Rainiers Win A Shocker!

May 2, 2012

Anybody who says that they saw this one coming is either a liar, or a relentless optimist.

Trailing 9-5 and hitless for the previous four innings, Tacoma rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth and stunned Tucson on Tuesday night, 10-9.

It was an incredible comeback for a team that needed something – anything – good to happen after dropping the last three games in Las Vegas.

The blow-by-blow of the ninth inning rally is in the Rainiers game story I wrote for The News Tribune – it’s the first link down below. For this post, I’m going to focus on two other things.

First, the Rainiers offense – which I complained about yesterday – came alive early in the game. Tacoma scored five runs on 11 hits over the first four innings against Tucson starter Colt Hynes. But when Hynes left the game at the end of the fourth, the Rainiers were hitless until the ninth.

With the rally, Tacoma finished with 10 runs on 16 hits. If the Rainiers had not scored in the ninth, and went down in order, they still would have had five runs on 11 hits – and I’d be saying that was progress. This was a good offensive game without the ninth.

Tacoma has two hitters who are heating up: Trayvon Robinson was 2-for-5 with a double, a run, and an RBI, and he’s hit safely in six straight games; and Scott Savastano hit a pair of doubles and he has also hit in six straight games, going 9-for-19 during that stretch.

Second, the bullpen deserves massive props. Sean Henn, Josh Kinney, and Shawn Kelley combined to pitch five shutout innings, allowing three hits and no walks. This put the Rainiers in position to win.

Kelley has been particularly impressive. He has a 1.32 ERA, and in 13.2 innings he’s given up 6 hits and 4 walks while striking out 18.

It was the Rainiers first shocking comeback of the year, at a time when the club really needed it.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and Tacoma sends RHP Jarrett Grube (0-1, 9.64) to the mound against Tucson RHP Josh Geer (2-3, 7.30). The broadcast airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streams online right here.

I always check the weather reports for the cities that we visit on the road, to figure out what to pack and to see if its cooling off enough at night to require a coat. The forecast for Tucson today was 94 degrees and “abundant sun.”

Abundant sun?

Can you imagine if the weather used such adjectives in forecasts for Tacoma? It would read something like “43 degrees, abundant drizzle” or “48 degrees, excessive gray.”

No thanks.


  • We lead off with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, which includes the blow-by-blow of the big ninth inning rally.
  • According to this story on Carlos Quentin, the Rainiers will only have to deal with him for three innings tonight, and not at all tomorrow.
  • The Mariners losses always seem to be frustrating – not just because they lost, but because of how they lost. Yesterday’s game in Tampa fit right in with the rest.
  • John McGrath writes that the end is near for Chone Figgins.
  • From Larry LaRue’s notebook: Mike Carp is happy to be back in the big leagues, and some crazy Mariners (read: relief pitchers) climbed in the catwalks at the Trop.
  • The Mariners are only scoring on solo home runs because that one fan found that old man’s monkey paw. I knew it was something like this!*
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Travis Blackley is back in the big leagues – way to go, Travis!
  • Larry Stone has another story on his visit to the Mariners Double-A team in Jackson, Tennessee – and this time he focuses on the hitting prospects.
  • For ESPN Insiders, here is an article on the Top 5 potential #1 starters in the minor leagues. The Mariners have the top-ranked prospect.
  • In his ESPN Insider column (mandatory daily reading for me), Buster Olney notes that the Oakland A’s plan to activate Manny Ramirez on May 30, and Manny will be allowed to “rehabilitate” in the minors for ten days before that. Manny should be with Sacramento May 20-29. 
  • Yes, I would pay extra tax to fix the roads in Tacoma. Sheesh, the potholes are so prevalent where I live, it’s like a war-torn nation or something. Let’s have a little pride and fix our awful street surfaces.**
  • In the PCL, a couple of guys who started the season in the Major Leagues helped Sacramento blast Colorado Springs.
  • Fresno came back from a 5-run deficit to beat Salt Lake, 9-7. Salt Lake has lost six in a row, the last five after the call-up of Mike Trout.
  • Round Rock has moved lefty Michael Kirkman into the starting rotation to try to have him gain some consistency.
  • Iowa ripped 20 hits and blasted Memphis, 13-4. Brett Jackson was 4-for-5 with four runs scored.
  • Nashville had a good start from Willy Peralta and beat Omaha, 8-5. The Sounds are trying to bounce back from the worst April record in Triple-A baseball.
  • A former Rainiers player was fired from his job as the Detroit Tigers clubhouse DJ. Oh, the shame!
  • It was pointed out to me that yesterday I linked to the incorrect Jim Flavin when referencing the lead actor in the Rainiers video for the $5 ticket promotion on the upcoming homestand. In fact, the Jim Flavin I linked to yesterday is deceased. Whoops! The real Jim Flavin who appears in the video is this one.

