Unlikely Homer Boosts Rainiers

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.

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