Rainiers Hit Road After Wild & Weird Win

July 27, 2015

The Rainiers won what surely will go down as the weirdest game of the year on Monday, and sadly due to a brutal PCL travel day today I do not have time to do a proper post on it.

Here’s the short version:

Tacoma ripped the ball early and had an 8-3 lead after two innings. Then the pitching sharpened up and Tacoma took a 9-3 lead into the seventh inning.

Fresno stunned the Rainiers with a seven-run seventh inning. The inning opened with five straight hits in rapid succession, and later Tony Kemp‘s two-run triple past a diving Jabari Blash gave Fresno a 10-9 lead.

That was the score in the bottom of the eighth when Tacoma put runners at second and third with two outs and Justin Ruggiano at the plate. Fresno reliever James Hoyt uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Zach Shank with the tying run and moving Ketel Marte to third base.

Since the count was 3-0 on Ruggiano, Fresno decided to intentionally throw ball four and go after the next hitter instead. Except… Hoyt threw a wild intentional ball over the head of the catcher and to the backstop, allowing Marte to score the go-ahead run.

Things got even weirder in the ninth inning, when Tacoma brought in Tony Zych to close it out. Turns out he wasn’t listed on the lineup card exchanged at home plate before the game, and Fresno wanted him disallowed. The umpires huddled up, and eventually crew chief Adam Schwarz called the league president to get a ruling.

So we had a five minute break while Schwarz was on the phone, and eventually the league ruled that since Zych was on the official roster for the game, he could play. Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco announced he was playing the game under protest.

Zych pitched a scoreless ninth, the Rainiers won 11-10, and after the game the Fresno Grizzlies announced that they dropped the protest and it was all over.

So Tacoma took 3-of-4 from Fresno and carries a three-game winning streak into the road trip.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: John Hicks hit a three run homer, Jabari Blash went deep for the third straight game, and the Rainiers survived when things got weird in an 11-10 win over Fresno at Cheney Stadium.

Roster Move: Tacoma made a change in the bullpen, signing reliever J.C. Ramirez who had been with Reno, and sending Andrew Kittredge to Double-A Jackson. Ramirez was 0-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 23 games for Reno; he also pitched in 12 games for Arizona in May and early June, going 1-1, 4.11. Ramirez was originally signed by the Mariners out of Nicaragua and then traded when he was in A-ball as part of the package to acquire Cliff Lee.

Today: Tacoma (48-54) at El Paso (54-48), 6:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: San Diego Padres.

Season Series: El Paso leads, 7-5.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-2, 7.20) at RHP Daniel McCutchen (6-5, 4.01).

Hot Rainiers: Jabari Blash has homered in three straight games; he’s hitting .289-5-13 in 12 games since being promoted from Jackson. Jesus Montero is 11-for-27 with five walks since returning from Seattle. Ketel Marte went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a triple on Monday.

Look Out For: The Chihuahuas as a whole. El Paso has won seven straight games and is 9-3 since the all-star break, and get this: they did that on a 12-game road trip. Tonight is their first home game since before the break.

As for hot hitters, Alex Dickerson went 4-for-5 yesterday and is 11-for-21 in his last five games, Jason Hagerty has a nine-game hitting streak, and Tommy Medica is batting .325 in July after a rough first three months of the season.  

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:

It was a long travel day today, and I don’t have time for the PCL links. But, want to note quickly that Sacramento swept a doubleheader at Albuquerque 10-0 and 10-1 yesterday, with PCL home run leader Adam Duvall going deep in both contests to raise his total to 25 on the year.


Early Game Today!

July 26, 2015

The Rainiers close out their longest homestand of the season this morning, and they hope to finish it off with some momentum.

After a rough stretch which saw 11 losses in 13 games, the Rainiers have notched back-to-back wins against division leading Fresno. A three-game win streak to finish the homestand would be very beneficial going into the eight-game road trip which starts on Tuesday in El Paso.

The key to these two wins is simple: the bats have come alive. The lineup is back in place, with Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, Justin Ruggiano, and the apparently much-improved Jabari Blash anchoring the middle of the order.

