Back-To-Back Attacks

September 2, 2015

We’ve got an unusual trend going on here.

Five of the last six Tacoma Rainiers games have included back-to-back home runs – hit by either Tacoma or the opposition.

Here’s how it has played out:

  • August 27: Stefen Romero & Patrick Kivlehan off Nashville’s Brock Huntzinger
  • August 28: Jabari Blash & Kivlehan off Nashville’s Nate Long
  • August 30 (game one): none (August 29 was rained out)
  • August 30 (game two): Blash & Mike Zunino off Nashville’s R.J. Alvarez
  • August 31: Blash & Zunino off Salt Lake’s Drew Rucinski
  • Sept 1: Salt Lake’s Roger Kieschnick & Stephen McGee off Tyler Olson.

I don’t have to flip through years of scorebooks to know I’ve never seen a run of back-to-back home runs like this before. What an unlikely trend.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Salt Lake scored eight runs against the Tacoma bullpen, turning a tight game into a blowout 10-1 Bees win.

Roster Move: The Mariners surprisingly optioned Jesus Montero to Tacoma. I’m not sure why – we’ll wait for the reporters covering the Mariners to pass along the explanation. I believe this is the first time in the 17 years I’ve been with Tacoma that the Mariners have sent a player down after September 1st – although it is unusual that the PCL schedule lasts all the way until the 7th.

Today: Tacoma (65-73) at Salt Lake (56-82), 6:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim.

Season Series: Salt Lake leads, 10-4.

Starting Pitchers: LHP James Paxton (0-1, 9.82) at LHP Tyler DeLoach (1-4, 5.74)

Hot Rainiers: Jabari Blash has a six-game hitting streak, which includes four homers… Patrick Brady has a seven-game hitting streak.

Look Out For: Third baseman Kyle Kubitza has reached base via hit or walk in 37 straight games – the second longest streak of its kind in the PCL this season. He also leads the league with 41 doubles… Stephen McGee is 10-for-16 over his first five Triple-A games, and he was batting just .253 in A-ball.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:50 (Pacific) 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 notes that odd lineups can occur after the September call-ups.
  • Logan Morrison‘s pinch-hit two-run home run gave the Mariners a 7-5 win at Houston.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook opens with the four players called up from Tacoma, and also tells us the seven Mariners who will play in the Arizona Fall League.
  • Here are the complete Arizona Fall League rosters, from Baseball America.
  • Your most fun read of the day is this New York Times article on bat flipping in the Korean Baseball Organization, which includes comments from friend-of-the-blog Dan from MyKBO.
  • In the PCL, Iowa was three games behind Oklahoma City in the American-North standings and they were set to play a doubleheader last night in Bricktown. The first game went 19 innings. Oklahoma City won it on a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the 19th hit by Buck Britton, who was 1-for-8 in the game prior to that at-bat. Then Oklahoma City won the second game 3-1, rallying for three runs in the sixth against Iowa ace Carlos Pimentel. The winning pitcher in the second game was Deck McGuire, who was at Double-A Tulsa during the first game and was asked to drive 100 miles to Oklahoma City for game two. Oklahoma City can clinch the division title with a win over Iowa today or tomorrow.
  • Las Vegas opened its lead up to 1.5 games in the Pacific-South by beating second place El Paso, 8-7. Vegas had an 8-3 lead after six innings and barely held on. El Paso’s Alex Dickerson won the PCL Rookie of the Year award.
  • After clinching the Pacific-North over a week ago, Fresno continued its stumble to the finish line with a 3-2 home loss to Albuquerque. Fresno is 2-8 in the last ten games.
  • Reno’s Aaron Blair tossed another gem as the Aces beat Sacramento, 5-2.
  • Colorado Springs edged Omaha, 4-3.
  • Rehabbing Jon Jay helped Memphis top New Orleans, 6-3.
  • Round Rock rolled to a 10-5 win at Nashville, as recently promoted top prospects Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara each had big games at the plate.

Maybe Montero will be involved in back-to-back jacks tonight!


Big News Day In Triple-A

September 1, 2015

September 1 is always a busy day in Triple-A, and this year is no different. We’ve got a lot going on, so let’s get to it.

Four Rainiers players got the good news after Monday night’s game in Salt Lake City: Stefen Romero, Sean O’Malley, Jose Ramirez, and Tony Zych are all on their way to Houston to join the Seattle Mariners.

