Apparently Mother Nature caught wind of the start of the Tacoma Rainiers’ baseball season this past week. While we’ve had some pretty decent weather for season openers in the last few years, it was only a matter of time before a regular Tacoma April kicked into gear. Still, despite the wet and nasty weather that welcomed the Rainiers back to Cheney, the Tacoma boys were able to get in all five games of their series with the Sacramento River Cats.
It just took a whole lot of work.
The season kicked off on Thursday, April 5, and it was soggy from the get-go. The brave souls who waited through a rain delay that lasted nearly one and a half hours before the first pitch, were rewarded with a 5-0 Tacoma victory. While attendance was listed at 4,260 for the game, that figure was down considerably by the time the Rainiers put all five of their runs on the scoreboard in the sixth inning.
With more than 70 Rainiers’ games to look forward to at Cheney over the rest of the spring and summer, it was more than forgivable for the water-logged fans to pack up and head back to their warm, dry homes.
Mother Nature answered a few prayers the following night and the weather held up for game two of the series. As a matter of fact, the temperature was 63 degrees at the first pitch with clear skies to greet the 5,047 fans who came through the gates. Unfortunately, Sacramento also found its groove at the plate, driving in eight runs on 12 hits for an 8-2 victory.
It was clear, several hours prior to the start of Saturday’s game three of the series, that the weather was not going to clear up by game time. The Tacoma brass moved the game to Sunday, to set up would have been a fantastic daytime doubleheader for the South Sound fans.
Well, that old hag Mother Nature wasn’t quite through yet.
After a rain delay pushed the 1:35 p.m. start all the way to 2:55 p.m., Tacoma and Sacramento battled through 50-degree temperatures that felt a good 15 degrees colder due to the 19 miles per hour winds whipping through Cheney Stadium. Both teams tallied 11 hits each over the course of the seven-inning opener of the doubleheader, but it came down to just a single swing of the bat to turn the tides in Tacoma’s favor. Designated hitter John Andreoli parked a walk-off solo home run over the left center field wall to give the Rainiers a 7-6 victory.
The second game of the doubleheader was postponed and added to the scheduled Monday evening affair. After nearly three hours of play, following an hour and a half rain delay, the two teams could have been playing the second Sunday game deep into the night.
It was a beautiful evening for baseball on Monday, April 9, and both games of the doubleheader were going to reach their conclusion. Unfortunately, Tacoma was unable to overcome a pair of painful second innings over the two contests.
In game one of the doubleheader, Tacoma starter Max Povse was stung for two earned runs in the second inning, ultimately giving up a total of three before leaving after five innings. It would prove enough for Sacramento as the River Cats turned away a late Tacoma rally that included a solo home run to left field off the bat of third baseman Gordon Beckham.
The second inning of the nightcap was disastrous for Tacoma as Sacramento pushed a total of six runs across the plate, with starting pitcher Lindsey Caughel getting tagged for four of them before being pulled from the contest. By the fifth inning, Tacoma had closed Sacramento’s lead to 6-5, but was unable to find the tying run over the final two innings.
Following the 2-3 opening home stand, the Rainiers headed for the warmer climes of Fresno to begin a three-game series against the Grizzlies, followed by a four-game trip to Sacramento.
Tacoma will return for a seven-game homestand beginning on Tuesday, April 17, as they will host the Albuquerque Isotopes for a four-game set, followed by a three-game tilt against Sacramento beginning on Saturday, April 21. By the time April ends, the Rainiers will have faced the River Cats 12 times.
Speaking of Saturday, April 21, it is day one of “Throwback Weekend.” The first 1,000 fans through the gates at Cheney Stadium will receive a free snapback Tacoma Giants ball cap. The first 1,000 faithful the following afternoon will be treated to a free snapback Tacoma Twins ball cap. If you were ever planning on getting to the ballpark a little early for a change, this would be the weekend to finally make it happen.
The Friday, April 20 series finale against Albuquerque will also include a fireworks show following the final out of the ball game.
Meanwhile, Tacoma fans should continue to say their prayers to the baseball gods that the Seattle Mariners can get through a season with relatively few injuries. Let’s face it, nearly anything would be an improvement over the revolving door of Tacoma roster moves we endured last season due to the Mariners’ collective inability to stay even remotely healthy.
If this Tacoma squad can stick together, it looks like it could make a serious run at another Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division title again. Let us all bow our heads.