Along with the shaking-off-the-rust Ketel Marte, the group seems to be gelling now. The team has scored 20 runs on 24 hits the last two days. I am curious to see if they can keep up the ferocious offensive attack on Monday.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Jabari Blash snapped a 5-5 tie with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning, Tacoma scored five more runs and beat Fresno on Sunday afternoon, 12-5.

Today: Fresno (58-44) at Tacoma (48-54), 11:35 AM.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 9-6.

The Rainiers have clinched the 16-game season series against Fresno, which is not unusual. Tacoma has won or tied the season series against Fresno in all but two years since the Grizzlies joined the league in 1998, and Tacoma is 142-112 all-time against Fresno.

The weird thing is that this year Fresno is actually really good (they usually aren’t), and Tacoma has still beat them in the season series.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Brady Rodgers (8-5, 4.26) at LHP Roenis Elias (3-0, 6.14).

Hot Rainiers: Jabari Blash has hit the go-ahead homer in back-to-back games. He has four homers and 11 RBI in 11 games since being promoted from Jackson. Jesus Montero is 10-for-25 (.400) since returning from Seattle.

Look Out For: Tyler White has a 13-game hitting streak. Joe Sclafani has hit safely in ten straight games. Matt Duffy has reached base safely in 23 straight games; he’s also homered twice during a eight-game hitting streak.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 11:20 (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:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Franklin Gutierrez hit a walk-off homer and the Mariners beat Toronto on Sunday, 6-5. Click on this one for Elaine Thompson’s terrific photo of Guti getting “doused” by a bucket of… individually wrapped Double-Bubbles?
  • The Mariners turned a triple play yesterday. We have a video and series of photos from SB Nation, and a story from MLB.com detailing the play with quotes from players involved. This seems like a good time to mention that Tacoma hasn’t turned a triple play since 1995 and we are overdue.
  • The News Tribune’s Mariners Notebook details the triple play and has some additional items.
  • University of Washington baseball product Jake Lamb comes to Seattle with his Arizona Diamondbacks this week, and Larry Stone caught up with him.
  • Much of the Hall Of Fame ceremony coverage in our area has deservedly focused on former Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson. For another view, check out Jeff Passan’s article on Pedro Martinez‘s speech.
  • In the PCL, El Paso keeps pressuring first place Las Vegas in the Pacific-South. The Chihuahuas won their sixth in a row – this time on a tenth inning three-run homer by Tim Federowicz to beat Salt Lake, 6-3.
  • Las Vegas, however, remained 4.5 games ahead of El Paso. The 51s throttled Reno, 15-9. A nine-run inning pretty much settled things.
  • Sacramento at Albuquerque was thunderstormed out – they are playing two today.
  • Aaron Brooks pitched Omaha to its seventh straight win, a 3-1 decision over visiting Colorado Springs. Two of Omaha’s top pitchers were traded to the Reds – but they see opportunity in the change of scenery.
  • Oklahoma City held on for a 4-2 win at Round Rock, and remained five games ahead of Omaha in the American-North.
  • Iowa lost at Memphis on Greg Garcia‘s walk-off two-run double, as Brian Schlitter blew the save.
  • New Orleans won its fourth in a row, a 9-6 road victory at Nashville. I’m more impressed that the Zephyrs stole a base for the second time in their last 32 games.

I will update the round-up, but we may not have much in the way of links for you on Tuesday. The wake-up call is at 2:45 AM for the team’s travel to El Paso, and we don’t even arrive there until afternoon. El Paso has a great ballpark and vibrant fanbase, but it is by far the toughest city for Tacoma to get to in the entire PCL.


Blash Blast Gives Rainiers Win In Thriller

July 26, 2015

We had some late-game dramatics last night, as Tacoma beat Fresno 8-7.

First, we got to see highly regarded pitching prospect Mark Appel work for Fresno, and he was very solid. Sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball, Appel limited Tacoma to one run in  over six innings.

Tacoma trailed 5-2 going to the bottom of the eighth inning, when the bats came to life and Tacoma scored five runs. Leury Bonilla had an RBI single, Ketel Marte a two-run single to tie the game, and Jesus Montero a go-ahead two-run double.

