eight shutout innings as Las Vegas beat Salt Lake, 9-0.
  • Oklahoma City swept a doubleheader from Colorado Springs and is on the verge of clinching the American-North division title. A win on Sunday will do it.
  • Catcher Tomas Telis had a big game and helped New Orleans beat Round Rock, 5-2.
  • Jake Buchanan and Iowa shut out Omaha, 4-0. Both teams are playing out the string.
  • Nashville clinched the American-South on Friday and was supposed to have a hangover game on Saturday, but instead they beat Memphis, 2-1. Dillon Overton had a strong start and won his 13th game.

Jensen’s 30th Leads Reno To Win

August 27, 2016

The PCL home run leader got the Rainiers with a cheapie last night, setting the stage for Reno’s 12-3 win over Tacoma.

Kyle Jensen has hit 30 home runs and driven in 117 runs this season. I’m sure many of his home runs have been bombs.

But last night, with two on in the bottom of the first inning, Jensen lifted a fly ball down the right field line. The twisting, wind-blown opposite field fly banged off the foul pole in the corner for a three-run homer, giving Reno a 4-0 lead. The Aces led comfortably the rest of the way.

Tacoma has a 3.5-game lead with ten to play. A split of these last two games in Reno would be a big step in the right direction.

Somehow, the Rainiers have to stop Reno from scoring. The Aces have scored 36 runs on 45 hits over the first three games of the series.

The Aces have joined Fresno in the ranks of teams that are sound effects crazy.

After every pitch at Greater Nevada Field, they play some stupid sound effect on the PA system. A clang of a bell, a fart noise, “sit down in your seat,” the crying baby, and on and on and on.

It gets so tedious. I think they even stopped doing this in A-ball.

They also selected a walk-up song for each Tacoma batter, presumably in a mocking fashion. But sometimes it backfires – for example, we get to hear Elton John‘s best slow song every time Daniel Robertson hits. I haven’t asked D-Rob about it, but it looks like he’s enjoying it too, taking his time getting settled in at the plate.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Reno scored early and often in a 12-3 win over Tacoma on Friday night. The Rainiers have lost three straight games, and ten of the last 16. Stefen Romero went 3-for-5 with a triple and a homer.

‘Magic Number’: Seven. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Roster Moves: The Mariners optioned Mike Freeman and Nori Aoki to Tacoma, placed Tom Wilhelmsen on the disabled list, and called up Dae-Ho Lee and Pat Venditte. They also called up reliever Dan Altavilla from Double-A Jackson.

Today: Tacoma (75-58-1) at Reno (72-62), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks.

Season Series: Reno leads, 8-2.

Reno has won five of the six games played this year at Greater Nevada Field, and the Rainiers are 17-45 all-time in this ballpark.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Jarrett Grube (1-4, 3.94) at RHP Matt Buschmann (8-10, 5.33)

Hot Rainiers: Daniel Robertson had his eight-game hitting streak end last night. He is hitting .346 since the all-star break… Stefen Romero has hit safely in his last eight PCL games, with three home runs…Tyler Smith is batting .315 in August… James Ramsey has gone 7-for-15 over his last four games.

Look Out For: Everybody.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story includes reaction from manager Pat Listach.
  • Felix Hernandez out-dueled Chris Sale and the Mariners earned a 3-1 win over the White Sox on Friday.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook explains the latest round of roster moves, and suggests Kyle Seager may return to action today.
  • John Sickels reviewed his preseason list of Mariners top prospects, to see how they are doing.

PCL Game Reports:

Rainiers need a win – hopefully today is the day!


Rainiers Struggle In Reno

August 26, 2016

The first two games of this five-day jaunt to Reno have been a disaster for Tacoma.

The Aces have simply obliterated Tacoma pitching, scoring 24 runs on 30 hits in a pair of blowout wins.

It’s reached a point in which any time a Rainiers pitcher throws a scoreless inning, it feels like a massive achievement. Tacoma has pitched only three scoreless frames in the first 18 innings here.

The offense is getting hits, but not scoring runs. In each of the two games Tacoma has scored early, and then gotten shut down for the remainder of the game.

Somehow the Rainiers need to win a game here. Scoring 15+ runs is probably the best way to do it. We need an offensive eruption.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Once again, Reno scored at will and trounced the Rainiers, this time by a score of 11-5. Tacoma had 14 hits in the loss.