That was certainly a stirring win last night – can’t wait to see what happens tonight!

* Jeff Sullivan is a treasure and we must enjoy him while we’ve got him.

** My favorite Tacoma pothole is the recurring 10,000 foot crevasse in the round-about at Stevens and North 38th. Every time they fill it, it redevelops in a few weeks – and my left front tire hits it every time I go around, even though I know it’s there.


What The Heck Happened?

May 5, 2011

First it was a Meltdown, then it was a Shocker.

After eight pleasant innings of crisp well-played baseball, all hell broke loose in the ninth inning and somehow the Rainiers emerged with a 7-6 win over Tucson on Wednesday night.

Blake Beavan worked seven outstanding innings and left the game with a 5-2 lead, mostly due to the grand slam home run that Dustin Ackley launched in the third inning.

Royce Ring – who’s really throwing well right now – pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth, and Tacoma took that 5-2 lead into the ninth.

We had our first meltdown of the season in the top of the ninth. Apparently cruising to victory, Tacoma reliever Chris Smith – who led the PCL in saves last year – gave up a pair of two-run homers.

Aaron Cunningham singled, and Anthony Rizzo* homered to right, making it 5-4. Jesus Guzman drew a walk, and then PCL rookie Matt Clark had an excellent at-bat, working a full count before launching a two-run homer on the 10th pitch to give Tucson a 6-5 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Alex Liddi reached when Guzman dropped his pop up, but he was at second base with two outs and it looked like a loss. But Matt Tuiasosopo came through in the ultimate late-inning spot for the second time this week, singling to left and driving in Liddi to tie the game.

Tui took second on the throw home and then went to third on a wild pitch, and Mike Wilson walked, bringing Josh Bard to the plate.

Bard hit an apparent inning-ending roller to first base, and we seemed headed for extra innings. But the 21-year-old Rizzo took his eye off the ball and it deflected off his glove, Bard reached first and Tui scored the winning run.

So, in summary, Tucson hit two two-run homers in the top of the ninth to move ahead, and then made two errors in the bottom of the ninth to lose the game.

Tacoma now has three Shocking Wins and one Meltdown on the season, all occurring in the last six days.

Today the Tucson series wraps up with a 7:05 game at Cheney Stadium (broadcast live on 850 AM and streaming here). Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (0-1, 3.77) against Tucson RHP Simon Castro (2-1, 9.00). Simon is a highly regarded prospect who is struggling in his first exposure to Triple-A hitters.

Tacoma has not won a series yet this year, but a win tonight would change that. The Rainiers have won six of the last nine games and trail first-place Reno by 6.5 games in the standings.


  • Larry LaRue brought his massive game story writing talent to Tacoma last night and produced this gem on the Rainiers 7-6 win. In the story, we learn that Blake Beavan is using a new slow curve.
  • Ryan Divish has an update on the status of injured Mariners relievers David Aardsma and Shawn Kelley.
  • At the Seattle Times, Larry Stone wondered if the Mariners recent surge is sustainable.
  • Jeff Sullivan wrote about how awesome Michael Pineda is even when he loses.
  • Bad news for ex-Rainiers outfielder David Winfree, now with Reno: he was hit in the hand by a pitch on Monday night and broke a bone. He’s out 4-6 weeks. It sounds a lot like what happened to Greg Halman.
  • According to Baseball America, the Mariners have released pitcher Yusmeiro Petit. Petit did not make the Rainiers opening day roster and was working in extended spring training. Petit won the division-clinching game at Fresno last year on the second-to-last day of the regular season.
  • Jason Churchill wrote about so low-level Mariners minor league pitchers, and has a positive note on Carlos Triunfel.
  • The Iowa Cubs are giving away a cool bobblehead of bald former manager Mike Quade.
  • Just like Tacoma’s Denny Bautista, Iowa’s Todd Wellemeyer is waiting for his World Series ring to arrive in the mail.
  • There is some interesting between-the-lines reading in this story on the revival of  Salt Lake’s Jeff Baisley.
  • Round Rock’s Drew Locke hit a walk-off home run in the tenth inning to beat Oklahoma City.
  • New Orleans moved pitcher Jay Buente from the bullpen to the starting rotation and the results have been terrific.
  • When Sean Burroughs played for Tacoma in 2007 he was badly out of shape. After three years out of the game, Burroughs is in much better shape and attempting a comeback.

