RAINIERS IN STRIKING DISTANCE

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Tacoma fans were happy to see Cameron Perkins return from the disable list on Monday, June 25. The 6-5 Perkins is batting .282 in 48 games, with 14 doubles, four home runs and 26 runs batted in. Photo by Rocky Ross

While the Tacoma Rainiers weren’t able to make a big move in the standings over the past week, any positive move in that direction has got to be seen as a win for the Tyler Street boys. Before heading out of town for a four-game dip with the Salt Lake Bees, the Rainiers were trailing the Fresno Grizzlies by 6.5 games in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division standings.

One week later, the Rainiers have trimmed the Grizzlies’ lead to just 5.5 games.

Were Tacoma able to maintain this current pace, the Rainiers would overtake Fresno sometime in early August for the division lead. We can always hope, right? Meanwhile, Tacoma is in the midst of a nine-game home stand that will wrap up on Tuesday, July 3, against the Reno Aces. If Tacoma wants to hit the gas pedal and gain ground a little faster on the Grizzlies, this would be a perfect time to make it happen while playing within the cozy confines of Cheney Stadium.

The Rainiers (41-37) have won seven of their previous 10 games, while the Grizzlies (46-31) have won just six. It’s also looking as though it could be a two-team race for the division pennant, with Reno (35-43) and the Sacramento River Cats (34-44) bringing up the rear in the standings.

Through 78 games, the Rainiers have undergone a whopping 171 player transactions. While this number is indeed quite huge, it holds up with the numbers over the last few seasons. Tacoma welcomed back outfielder Cameron Perkins from the disabled list on Monday, June 25, only to see starting ace Rob Whalen, relief pitcher Tucker Healy and infielder Danny Muno added to the list within a day of the move.

Tacoma began their road series in Salt Lake on Thursday, June 21, and things didn’t go according to plan as the Bees dropped the Rainiers by a score of 6-3. Whalen wasn’t in his sharpest form on the mound and was pulled after just three innings of work. Tacoma’s stud pitcher gave up eight hits and three earned runs while racking up a 66-pitch count. First baseman Gordon Beckham led the charge for the Rainiers with two doubles, while left fielder Andrew Aplin added his own two-base knock. In addition, catcher David Freitas has taken over duties behind the plate after being sent down by the Seattle Mariners.

Some people make a big deal about a certain moose up north, but we all know who the Puget Sound’s best mascot is. Photo by Rocky Ross

The following night was something special for the Rainiers, as the visitors crushed the Bees by a score of 17-1. Tacoma was able to pound a total of six Salt Lake pitchers for 21 hits on the game, with seven Rainiers recording multiple hits. Starting pitcher Casey Lawrence delivered five strong innings, giving up just one earned run on two hits, while striking out six Salt Lake batters. One would think that Tacoma must have been playing long ball to rack up 17 runs, but that wasn’t the case as Aplin hit the only home run of the game in the ninth inning. However, designated hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis added two doubles, with Beckham adding one as well. Third-baseman Seth Mejias-Brean added a double and a triple, with shortstop Zach Vincej also adding a three-bagger.

On Saturday, June 23, Tacoma was unable to rekindle the fire from their scoring explosion the previous night, and fell to the Bees by a score of 4-1. Starting pitcher Christian Bergman struggled on the mound, giving up 11 hits and four earned runs. While the Rainiers put nine hits on the board, they were only able to go two-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Freitas and left-fielder John Andreoli each recorded doubles, with Beckham earning the sole run batted in for the Rainiers.

Tacoma was able to even the series at two games apiece the following afternoon, edging the Bees by a score of 5-4. Starting pitcher Bryan Evans earned his first victory of the season, putting in five innings of work, while striking out five and giving up the four earned runs. Again, Beckham slapped a double, with Andreoli and Mejias-Brean also adding a two-bagger. Center-fielder Ian Miller added a triple.

A crowd of 4,207 fans welcomed the Rainiers home on Monday, June 25, and the hometown boys came through with a 6-1 victory over the Las Vegas 51s. Starting pitcher Ross Detwiler pitched 7.1 innings of two-hit ball, giving up just the one earned run, while striking out nine Vegas batters. First baseman Daniel Vogelbach hit his 11th home run of the season in the first inning, while catcher Garrett Kennedy crushed his own in the fourth inning. Nieuwenhuis also added a double to the mix.

It was a tight game on Tuesday, June 26, with Tacoma taking a slim 1-0 lead into the top of the eighth inning. Lightning would strike for the boys from “Sin City,” as they tagged relief pitcher Mike Morin for three runs on just 15 pitches. The Rainiers would get one back in the bottom of the eighth stanza, but that would be the last of the firepower for the home side, and Las Vegas took the win 3-2. Freitas hit his second double of the season, with Miller adding his third triple thus far.

Tacoma will begin their five-game series with the Reno Aces on Friday, June 29, at 7:05 p.m. The game will be followed by a fireworks show. If you haven’t picked up tickets for the series finale on Tuesday, July 3, you had better move fast. After the 7:05 p.m. game, the annual Independence Day fireworks show will commence.

The Rainiers will head out of town for a five-game series against the Albuquerque Isotopes on Wednesday, July 4, followed by the Triple-A All-Star game on Wednesday, July 11. Tacoma will return home for a huge, four-game series against Fresno on Thursday, July 12, at 7:05 p.m.

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