With the finish line in sight, it’s looking like the post-season dreams for the Tacoma Rainiers and their fans are being shifted toward next season. Trailing the division-leading Fresno Grizzlies by 10.5 games in the standings, the chances of making up that ground with just 19 games remaining would probably call for some sort of divine intervention by the baseball gods.
Then again, Tacoma has always been a bit of an underdog city. So we’re not going to give up hope until it has become mathematically impossibly for the Rainiers to catch the Grizzlies.
We’re pretty sure that the home town fans would have no problem getting behind a dramatic, even miraculous, 19-game winning streak to end the season. As a matter of fact, as of this issue, the Rainiers have won two in a row heading into the final 19 contest, so let’s call it a request for a 21-game streak to close things out.
As awesome as that would be, there’s probably not enough sand left in the hour glass for this version of the Tyler Street boys.
Tacoma (59-61) currently sits in third place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division standings. Fresno leads with a 70-51 record, followed by the Reno Aces (62-59), who currently trail by eight games. When looking deeper into the numbers, it appears that the Grizzlies and Aces have found themselves ahead of the Rainiers due to Tacoma’s inability to consistently take care of their home turf. Fresno holds a 37-25 mark at home, while Reno sits at 34-27. With 11 home games remaining at Cheney Stadium, the Rainiers have only been able to muster a 29-30 home mark.
That’s not calculus that we’re dealing with. If Tacoma has a home record close to Fresno and Reno, this article is about a pennant chase, and the Rainiers are in hot pursuit.
Elsewhere in the PCL, the race for the American Northern Division looks like it will come down to the wire between the Oklahoma City Dodgers (63-55) and Colorado Springs Sky Sox (60-57). Meanwhile, the Memphis Redbirds (74-47) are trying to fend off a late-season run by the Nashville Sounds (66-55) in the American Southern Division. The race in the Pacific Southern Division is also still up for grabs, with the El Paso Chihuahuas (68-52) holding a 3.5 game lead over the Salt Lake Bees (65-56).
Let’s take a look back at the previous week of action for the Tacoma Rainiers.
On Thursday, Aug. 9, the Rainiers began a four-game series with the Salt Lake Bees. Things started poorly for Tacoma, as the Bees jumped out to a 5-1 lead by the end of the third inning. Tacoma would battle back with a run in the fourth and two runs in the seventh. Salt Lake would answer with three more runs in the bottom of the seventh, building an 8-4 advantage. The Rainiers would tack on three more runs in the top of the ninth, but the rally would end there, as Tacoma fell 8-7. Tacoma would put together a 16-hit night, including six doubles, but it just wasn’t enough. Starting pitcher Bryan Evans (4-2) suffered the loss.
The following night, the Tacoma bats went relatively silent in a 10-4 loss to the Bees. The hit explosion from the previous night was but a memory, as the Rainiers would put together a five-hit performance. Meanwhile, Tacoma pitchers surrendered 13 hits. Starting pitcher Christian Bergman (7-9) took the loss, giving up five earned runs on seven hits over 4.2 innings of work.
On Saturday, Aug. 11, Tacoma got back on the winning side with a tight 4-3 victory over the Bees. A triple by designated hitter Ben Gamel, a two-run home run by right fielder Cameron Perkins, and an RBI single by first baseman Daniel Vogelbach sealed the deal for the Rainiers. Reliever Mike Morin (4-2) earned the victory, while Shawn Armstrong picked up his 11th save of the season.
Despite buzzing the Bees for six runs in the eighth inning the following night, Tacoma would fall to Salt Lake by a score of 9-7. Starting pitcher Rob Whalen (7-7) was saddled with the loss after giving up four earned runs on eight hits and two walks in just over two innings of work.
Tacoma would then take their road show to Albuquerque on Monday, Aug. 13, snatching a 5-2 victory from the Isotopes in front of 7,267 fans at Isotopes Park. Starting pitcher Austin Hutchison made the most of his first-ever Triple-A start, delivering five solid innings of work. Hutchison gave up just one earned run on eight hits and two walks, while striking out two Isotope batters. Second baseman Gordon Beckham belted a solo home run in the fourth inning.
The Rainiers did it again the following night, dropping the Isotopes by a score of 9-5. Vogelbach delivered one of his best plate performances of the season, with five runs batted in off of a double and two-run home run. The dinger was Vogelbach’s 19th of the season and 48th in his short Tacoma career. Starting pitcher Bryan Evans earned the victory with a solid five innings of work. Evans gave up just three earned runs on five hits, while issuing three walks and striking out five Isotope batters. Armstrong would also nab his 12th save of the season to close things up.
Tacoma returns home to Cheney Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 16, to begin a four-game series against the Fresno Grizzlies. After a day off, Tacoma will then host the Reno Aces for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 21. The final home stand will begin on Friday, Aug. 24, as Tacoma hosts El Paso for a four-game set.