Romero spent most of last year in the majors, but this year was with Tacoma all season. He had to be wondering if his name would be called, even though he put up solid numbers (.292, 17 home runs, 79 RBI, .827 OPS).

O’Malley has played terrific baseball for the Rainiers when healthy, but recent injuries – most notably a sprained wrist that cost him a month right when it looked like he was going to be called up – have slowed him down. He’s back and ready to go, and he’ll bring his high-energy brand of ball to the M’s.

Ramirez was acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline, and the hard-throwing reliever has struggled with the longball during his time with the Rainiers. But he’s out of minor league options after this season, and the Mariners need to see what they have, so they’re going to take a look at him in Seattle.

Zych is the only player of the group getting his first major league call-up. He’s been on an amazing run of late, delivering a scoreless outing in 21 of his last 22 appearances. He reaches the upper 90s with his fastball and has improved his slider this year.

That’s it for now, but there will likely be a few more call-ups after the PCL season ends on Monday.

The Mariners have traded Rainiers outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations. Ruggiano was productive for Tacoma, but he hasn’t been playing much recently due to a nagging groin injury.

Both of the Dodgers clubs (LA and Oklahoma City) appear playoff-bound. I’m not sure which team Ruggiano is going to join, but the major league Dodgers just had two outfielders (Kike’ Hernandez and as always Yasiel Puig) go down with injuries.

The Rainiers are adding three players from elsewhere in the system to bolster the roster down the stretch.

Right-handed pitcher Andrew Kittredge rejoins the club for (at least) the fourth time this season. He was 2-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 32.2 innings for Double-A Jackson.

Reliever Matt Anderson also comes up from AA. He’s gone 3-5 with ten saves and a 3.90 ERA in 44 games for Jackson, with 63 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched. His first appearance for Tacoma will be his Triple-A debut.

Outfielder Julio Morban returns to Tacoma. Morban hasn’t played much this year due to a variety of issues – in fact, he hasn’t appeared in a game since July 31 at Jackson due to a strained oblique.

The Rainiers lost last night in Salt Lake City, but it was a game with some pretty big positives.

Mike Montgomery pitched well in his return to Tacoma, and Jabari Blash hit (yawn) yet another homer.

The big story, however, was the 4-for-4, two-homer performance by catcher Mike Zunino.

Zunino homered in the first inning off a fastball from Salt Lake starter Drew Rucinski, who has MLB time this year with the Angels. His second homer came in the eighth, when he pulled a change-up from lefty reliever Edgar Ibarra to left field.

Manager Pat Listach has more to say about Zunino and what he’s going to do with him in the Rainiers game story (first link down below).

Yesterday the league announced the postseason All-PCL Team, which is voted on by league managers and broadcasters.

Tacoma’s Jesus Montero was selected as the first baseman. He’s the first Tacoma player to make this very-tough-to-crack team since catcher Rob Johnson was selected in 2008.

Here’s the 2015 All-PCL Team:

  • C – Austin Barnes, Oklahoma City
  • 1B – Jesus Montero, Tacoma
  • 2B – Joey Wendle, Nashville
  • 3B – Matt Duffy, Fresno
  • SS – Cristhian Adames, Albuquerque
  • OF – Domingo Santana, Colorado Springs/Fresno
  • OF – Alex Dickerson, El Paso
  • OF – Peter O’Brien, Reno
  • DH – Jamie Romak, Reno
  • RHP – Carlos Pimentel, Iowa
  • LHP – Adam Conley, New Orleans
  • RP – Jon Edwards, El Paso/Round Rock

Congrats to all!

The remainder of the big league awards will be announced this week.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Despite Zunino’s two homers and another three-run shot by Jabari Blash, Tacoma lost to Salt Lake 6-5. Gary Brown‘s two-run double in the seventh inning was the key hit for the Bees.

Blash-O-Meter: Jabari Blash has hit ten homers in his last 16 games, and 14 in his last 23 games. He is hitting .285-20-43 in 44 games since coming back from Double-A.

Today: Tacoma (65-72) at Salt Lake (55-82), 6:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim.

Season Series: Salt Lake leads, 9-4.

Starting Pitchers: LHP Tyler Olson (2-4, 5.19) at LHP Nate Smith (1-3, 8.00)

Hot Rainiers: Patrick Kivlehan went 0-for-4 last night, ending his 11-game hitting streak… Jabari Blash has a five-game hitting streak, which includes four homers.

