The season isn’t quite winding down yet, but the home games are. Tacoma still has 27 games remaining this year, but only 12 at Cheney Stadium starting with a six-game series against Sacramento that begins tonight at 7:05. After this homestand the Rainiers go on the road for two weeks, and then come home for the final homestand of the season September 20-25.
Tacoma has slowly made some progress in the standings. No, the Rainiers aren’t playing their way into a pennant race – the team is 11 games behind first-place Reno – but the club has pulled into a tie for third place with Salt Lake. The Rainiers are only four games behind second-place Las Vegas.
The Rainiers held down the last place spot in the West division for most of the season, but moved past Sacramento at the end of July and now has caught Salt Lake. Tacoma is 19-15 in games since the all-star break.
This series presents an opportunity for Tacoma to pick up more wins against a last place club, except it appears that Sacramento is playing much better these days. The River Cats just won five of six against first place Reno, getting outstanding pitching in all five wins. Offensively, Sacramento’s roster includes two MLB-caliber hitters who were not with the club the last time the teams played in Yermin Mercedes and Willie Calhoun.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Coast League, Oklahoma City opened up its lead in the East on Sunday night by beating El Paso for the third day in a row. After dropping two of the first three games to the Chihuahuas, the Dodgers won the last three and now lead the division by four games over Round Rock and 4.5 games over the Chihuahuas.
Only the two division winners get to advance to the Triple-A Championship Weekend in Las Vegas. Reno has a hefty seven-game lead in the West over Las Vegas, but the two teams do have 12 remaining games head-to-head, so Las Vegas does have an opportunity to get hot at the right time. They start a six-game series at Reno tonight.
Looks like the Rainiers will have something to say about these division races. After the Sacramento series this week, Tacoma plays its final 21 games of the year against teams currently in a pennant chase.
YESTERDAY: The Rainiers were off yesterday. On Sunday, Tacoma tossed its second shutout of the week, a 5-0 win at Salt Lake. Darren McCaughan pitched the first four innings in a pre-ordained “light workload start,” and then relievers Taylor Williams, Matthew Boyd, Brennan Bernardino, Matt Koch and Nick Ramirez went one inning apiece to complete the three-hitter. Tacoma won the series at Salt Lake, four games to two, and pulled into a third place tie in the division standings with the Bees.
TODAY: Sacramento River Cats (55-68) at Tacoma Rainiers (57-66), 7:05.
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: San Francisco Giants.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Dave Brundage
SEASON SERIES: Tacoma leads, 11-7.
PITCHERS: RHP Sean Hjelle (6-7, 4.92) at LHP Justus Sheffield (4-7, 7.30)
“Look at how tall that pitcher is!” – Hjelle, the 6-foot-11 righty, tied the record for tallest MLB player in history when he made his debut earlier this season.
ROSTER MOVES: The Mariners activated first baseman Evan White from the injured list and optioned him to Tacoma, and the M’s called up Abraham Toro to replace the injured Dylan Moore.
HOT HITTERS: Erick Mejia has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games… Mason McCoy has reached base safely in nine straight games, and he has homered six times over his last 16 games… Taylor Trammell has an eight-game hitting streak.
OPPONENT NEWS: Sacramento is hot at the moment, winning five of six in a home series against first place Reno… Sacramento pitched really well in the series, holding Reno to three runs or fewer in all five of the River Cats wins… Sacramento has catcher Andrew Knapp, who played for Tacoma earlier this season, and former Rainiers infielder Donovan Walton is on the injured list…. Austin Dean has a seven-game hitting streak, while Knapp has hit safely in six straight with three homers.
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.
- Lots of good stuff in this week’s Rainiers Notebook from The News Tribune, which leads off with Darren McCaughan going into high-elevation Salt Lake City and casually ripping off ten scoreless innings.
- Ty France had two hits and a homer for the M’s on Sunday, hopefully pulling out of his slump.
- One Mariners pitcher and several PCL players appear in this week’s edition of the Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.
- For Baseball America subscribers, the annual Best Tools package for the Triple-A leagues came out today. No Rainiers appear in the PCL – I’m surprised Erick Mejia didn’t get pegged as Best Infield Arm, but to be fair we barely saw the winner Elehuris Montero of Albuquerque, so I don’t really know much about him. Side note: former Rainiers infielder Matt Tuiasosopo was named Best Manager Prospect in the International League.
- Gig Harbor High School graduate Michael Toglia was called up by the Colorado Rockies today.