‘Magic Number’: Seven. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Today: Tacoma (75-57-1) at Reno (71-62), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks.

Season Series: Reno leads, 7-2.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Joe Wieland (12-5, 5.25) at RHP Billy Buckner (0-0, 9.00)

Hot Rainiers: Daniel Robertson is 15-for-34 over an eight-game hitting streak, and he is hitting .358 since the all-star break… Stefen Romero has hit safely in his last seven PCL games, with two home runs…Dae-Ho Lee has at least one hit in all six games he has played in, and he has homered twice… Tyler Smith is batting .306 in August.

Look Out For: Kyle Jensen leads the PCL in home runs (29) and RBI (113), and he’s on a nine-game hitting streak right now…Socrates Brito also has a nine-game hitting streak… Carlos Rivero hit three doubles last night, and he has hit four homers in his past nine games.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports


Oddities Abound In Series Opener

August 25, 2016

Reno used a relentless offensive attack to take the opening game of the key five-game series last night, 13-7. The game included a couple of things I don’t believe I have ever seen before.

First off, the Aces hit two inside-the-park home runs – and they were nearly identical.

Both Kyle Jensen and Socrates Brito hit high, deep fly balls to center field that hit high of the 25-foot tall fence and bounced back toward the infield – away from centerfielder Ryan Strausborger. The fence is so far away that both players were able to circle the bases – although there was a play at the plate in each case.

Here’s a link to high-quality video of Brito’s blast – Jensen’s was almost exactly the same.

I think that’s the first time I’ve seen one team hit two inside-the-park home runs in the same game.

The other oddity wasn’t nearly as fun: the Aces scored in every inning. Since they won the game at home, they batted in eight innings. This was their side of the linescore: 3-1-1-1-3-1-1-2. The linescore looked like Clayton Kershaw‘s salary: 31,113,112.

It was a tough game for the Rainiers, who scored five runs in the top of the first inning and got wiped out from that point forward.

But it’s just one game in the standings. Tacoma has a 5.5-game lead with 12 to play.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Reno scored in every inning and hit two inside-the-park home runs to take the opening game of the five-game series, 13-7. Each team had 15 hits, but Reno hit five home runs.

Roster Moves: Today the Mariners called up Tacoma infielder Mike Freeman and optioned reliever Tony Zych to Tacoma.

‘Magic Number’: Seven. That’s the total number of Tacoma wins + Reno losses needed for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific-North division title.

Today: Tacoma (75-56-1) at Reno (70-62), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks.

Season Series: Reno leads, 6-2.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Sam Gaviglio (3-1, 2.58) at RHP Shelby Miller (5-1, 3.52)

Hot Rainiers: Daniel Robertson is 13-for-30 over a seven-game hitting streak, and he is hitting .353 since the all-star break… Stefen Romero has hit safely in his last six PCL games, with two home runs…Dae-Ho Lee has at least one hit in all five games he has played in, and he has homered twice… Tyler Smith is batting .309 in August.

Look Out For: Kyle Jensen leads the PCL in home runs (29) and RBI (112), and he’s on an eight-game hitting streak right now…Socrates Brito also has an eight-game hitting streak… Diamondbacks star A.J. Pollock has been with the club on a rehabilitation assignment.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • If you really want to read about Reno kicking Tacoma’s behind, here is the Rainiers game story.
  • The Mariners were shut out by the Yankees, 5-0, and Seattle has scored just one run in the last two games.
  • John McGrath pinch-hit for Bob Dutton on the Mariners Notebook.

PCL Game Reports:

  • Fresno is not dead yet. Cesar Valdez pitched a gem and the Grizzlies beat Sacramento, 1-0. Fresno trails Tacoma by seven games.
  • El Paso won a crucial game in 12 innings at Albuquerque, 4-2. That gave the Chihuahuas a 5.5-game lead over the red-hot Isotopes. Good game story from the Albuquerque Journal.
  • Las Vegas teed off on Salt Lake, 9-2.
  • Oklahoma City’s march toward the American-North division title was put on hold for a day by the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
  • Raul Alcantara and Nashville shut out Memphis, 3-0. Nashville can clinch the American-South today with a win and a New Orleans loss.
  • New Orleans rode a strong start from Dylan Axelrod to a 2-1 win over Round Rock.