Look Out For: Third baseman Kyle Kubitza has reached base via hit or walk in 36 straight games – the second longest streak of its kind in the PCL this season. He also leads the league with 41 doubles.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:50 (Pacific) 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 all about Mike Zunino.
  • Zunino spoke with MiLB.com about his big night.
  • Here’s a news story on Justin Ruggiano being traded to the Dodgers.
  • The Mariners lost in Houston and fell ten games under .500.
  • Seattle traded Austin Jackson to the Cubs. You can read about that and a whole lot more in Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook (he nailed all four Mariners call-ups today).
  • In the PCL, the opening game of the showdown in the Pac-South lived up to its billing. Las Vegas took a 5-3 lead in the seventh inning on a three-run homer by Dilson Herrera, but El Paso got a bases loaded triple in the ninth from Hector Gomez to win the game, 6-5. The Chihuahuas are only a half-game out of first place. Call-ups are hurting Las Vegas but not (yet) El Paso.
  • The winner of that division race will play Fresno in the first round. Fresno returned home from a 1-7 road trip to trounce Albuquerque, 10-5, as Tyler White homered twice.
  • Round Rock clinched the American-South title by backing into it. The Express lost at Nashville, 5-1, but second-place Memphis lost at home to New Orleans and thus eliminated itself from contention. The Express are preparing for the PCL playoffs.
  • The American-North is still up for grabs. First place Oklahoma City lost the opening game of a five-game series to Iowa, 9-3, as 19-year-old phenom Julio Urias was wild in his Triple-A debut. Iowa is only three games out of first and the teams play a doubleheader today.
  • Omaha is also in that race, but the Storm Chasers missed an opportunity to gain a game when they lost to Colorado Springs last night, 5-3. Omaha is 4.5 games behind OKC.
  • Sacramento’s Clayton Blackburn did everything in a 1-0 win over visiting Reno.

Yikes, that was a long blog post for the final week of the season.


Rainiers Hit Road For Final Stretch

August 30, 2015

The Rainiers split the final two games of the home portion of the schedule, winning the first game 6-5 before dropping the second to Nashville on Sunday evening, 8-4.

James Jones had a game-winning RBI single in the opener, and Jabari Blash hit two more homers in the nightcap.

The Rainiers finished the year with a 36-36 record in home games.

Kudos to you, the fans: Tacoma drew 352,521 fans this year – the second-highest total in franchise history, trailing only the 2011 season (which was the first in the new ballpark).

Now Tacoma plays the final eight games of the season, all on the road. It will be four games in Salt Lake City followed by four in Las Vegas to finish the year.

We’ll be watching to see who finishes the season strong, who gets called up when rosters expand, and possibly to see if the Rainiers can play spoiler in the Pacific-South division race.

It was a fun time at Cheney Stadium this year – I hope y’all enjoyed it.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: The Rainiers split a day/night doubleheader with Nashville, and now the team hits the road for the final eight-game road trip.

Blash-O-Meter: Jabari Blash has hit nine homers in his last 15 games, and 13 in his last 22 games. He is hitting .286-19-40 in 43 games since coming back from Double-A.

Today: Tacoma (65-71) at Salt Lake (54-82), 6:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim.

Season Series: Salt Lake leads, 8-4.

This has been arguably the most disappointing season series for Tacoma. Salt Lake has been vying for worst record in the PCL all year, yet somehow they have managed to win eight of 12 against Tacoma.

Starting Pitchers: LHP Mike Montgomery (4-3, 3.74) at RHP Drew Rucinski (5-6, 5.68)

Hot Rainiers: Patrick Kivlehan has an eleven-game hitting streak, going 20-for-45 with five homers and seven doubles during the streak… Sean O’Malley is 11-for-20 over a five-game streak… Tony Zilch Zych has pitched a scoreless outing in 21 of his last 22 relief appearances (including his brief stint at Double-A).

Look Out For: Rehabbers. Holy smokes, Salt Lake has a lot of them. Four, to be exact. Matt Joyce, Collin Cowgill, David Freese, and Taylor Featherston are all on rehabilitation assignments with the Bees right now. Presumably they will all be activated from the Angels disabled list when rosters expand on Tuesday.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:50 (Pacific) 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:

That’s it for today – travel day. Catch you on the other side in the SLC.


Double Dip Today

August 30, 2015

Last night’s game was postponed early due to the wild wind and rain we had yesterday, so we are playing two seven-inning games today.

The first will be at 1:35, and the second game starts at 5:35.

