RAINIERS IN HOT PURSUIT

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Tacoma’s Gordon Beckham nabs a hot one at first base and shuffles the ball back to pitcher Mike Morin for the out. Beckham was called up to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, July 10, following yet another trip to the disabled list for Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. In 57 games for the Rainiers, Beckham was batting .318 with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 33 runs batted in. Photo by Rocky Ross

When we last caught up with the local boys of summer, the Tacoma Rainiers were sitting at 44-40 on the season and hot and heavy on the heels of the first-place Fresno Grizzlies. Despite a successful 4-2 mark over the past week, the Rainiers still remain 4.5 games behind the Grizzlies entering the short Triple-A All-Star Game break.

The landscape of the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division could change drastically by the end of Tacoma’s next four-game series. Fresno will be coming to town on Thursday, July 12, and when the series concludes four days later, the two top teams in the division could very well be neck and neck heading into the back-stretch of summer.

However, if the Rainiers slip up, they could easily find themselves closer to 10 games out of the race. If Puget Sound baseball fans are excited about a Seattle Mariners club that is currently four games behind the Houston Astros, perhaps some of that home town mojo will pass through the gates as fans fill up Cheney Stadium for this important set of games.

Tacoma will enter their showdown with Fresno with a season’s best record of 48-42. This mark is rather impressive considering that the Rainiers sat four games under .500 at 29-33 just one month ago. That is a 10-game swing in the positive direction for the Rainiers, and if that doesn’t stoke the fires under the fan base, then they’re just not paying attention.

Let’s take a look at the Rainiers’ run of six games leading up to the Triple-A All-Star Game break.

We’re fairly certain that Rhubarb is actually ranked as a Tenderhoof in the Reindeer Scouts, but the Puget Sound’s best mascot got into full character on Boy Scout Night on Friday, June 29. Photo by Rocky Ross

Cheney Stadium was in a festive spirit on Tuesday, July 3, as the Rainiers wrapped up their five-game series with the Reno Aces in front of 7,083 fans. Tacoma had already taken three of the previous four games, and it was time to take care of business in front of such a fantastic crowd. While the annual fireworks show would cap the night, following the end of the game, the effort by the Rainiers was explosive.

Tacoma would slap the Aces’ pitching staff around for 15 hits on the night, while racking up 11 runs in their 8.5 innings at the plate. Starting pitcher Christian Bergman scored his second-straight win by delivering six strong innings of work. Bergman (5-6) struck out four Aces, walked just a single batter and gave up just two earned runs on five hits. Right-fielder Cameron Perkins led the Tacoma hit parade, going three-for-five on the night, including a three-run blast in the third inning. Shortstop Zach Vincej and center fielder Andrew Aplin also added a double each.

The road wasn’t very welcoming to the Rainiers the following night as Tacoma fell to the Albuqueque Isotopes by a score of 8-2 in front of an incredible crowd of 15,652 at Isotopes Park. Despite knocking around 10 hits on the night, Tacoma was unable to make it happen when it counted. Starting pitcher Bryan Evans (1-1) was stung by a two-run home run in the fifth inning, as well as a solo blast in the seventh. The Tacoma bats didn’t help the situation, yielding zero extra-base hits.

Albuquerque pitchers were on fire the following night, as Tacoma was blanked by a score of 2-0. The Rainiers were able to muster just three hits on the night, none of which were for extra bases. It was a tough loss, as Tacoma starting pitcher Ross Detwiler (2-2) put together a masterful performance, going the full eight innings, while giving up just two earned runs on eight hits.

Tacoma would get back into the swing of things on Friday, July 6, hanging an 8-4 loss on Albuquerque. The Rainiers’ bats erupted for 14 hits, and a combination of six pitchers kept the Isotope batters at bay. 

Starting pitcher Williams Perez (2-0) earned the win after he put in a strong five innings of work. Perez struck out eight Albuquerque batters, while walking two and giving up three earned runs. Designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach delivered a solo home run and a double in the game. Vincej added a double and a triple. Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, Miller and first baseman Gordon Beckham also added a double each.

Beckham would come through for the Rainiers the following night, knocking in both runs in the 2-1 victory over Albuquerque. A solo blast in the sixth inning, and a double in the ninth, was all Tacoma needed in the tight affair. Starting pitcher Casey Lawrence delivered a strong performance, giving up just two hits and one earned run over six innings. However, the win would go to Daniel Schlereth (2-0), who threw just five pitches on the night. Shawn Armstrong would earn the save.

Starting pitcher Ariel Miranda has been released from his contract. Catcher Mike Marjama has also announced his retirement from baseball to take a position with the National Eating Disorder Association.

Tacoma returns to Cheney Stadium on Thursday, July 12, against Fresno at 7:05 p.m. There will be a fireworks show following the game on Friday, July 13. After their four-game set, Tacoma will head south for a four-game series with Reno. The Rainiers will then return home for a short, three-game series with the Salt Lake Bees beginning on Friday, July 20.

For tickets and more information, visit tacomarainiers.com, or stop by the Cheney Stadium box office.

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