The lead was short-lived. Fresno rallied to score two runs in the top of the ninth inning, making it 7-7. A sac fly by Nolan Fontana evened the score.

Jabari Blash led off the bottom of the ninth inning against Fresno’s all-star reliever Tyson Perez.

Blash had a really good at-bat, laying off breaking balls down low and working a full count.

On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Blash lifted a deep fly to left field just did have enough to carry over the wall for a game-ending home run.

It was a dramatic finish to a thrilling game, and the Rainiers got a needed win.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Jabari Blash led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a homer to left, capping a wild finish that gave Tacoma an 8-7 win over visiting Fresno.

Today: Fresno (58-43) at Tacoma (47-54), 1:35.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 8-6.

Starting Pitchers: LHP Brett Oberholtzer (3-2, 4.56) at RHP Jordan Pries (4-3, 5.43).

Hot Rainiers: Jesus Montero had three hits and four RBI last night – he’s 8-for-20 since returning from Seattle. Jabari Blash has three homers and nine RBI in ten games since being promoted from Jackson.

Look Out For: Tyler White has a 12-game hitting streak. Joe Sclafani has hit safely in nine straight games for Fresno, with a pair of three-hit games during the streak. Matt Duffy has reached base safely in 22 straight games; he’s also homered twice during a seven-game hitting streak.

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. It’s a Sunday home game, which means that Bob Robertson will join me in the broadcast booth.

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

Links:

The 12-game homestand is winding down – it ends with an early 11:35 AM game on Monday.


Straily Shuts Down Rainiers

July 25, 2015

It’s a baseball cliché, but every now and then you’ve got to “tip your hat” to the opponent.

Fresno starting pitcher Dan Straily had one of the best opposing pitching performances we’ve seen against Tacoma this year, holding the Rainiers to just two singles over eight shutout innings last night.

Straily struck out the side on ten pitches in the first inning – we should have known something was up at that moment. He did not allow a hit until Ketel Marte singled with two outs in the sixth.

The Rainiers are struggling right now, but this team can hit. Tacoma has only been shut out three times this season, and the fewest hits the Rainiers have had in a game this year is three.

Straily was lifted after eight innings because it was 9-0. Tacoma managed to score three runs in the ninth off reliever Luis Cruz to avoid the shutout.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Fresno scored early and often en route to a 9-3 win over the Rainiers. Tacoma had just two hits against Fresno starter Dan Straily before scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Today: Fresno (58-42) at Tacoma (46-54), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 7-6.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Mark Appel (1-2, 6.52) at RHP Forrest Snow (7-7, 3.51).

Appel was the first overall selection in the 2013 draft. He was recently promoted to Triple-A and will face the Rainiers for the first time tonight.

Hot Rainiers: Ketel Marte is warming up. After missing nearly two months with a broken thumb, Marte struggled at the plate in his first week returning to action. He had two line drive singles last night.

Look Out For: Tyler White has an 11-game hitting streak. Joe Sclafani has hit safely in nine straight games for Fresno, with a pair of three-hit games during the streak. Matt Duffy has reached base safely in 21 straight games; he’s also homered twice during a six-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:


Marte Moves To Center

July 24, 2015

We had an interesting day on the player development front, when Tacoma infielder Ketel Marte played center field last night for the first time in his career.

The 21-year-old Marte had never played any position other than shortstop or second base, so this was a big move – but not a total surprise.

Second base is blocked in Seattle for years to come. Scouts who I talk to around the PCL doubt Marte’s ability to handle shortstop on a daily basis in the majors, due to throwing arm concerns. By learning to play center field, Marte gives himself another way to crack the big league roster.

Marte certainly has the speed for it. During that twilight time when fielders often lose the ball in the baseball-colored sky, Salt Lake’s Efren Navarro hit a deep liner toward left-center. Marte started going after it, then briefly put up his arms indicating he had lost sight of the ball. Suddenly he picked it up again, and he took off at high speed and made the catch while crossing onto the warning track. It was an impressive burst of speed.