The team is forced to do split admissions because of the large advance ticket sale for the final two home games of the season, so here is a reminder:

  • Tickets for Sunday’s game are good for the 1:35 game.
  • Tickets for Saturday’s postponed game are good for the 5:35 game.

We know this is unusual and a tad bit confusing, but it’s the hand we were dealt.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Ohhhh, the wind and rain

Blash-O-Meter: Jabari Blash has hit seven homers in his last 13 games, and 11 in his last 21 games. He is hitting .270-17-36 in 41 games since coming back from Double-A.

Roster Move: The Mariners recalled Mayckol Guaipe for relief help, and optioned Mike Montgomery to Tacoma. That was announced moments before I started working on this post – with rosters expanding on Tuesday, I’m not sure yet if Montgomery is going to pitch for Tacoma, or not.

Today: Nashville (60-74) at Tacoma (64-70), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Oakland A’s.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 2-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Zach Neal (7-9, 3.94) at RHP Adrian Sampson (2-3, 6.91) in the first game, TBA vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang (3-4, 5.50) in the second game.

Hot Rainiers: Patrick Kivlehan extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 17-for-38 with five homers and six doubles during the streak… Sean O’Malley has had three consecutive three-hit games… Tony Zilch Zych has pitched a scoreless outing in 21 of his last 22 relief appearances (including his brief stint at Double-A).

Look Out For: Jason Pridie has a nine-game hitting streak into tonight’s contest… Craig Gentry has hit safely in seven straight games.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 1:20 (Pacific) on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here. Bob Robertson joins me in the booth for the first game. We’ll take a break between games, and the second game’s broadcast will start at 5:30.

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

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story has details about today’s games.
  • My weekly minor league notebook for The News Tribune looks at rising relief prospects Tony Zych and Paul Fry. I also made my PCL MVP prediction (note: in recent years I’ve been bad at this).
  • Things got dicey, but the Mariners held on for a 7-6 win over the White Sox on Saturday.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook has all of the latest tidbits and details.
  • Larry Stone writes that the Mariners need to rebuild, and must at least consider the possibility of trading Felix Hernandez. Not sure I agree with him on this one (the second part, that is).
  • Baseball needs to add netting down the lines to protect the fans, Ryan Divish writes.
  • In the PCL, El Paso missed a chance to pick up a game on first place Las Vegas. Mike Bolsinger pitched Oklahoma City to a 4-1 win last night, and the Chihuahuas are still 2.5 games out of first. The game was delayed by a runaway wiener dog on the field – here’s the video.
  • Joey Gallo homered to support Chi Chi Gonzalez as Round Rock took down Las Vegas, 4-1.
  • Iowa swept a doubleheader from Sacramento, which included a walk-off in the 12th inning of game two.
  • Omaha used an “early onslaught” to beat down Fresno, 9-5. Big game for The Butler, Cheslor Cuthbert.
  • Albuquerque shortstop Trevor Story hit a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Isotopes a thrilling 6-5 win over Colorado Springs in front of a huge crowd. Albuquerque has only two players who have been on the roster all season long.
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs set a positive franchise record: most shutouts pitched in a season. They tossed their 15th of the year in a 4-0 win over Salt Lake.
  • Reno beat Memphis 8-2 and is making a push to reach the .500 mark.

The final home games of the are season today, but we roll on to Salt Lake City for four games starting Monday night.


Saturday’s Game Postponed

August 29, 2015

Tonight’s game has been postponed due to high winds, rain, and a dreary forecast for the remainder of the night.

We’re playing two seven-inning games on Sunday, with split admissions: the regularly scheduled game will go on as planned at 1:35, and then the make-up of Saturday’s game will start at 5:35.

These are the final two home games of the season and there has been a large advance ticket sale for both of them – which is why we can’t play a standard doubleheader. The combined tickets sold for Saturday & Sunday is far beyond Cheney Stadium’s capacity if the team played a single-gate doubleheader, so the club is forced to split it.

Sunday’s tickets are good for the 1:35 game, and Saturday’s tickets are good for the 5:35 game. For additional details, here is the team’s press release.

Let’s play two!


Offense And Bullpen In Peak Form

August 29, 2015

Tacoma won its third straight game on Friday night, beating Nashville 8-3.

The offense has been explosive during the three-game win streak. Tacoma has scored 33 runs, on 45 hits, and has hit nine home runs during the three games.

Twice in the past week the Rainiers have matched their season-high by hitting five homers in a game. Each of the last two games, the Rainiers have hit back-to-back home runs (Stefen Romero and Patrick Kivlehan on Thursday, and Jabari Blash and Kivlehan last night).