Don’t forget it’s Tasty Thursday tonight at the new Cheney Stadium – come on out to the park!

* Rizzo is impressing baseball people at Cheney Stadium with his bat during this series. The hitting show starts in batting practice and carries into the game.

Catching Up With The Large Human

May 1, 2011

Today on the pre-game show my feature interview will be with former Rainiers slugger Juan “The Large Human” Thomas. It will air at about 12:50 pm on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming live right here.

If you were a Rainiers fan ten years ago, you won’t forget Thomas. A 300+ pound designated hitter who hit tape measure home runs, Thomas was a truly fun player to watch – several times manager Dan Rohn used him as his emergency pitcher in blowouts, and watching the gigantic Thomas pitch was a riot. Thomas also had a gregarious, larger-than-life personality and fans loved him.

Well, I’m pleased to report that Thomas still has that outgoing personality. He is living here in Reno and is working several jobs, including coaching a local travelling youth team. He’s proud that one of the kids he helps got drafted by the Phillies last year.

Thomas said that his two daughters – age 12 and 14 – are excellent fast-pitch softball players, which is no surprise.

Thomas has no regrets about his baseball career and he’s actually considering looking into a hitting coach position in the low minor leagues.

It was great to see Juan at the ballpark on Friday and I hope you enjoy his walk down memory lane on the pre-game show today. If you missed it, I’m going to try to get the interview posted on the Rainiers website sometime this week.

Last night the Rainiers reeled off their second straight shocking win – this time they entered the ninth inning trailing 9-5 and they emerged with an 11-9 victory. You can read the blow-by-blow in the game story linked below.

Tacoma is now 4-3 on this road trip and can accomplish a bunch of things with a win today: their first winning road trip, their first series win, bring the season road record up to .500, and hand the Reno Aces their first series loss.

Tacoma sends RHP Chaz Roe (0-1, 6.05) to the mound against Reno RHP Kyler Newby (0-1, 6.39). First pitch is at 1:05.


  • The Rainiers game story in The News Tribune details the shocking win last night, and has quotes from Mike Wilson and Daren Brown. Surprisingly the editors left my opening sentence in!
  • In my Minor League Notebook I did a “Who’s Hot, who’s not” thingy for the Mariners. Rich Poythress kind of spoiled my ranking by getting two hits and a homer last night, but that’s a good thing.
  • Don’t forget the Fan Go-Round is at Cheney Stadium today from 1:00 to 5:00. Bring a towel in case you shake hands with Gaylord Perry – you might get greasy (sorry, 1970s joke).
  • The Mariners are a well-oiled win machine. That’s five in a row and they go for a road trip sweep today.
  • Geoff Baker has the latest on David Aardsma.
  • Larry Stone asks the question, should the Mariners try to acquire Prince Fielder? Mike… Off-Mic replies, rather emphatically, YES!
  • Here are Stone’s power rankings and his Sunday notebook.
  • Geoff Baker went inside the Green Monster. Apparently he survived.
  • In the PCL, ex-Rainiers outfielder Scott Podsednik is trying to get back on track with Las Vegas. Vegas has lost ten straight games – Sacramento got ’em yesterday.
  • The Reno newspaper has a feature on pitcher/hitter Micah Owings.
  • Salt Lake got swept at home in a doubleheader yesterday by the Fresno Grizzlies.
  • Tucson played one game at old Hi Corbett Field and emerged with a victory.