Tacoma hitting coach Cory Snyder serves as the outfield coach, and he said before the game that Marte shouldn’t have difficulty getting good jumps on the ball, since that is something he’s already accustomed to from playing in the infield. Snyder thinks Marte will take to it quickly.

It’s not a permanent move – Marte will still get games in the infield. Mariners Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn talked more about this with the Seattle Times (link is down below).

The homestand continues tonight, with first-place Fresno arriving in town for a four-game series.

The Grizzlies have been treading water since the all-star break, going 4-4. However, they have maintained an 11-game lead over Tacoma and Reno, who are tied in second place.

If you like watching prospects, try to come out for Saturday’s game. Fresno is scheduled to start RHP Mark Appel, who was the first player chosen in the 2013 draft. He was recently moved up to Triple-A.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Salt Lake scored four runs in the second inning and cruised to a 9-2 win over Tacoma, taking the series three games to one. Ketel Marte and Leury Bonilla homered for Tacoma.

Roster Move: Backup infielder Rafael Fernandez was sent to the Arizona Rookie League, and reliever Tony Zych is back from Double-A Jackson.

Today: Fresno (57-42) at Tacoma (46-53), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 7-5.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Dan Straily (7-6, 3.93) at LHP James Gillheeney (1-1, 6.97).

Hot Rainiers: Stefen Romero and Zach Shank each have four-game hitting streaks.

Look Out For: Joe Sclafani has hit safely in nine straight games for Fresno, with a pair of three-hit games during the streak. Matt Duffy has reached base safely in 20 straight games; he’s also homered twice during a five-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:

Fireworks after the game tonight!


Kivlehan’s Shot Holds Up

July 23, 2015

Excellent pitching and a three-run homer were all the Rainiers needed to end a tough stretch of baseball with a 3-2 win over Salt Lake on Wednesday night.

Roenis Elias, Logan Kensing, Edgar Olmos, and Danny Farquhar combined to limit Salt Lake to just two runs. Elias pitched into the seventh and had his second straight quality start for Tacoma, and Olmos was particularly impressive while striking out the first four batters he faced.

Offensively Tacoma used the Earl Weaver Special: a three-run homer by Patrick Kivlehan with two outs in the fifth inning was the entirety of the Rainiers offense, and it was all they needed.

The Rainiers can gain a split of the Salt Lake series with a win tonight. The first-place Fresno Grizzlies come to town tomorrow.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma had terrific pitching – most notably from Roenis Elias and Edgar Olmos – and beat Salt Lake, 3-2.

Today: Salt Lake (40-58) at Tacoma (46-52), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels.

Season Series: Salt Lake leads, 7-4.

Starting Pitchers: LHP Adam Wilk (3-7, 5.80) at RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-1, 4.50).

Hot Rainiers: Stefen Romero went 2-for-5 on Tuesday and has eight hits in his last four games. Justin Ruggiano has reached base via hit or walk in ten straight games.

Look Out For: Kaleb Cowart is 12-for-25 with 10 RBI in seven games since the all-star break. Ryan Jackson has an eight-game hitting streak. Jett Bandy has nine RBIs in his last eight 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:

  • The Rainiers game story has remarks from Patrick Kivlehan and Pat Listach.
  • Nelson Cruz homered twice but the Mariners lost to Detroit on Wednesday, 9-4.
  • Ryan Divish talked to Mike Zunino about his trouble at the plate and then today had some follow-up remarks which includes some trade possibilities that got shot down.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook includes an item on a new minor league reliever the team has acquired.
  • If you are a fan of hip hop and baseball, this might just be the greatest thing to ever appear on the internet.
  • In the PCL, Fresno pounded Las Vegas 12-4 as Joe Sclafani had a big game.
  • Reno sluggers Jamie Romak and Peter O’Brien each homered in an 8-4 win over Albuquerque.
  • The Chihuahuas devoured the River Cats, 15-2. Somebody should have called Animal Control.
  • Omaha won its third straight game against first-place Oklahoma City and pulled within seven games of first.
  • New Orleans has lost ten straight home games. That’ll rile up the fanbase.
  • Ross Wolf and Round Rock shut out Iowa, 4-0.
  • Colorado Springs walked off Nashville on Nevin Ashley‘s hit (not sure if he’s met Reno’s manager yet). The paper has a story on Nashville’s Barry Zito. A local columnist says the Sky Sox may be “liberated” from the Rockies, but they still aren’t winning.