It’s not all homers, though: the Rainiers bullpen is on an impressive run.

Over the past five games, Tacoma’s bullpen has collectively pitched 24 innings and allowed just one run. That’s a 0.38 ERA.

Tacoma is 64-70. That’s six games under .500 with ten to play. They need to go 8-2 to get to .500 for the season. Very tough to do, indeed, but something to pull for down the stretch.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma continued its offensive surge, knocking 13 hits including two homers in an 8-3 win over Nashville on Friday night.

Crowd: Tacoma drew 7,355 last night and continues an excellent homestand at the gate. Really, the crowds have been fantastic all season – thanks for showing up!

Blash-O-Meter: Jabari Blash has hit seven homers in his last 13 games, and 11 in his last 21 games. He is hitting .270-17-36 in 41 games since coming back from Double-A.

Roster Move: I was surprised to walk into the locker room and see James Jones before the game yesterday – he was activated from the disabled list, and went 2-for-5 with two RBI in his first game since breaking a toe with a foul ball on July 10.

Today: Nashville (60-74) at Tacoma (64-70), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Oakland A’s.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 2-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Zach Neal (7-9, 3.94) at RHP Adrian Sampson (2-3, 6.91).

Hot Rainiers: Patrick Kivlehan extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 17-for-38 with five homers and six doubles during the streak… Sean O’Malley has had three consecutive three-hit games… Tony Zilch Zych has pitched a scoreless outing in 21 of his last 22 relief appearances (including his brief stint at Double-A).

Look Out For: Jason Pridie has a nine-game hitting streak into tonight’s contest… Craig Gentry has hit safely in seven straight games.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 (Pacific) 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:

Tonight is our final home night game of the season. Weather is a potential issue – just follow the Rainiers various social media accounts for the most current information.


Day Of Change

August 28, 2015

Today we woke up to the news that the Seattle Mariners have made a change at the top. General Manager Jack Zduriencik was “relieved of his duties,” with his assistant Jeff Kingston handling interim duties while they search for the next GM.

We’ll let the news gathering outlets cover this story in the links down below, but I want to touch on one aspect here.

Moves like this create a ripple effect throughout the organization. People we see often at Cheney Stadium were hired by Zduriencik, and now they have to wonder about their futures with the organization.

Baseball operations executives, player development personnel, scouts, and even minor league coaches are now wondering about their future as the entire organization is in a period of transition.

There are a lot of good people in the Mariners system, and hopefully everyone lands on their feet. For now, these people just wait and see who gets hired for the top spot, and go from there.

The Rainiers hit five home runs last night in a 12-5 win over Nashville.

Patrick Kivlehan and Shawn O’Malley each hit two home runs, and Stefen Romero connected on one.

For O’Malley, it was his first two-homer game since high school. He’s now hit five home runs this season, which is a new career high for him.

Starting pitcher Forrest Snow picked up his tenth win of the season. Snow is Tacoma’s first ten-game winner since the 2010 season, when two pitchers did it: Luke French won 11 games, and Chris Seddon won ten.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: The Rainiers hit five home runs and bludgeoned Nashville, 12-5. Tacoma has hit five homers in a game three times this season – and twice in the last week.

Roster Move: In Jack Z’s final roster move, catcher John Hicks was called up by Seattle, with Mike Zunino optioned to Tacoma. This is the first major league call-up for Hicks, who hit .245 with six homers for Tacoma while leading the PCL in caught stealing percentage (44%).

Today: Nashville (60-73) at Tacoma (63-70), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Oakland A’s.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 1-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Nathan Long (3-4, 5.17) at LHP James Paxton (0-1, 13.50).

Hot Rainiers: Ji-Man Choi is 12-for-19 over his last five games… Patrick Kivlehan extended his hitting streak to eight games, going 16-for-35 with four homers and six doubles during the streak… Sean O’Malley has had back-to-back three-hit games… Tony Zilch Zych has pitched a scoreless outing in 20 of his last 21 relief appearances (including his brief stint at Double-A).

Look Out For: Jason Pridie is working on an eight-game hitting streak into tonight’s contest…Rangel Ravelo hit his first Triple-A home run last night in a 3-for-3 game. He has a seven-game hitting streak.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 (Pacific) 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:

Tonight is the final Friday Night Fireworks game at Cheney Stadium this season. Come out if you can!


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