Time to get some breakfast and head to the ballpark – a winning record on this road trip would be outstanding, and with this team it’s never over until the final out.

What A Comeback!

April 30, 2011

Last year I counted the shocking comeback wins, and the terrible meltdown losses. I was a little surprised at the end of the year to find out that we had only two of each.

Last night Tacoma had its first of either category in 2011: a shocking win, scoring four runs with two outs in the ninth inning when all hope seemed lost. Tacoma stunned Reno for a 9-6 win.

The Rainiers trailed 6-5 going to the ninth. They managed to advance a runner to third base, but there were two outs. Matt Tuiasosopo was at the plate – and he was having a dreadful game offensively, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two groundouts to the catcher – just little nubbers in front of the plate.

Tui got it done when it mattered most, grounding a single between short and third to bring in the tying run.

Then, the floodgates opened. Matt Mangini hit a broken-bat single off the label to right field, sending Tui to third. And then Carlos Peguero jumped on the first pitch he saw a laced a double down the right field line, scoring two runs and Tacoma had a 8-6 lead. Peguero took third on the throw home, and scored on a wild pitch to make it 9-6.

All this occurred with two outs – a shocking win, indeed!

The Rainiers have won three of the last four games, and are now 3-3 on this road trip after dropping the first two games in Salt Lake City.

Tacoma will face Reno tonight at 6:05 (broadcast on 850 AM and streaming live here). Tacoma starts LHP Chris Seddon (0-1, 2.28) against Reno RHP Kevin Mulvey (1-2, 15.00).

Seddon was not on Tacoma’s active roster so a move had to be made: outfielder Brandon Haveman was transferred back to Class-AA Jackson. Haveman did a nice job filling in while Peguero was in the big leagues, even helping the Rainiers win a game. I’m sure we’ll see him again in the future.


That’s it for today – I’ve got a treat for you long-time fans tomorrow! Also, don’t forget about the Fan Go-Round at Cheney on Sunday.

Christmas In May – Shocker #2

May 21, 2010

The Rainiers ended their four-game losing streak by accepting a beautifully wrapped present from the New Orleans Zephyrs late on Thursday night.

Emilio Bonifacio dropped a routine, inning-ending pop fly in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing the tying and winning runs to score as the Rainiers won it, 7-6.

The play was puzzling in every way possible. Bases loaded, two outs, 6-5 New Orleans, Tommy Everidge at the plate. Tacoma had already scored three runs in the inning to tighten up the game, including two after first baseman Lee Mitchell botched Ramon Vazquez’s easy ground ball for an error.

Everidge got behind in the count, and then eventually popped up Kasey Olenberger’s pitch to shallow right. Bonifacio – who spent the entire 2009 season in the majors playing nearly everyday – came in on the ball, called off the second baseman, camped under it, had his glove positioned over his right shoulder next to his head, and just plain dropped it. The ball banged off the heel of his glove and dropped to the ground – it was absolutely surreal that a Triple-A ballplayer would make this error. Maybe Bonifacio was just tired – there was an hour-and-a-half rain delay in the second inning, and the game ended at 11:35.

They tying and go-ahead runners scampered home, Garrett Olson shut ’em down in the ninth, and the Rainiers had their second shocking win of the year.

In case you aren’t keeping track, we are now even on the season: two shocking wins, and two meltdown losses.

Some Rainiers news: the team moved Olson to the bullpen, and slid Andy Baldwin into the starting rotation. This was a decision made by the Seattle Mariners – the M’s want to see how Olson does in a relief role, as they currently have only one left-handed reliever in the majors – and that’s Ryan Rowland-Smith, who wasn’t supposed to be in the bullpen to begin with.

Tonight’s game is at 7:00, and it’s Friday Night Fireworks postgame. Tacoma starts RHP Andy Baldwin (2-1, 3.57) against New Orleans RHP Rick VandenHurk (3-2, 4.12). VandenHurk is from the Netherlands, just like Tacoma’s Greg Halman – the two friends had a long talk, presumably in Dutch, prior to yesterday’s game. The Halman vs. VandenHurk at-bats should be fun tonight – hopefully they will each be wearing a pair of these.

