Playoffs Open Tonight

The Pacific Coast League playoffs start tonight, and Tacoma is in them for the first time since 2010.

Tacoma plays at El Paso tonight at 5:35 (Pacific). It’s the first game of a best-of-five series, with the series winner advancing to the PCL Championship Series against either Nashville or Oklahoma City.

The Rainiers really had the upper hand during the regular season, winning 11 of the 16 games against El Paso.

Tacoma comes in with a pretty set lineup. Only outfielder Nori Aoki was lost to a call-up after Monday’s game – but the Rainiers are pretty strong in the outfield, with Daniel Robertson, Stefen Romero, James Ramsey, and Mike Baxter. Tacoma added utility man Patrick Brady from Double-A Jackson to provide some depth.

El Paso has really faltered down the stretch, losing its final five games of the regular season and going 9-17 over the last 26 games.

The Chihuahuas still have some fearsome hitters.

Hunter Renfroe won the PCL Most Valuable Player award, although he would not have won it if it weren’t for his home ballpark Southwest University Park. Renfroe batted .306 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI, but his home/road splits are massive: he hit .365 with 18 homers and a 1.049 OPS in home games, and .247 with 12 HRs and a .737 OPS on the road. The Rainiers pitched him well during the regular season, limiting him to a .218 average with 18 strikeouts in 55 at-bats.

Centerfielder Manuel Margot and second baseman Carlos Asuaje were bigger problems for the Rainiers. Both players swung it well against Tacoma, and they are more contact-oriented hitters than Renfroe, and both run well (Margot especially).

El Paso has added two young prospects recently promoted from within the organization in shortstop Jose Rondon and outfielder Franchy Cordero. Rondon is reputed to be a strong defensive player. Cordero has posted some fun stats this season, including 16 triples between Advanced-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio.

El Paso has had one of the worst pitching staffs in the PCL, ranking 13th in the league with a 4.99 ERA. But they have made some changes, getting rid of struggling veterans and promoting young pitchers who were having successful seasons in the lower minor leagues. Half of their bullpen is currently made up of relievers who began the year at Class-A and have had big seasons.

There is no question that the Rainiers have the more experienced starting rotation going into the series. Here are the match-ups:

  • Game One: Tacoma RHP Jarrett Grube (1-4, 3.62) at El Paso LHP Frank Garces (6-8, 4.41). Wednesday, 5:35.
  • Game Two: Tacoma RHP Cody Martin (10-7, 3.62) at El Paso RHP Walker Lockett (1-2, 4.50). Thurs, 5:35.
  • Game Three: El Paso RHP Bryan Rodriguez (4-8, 5.11) at Tacoma LHP Wade LeBlanc (–). Fri, 7:05.
  • Game Four: El Paso RHP Dinelson Lamet (0-2, 4.22) at Tacoma RHP Joe Wieland (14-6, 5.43). Sat, 7:05.
  • Game Five: El Paso is TBA at Tacoma RHP Sam Gaviglio (3-2, 3.71). Sun, 1:35.

Lockett and Lamet are both very young pitchers who have made quick rises through the Padres farm system this year, and are now considered prospects in their system. And both have hardly any Triple-A experience.

While this series is going on, we’ll be keeping an eye on the American Conference Finals, between Oklahoma City and Nashville.

That series opens in Oklahoma City. The Dodgers will start rehabilitating Scott Kazmir in the first game tonight against Nashville’s Jesse Hahn – who is also on a rehab assignment. Game Two pits ex-Rainiers righty Logan Bawcom against Nashville’s Dillon Overton.

Nashville’s starting rotation took a big hit with call-ups of Daniel Mengden, Raul Alcantara, and Jahrel Cotton. Despite that, I’m picking Nashville to advance here.

As for the Tacoma – El Paso series? I’m picking Rainiers in four.

TODAY’S GAME

Today: Tacoma (81-62-1) at El Paso (73-70), 5:35 (Pacific)

Series: Best-of-five, starts today.

Opponent Affiliation: San Diego Padres.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Jarrett Grube (1-4, 3.62) at LHP Frank Garces (6-8, 4.41)

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow the PCL playoff games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

Alright, the stage is set. Let’s start the playoffs.

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