Going into the Sugar Land series we knew that low-scoring games rule the day out here, but the series opener on Tuesday night was a little extreme.
Constellation Field where the Space Cowboys make their home is located at sea level. It’s near the Gulf of Mexico, it’s very humid, and last night there was a strong wind blowing directly in from right field all game long. Fly balls simply weren’t going anywhere.
Throw all of that into a bowl and mix in a whole bunch of strikeout pitchers, and we had ourselves a scoreless treat last night.
After nine innings of play, the two teams had combined for a grand total of five hits. Each team’s pitching staff had 15 strikeouts, and the score was 0-0.
Neither team could complain about missed opportunities – there weren’t any.
The closest Tacoma came to scoring came in the fifth inning, when Andrew Knapp hit an opposite field double to lead off the inning (that was the only extra-base hit in the first nine innings). Knapp eventually reached third with two outs, and was stranded there.
Sugar Land’s best scoring opportunity came in the first inning, when Corey Julks hit a one-out single and stole second base. He also ended up getting stranded at third.
That was it, those were the only two runners to reach third base in the first nine innings. When we reached the tenth inning, Tacoma had not had a hit since Knapp’s double in the fifth – and Sugar Land’s last hit was a single in the third inning.
The automatic runner placed at second base in extra innings was sure to end the scoreless tie. The Rainiers did a nice job getting their runner home in the top of the tenth without a hit: Drew Ellis flied out to right-center, allowing the runner to tag up and advance to third, and Knapp’s sharp grounder to the drawn-in first baseman was not handled cleanly on the first try which brought in the run.
We went to the bottom of the tenth with Tacoma leading 1-0. The Rainiers brought in Matt Brash to try to escape the automatic jam, a decision I applauded on the air at the time: when trying to strand a runner at second base, a strikeout pitcher is a very good option. Plus, Brash has been rolling, delivering 11 consecutive outings without allowing an earned run.
That streak ended. Brash walked the first batter on a full count pitch, putting runners at first and second. Then David Hensley had by far the hardest hit ball of the game, driving a no-doubt-about-it game-winning three-run homer to right field. Hensley hit the ball right into the teeth of the strong wind that was blowing in from right field all night, and still easily got it out of the park.
The game ending opposite-field homer was the first hit for either team since the fifth inning. It was quite a shock, really – totally unexpected on a night in which the few batted balls we saw weren’t going anywhere.
Is the whole six-game series going to be like this? I’m sure that tonight’s starting pitchers are excited to get out there.
YESTERDAY: Tacoma lost the series opener in ten innings, 3-1, as described above. Starter Darren McCaughan pitched five shutout innings, with relievers Wyatt Mills, Matt Festa, Danny Young, and Matt Koch each delivering a single scoreless inning. The streaky Rainiers have lost four in a row right on the heels of the stretch in which the team won seven of eight.
TODAY: Tacoma Rainiers (26-40) at Sugar Land Space Cowboys (29-38), 5:05 (Pacific).
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Houston Astros.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Mickey Storey.
SEASON SERIES: Sugar Land leads, 6-1.
PITCHERS: RHP Konner Wade (2-2, 5.03) at LHP Jonathan Bermudez (1-2, 7.48)
ROSTER MOVES: Yesterday was a rare day with no roster moves, and it may happen again today. They tend to slow down when the team is playing away from the west coast.
HOT HITTERS: Forrest Wall has reached base safely in 11 straight games, and he has a .409 on-base percentage so far this month… Sam Haggerty has reached base safely in his last 16 PCL games… Marcus Wilson has reached base safely in 12 straight games. He’s homered in four of his last eight games, and he leads the team with 12.
OPPONENT NEWS: Sugar Land had a seven-game winning streak end on Saturday in Round Rock, and then they lost on Sunday too… Corey Julks has an 11-game hitting streak, getting exactly one hit in each game. Does that qualify as a hot hitter? He’s 11-for-43 (.256 average) during the streak… the Space Cowboys have received a big lift from infielder Enmanuel Valdez, who was called up from Double-A (where he was batting .357) on June 7. He homered twice in his Triple-A debut and added a three-homer game last week at Round Rock… Sugar Land just acquired former Rainiers outfielder Dillon Thomas on a waiver claim from the Angels… Kent native Taylor Jones is currently rehabilitating a back injury with Sugar Land.
BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.
Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.
PCL SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to broadcasts and Gameday screens right here.