I had a decent Polish from the Sausage Shack during the rain delay last night. Mmmmm….. links!

  • Nobody loves day-night MLB-AAA doubleheaders more than Ryan Divish. Here is his Rainiers game story, submitted hours after he covered the Mariners ninth-inning win over Toronto. Ryan’s notebook leads off with Josh Bard.
  • The ambidextrous pitcher from Central Kitsap won The News Tribune’s area player of the year award. No worries for Pat Venditte – it looks like this kid is going to be an outfielder as a pro.
  • Larry Stone notes that the Mariners aren’t the only team with aging hall-of-famer problems.
  • Tacoma gained a game on first place Colorado Springs thanks to Wellington Castillo’s grand slam. Castillo almost had two salamis, and the I-Cubs have won 9 of 10.
  • Mark Trumbo’s 3-run bomb pulled Salt Lake into a first place tie.
  • Portland held on for a 6-5 win over Oklahoma City last night.
  • This is getting ridiculous – Fresno is 28-12, and has a 9.5 game lead in the South.
  • Albuquerque hit into five double plays during a 4-2 home loss to Vegas. Yup – five.
  • This would have been a lot better if the T-Rex had decided to eat Rockey the Redbird.
  • Hey team owners – leave the field to the players, you might get hurt.
  • M’s farm hand Steven Hensley made Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • Minor league promotions involving processed lunchmeats are all the rage in the Eastern League.

Hopefully we won’t get any rain tonight – the grounds crew could use a break after yesterday!

Shocker #1

May 15, 2010

Remember April 12, when Tacoma blew a 7-2 lead in the seventh inning at home, and I labeled it Meltdown #1? Well, I said we would count the Meltdowns – and also the Shocking Wins.

We haven’t had another Meltdown (I almost labeled the April 18 loss at Salt Lake a Meltdown, but sheesh – it was in Salt Lake City!). Last night in Nashville, we had our first Shocker.

This game had “loss” written all over it. Down 3-1, going to the ninth inning, Nashville brings in Chris Smith to close it out.

Smith leads all of minor league baseball with 12 saves. He had converted 21 consecutive saves in the PCL going back to last year. His ERA was 0.71. Might as well start the bus – this thing is over.

Over, indeed.

Brad Nelson led off and hit a grounder right to the second baseman – but Johnny Raburn fumbled it for an error, and Nelson was on.

With one out, a struggling Mike Carp pulled a long two-run home run down the right field line to tie the game, 3-3. First blown save for Smith since last summer.

Smith retires the next man and it looks like the Rainiers are going to have to try to win it in extra innings. But wait – Matt Mangini launches a rocket to right-center, and it stays high enough to clear the outfield wall – Rainiers lead, 4-3!

Then it was Chad Cordero’s turn to go for a save. He’s up to the job, setting down the Sounds 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth for his 4th save. Rainiers win it, 4-3, and salvage a split in Nashville.

The Rainiers had scored one run in 18 innings prior to the ninth. Tacoma ranked last in the league in runs scored and home runs. All the sudden, they start launching bombs off the league’s top closer – Shocker, indeed!

After the game, the Rainiers hopped on a bus and took the three-hour drive to Memphis, arriving at 2:30 AM. Along Interstate 40 we passed Pringles Park – the home of the Mariners Class-AA West Tennessee club. The lights were still on – the Diamond Jaxx had just won a rain-delayed game on an error in the bottom of the ninth. Nobody wanted to stop.

Today’s game in Memphis is at 4:05 Pacific time. The Rainiers will start LHP Garrett Olson (1-3, 3.41) against Memphis LHP Evan MacLane (2-3, 4.14). MacLane used to be batting practice in this league but something happened – he got a lot better. Last year he won the deciding game against Sacramento when Memphis clinched the Pacific Coast League Championship.

As usual, the game will be broadcast live on 850 AM and streaming via www.tacomarainiers.com.

Saturday links:

It’s nice here in Memphis. I’m going to wander off to lunch – at the Memphis BBQ Fesitval which we have lucked into having our trip coincide with. My buddy from way back when Dennis O’Connor is leading the charge.