Hey, it’s Thirsty Thursday!


Ninth Goes Awry

July 22, 2015

Tacoma seemed certain to win on Tuesday night.

The Rainiers had some timely hitting, with Justin Ruggiano having a big game and Patrick Kivlehan contributing a long go-ahead RBI triple. Jordan Pries delivered a strong start, and Tyler Olson struck out the side in the eighth inning.

Tacoma took a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning, and it sure felt like the game was going to be recorded as a win.

But the hot Salt Lake Bees scored three times in the top of the ninth inning, with Josh Rutledge‘s bases-loaded double the go-ahead hit.

Tacoma’s Jabari Blash drove a ball to the fence in the bottom of the ninth, but it was caught for the final out of the game and the Rainiers accepted defeat for the ninth time in the last ten games.

I don’t know what happened to Salt Lake over the all-star break, but the Bees have undergone a transformation. The team went into the break on a 2-11 slide, and had the worst record in the PCL. Since getting their three days of rest, Salt Lake has won six in a row and looks impressive.

On the plus side, Tacoma did pitch better on Tuesday and limited Salt Lake to nine hits. If only we could get a do-over on the ninth inning.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Salt Lake stunned the Rainiers, scoring three runs in the top of the ninth to pick up a 6-5 victory.

Today: Salt Lake (40-57) at Tacoma (45-52), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels.

Season Series: Salt Lake leads, 7-3.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Drew Rucinski (5-4, 5.05) at LHP Roenis Elias (2-0, 7.12).

Hot Rainiers: Stefen Romero went 2-for-5 yesterday and has eight hits in his last four games. Justin Ruggiano had three hits last night; he’s reached base via hit or walk in nine straight games.

Look Out For: Kaleb Cowart is 11-for-21 with 10 RBI in six games since the all-star break. Ryan Jackson has a seven-game hitting streak. Jett Bandy has nine RBIs in his last eight games. Josh Rutledge has a seven-game hitting streak and a 13-game on-base streak. Efren Navarro has reached via hit or walk in 34 straight PCL games. The Bees are red-hot right now.

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:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from the News Tribune.
  • Salt Lake first baseman Efren Navarro is about to break the franchise record for games played. He’s 29-years-old and still has hopes for a long major league career.
  • The Mariners stunned the Detroit tigers on an eighth inning pinch-hit grand slam by Franklin Gutierrez, It’s great to see Guti have a moment like that.
  • Here is Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook.
  • In the PCL, Las Vegas starter Matt Bowman pitched a two-hit shutout against Fresno in a 4-0 win. As you’ve probably heard if you went online yesterday, the Fresno team is going to call itself the Fresno Tacos for one game next month.
  • El Paso rallied in the seventh inning to pick up a 6-3 win at Sacramento. Abraham Almonte had three hits and then got called up by the Padres.
  • Apparently the Reno Aces Front Office is really into playing super-late games instead of doubleheaders. After a long rain delay, Reno and Albuquerque started their game at 9:45 last night and finished at 12:31 AM. The Aces have chosen to start games this late at least three times this season. It was too late for a newspaper game story, but Albuquerque won 9-4 as Trevor Story homered twice. We do have a story on Reno manager Phil Nevin and his son Tyler, who were both first round draft picks.
  • Omaha catcher Micah Gibbs had his first two Triple-A hits and they were instrumental in a doubleheader sweep of Oklahoma City.
  • Nashville’s Jason Pridie hit another homer and the Sounds withstood a late rally for a 7-6 win at Colorado Springs. The Sky Sox are hoping for a strong finish to the season.
  • New Orleans continued to struggle, losing its ninth straight home game in a 9-0 wipeout by Memphis. Thomas Lee pitched seven scoreless innings and Jacob Wilson hit a grand slam.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada struggled in Iowa’s 6-5 home loss to Round Rock.

See you at the ballpark!


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