Well, it was fun while it lasted. Many baseball fans wondered why the Seattle Mariners had sent Ben Gamel down to Tacoma. The outfield stud didn’t let his demotion hurt his performance, as he was absolutely fantastic in his short stint with the Rainiers. This center field nab is a poster quality shot of Gamel. Photo by Rocky Ross.

Those lazy, hazy days of summer have just about come to their conclusion this season at Cheney Stadium. The final Tacoma Rainiers’ home stand will wrap up with a 7:05 p.m. game against the El Paso Chihuahuas on Monday, Aug. 27. The home town boys haven’t had the greatest of seasons, but they’ve remained fired-up and competitive throughout this long stretch of America’s pastime.

As of this issue, the Rainiers hold a 61-65 record (.484) and trail the first-place Fresno Grizzlies by an insurmountable 11.5 games in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division standings. While the team was able to remain within striking distance for the bulk of the season, the team slipped over the past month, while the Grizzlies (73-54), as well as the Reno Aces (66-61), kept on winning ball games.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about the importance of a real pennant race when it came to Triple-A baseball. We agreed that we’d love to see more wins, but that the real draw of the Tacoma Rainiers is simply the time spent at Cheney Stadium. Win or lose, it’s always a pleasant time at the gorgeous and comfortable ball park, and that’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

We’ve been blessed with one of the best Minor League Baseball stadiums in the country, and the “last call” bell is ringing right now. If you’ve been putting off getting out to the ball park this spring and summer, you are nearly out of time. Tickets still remain for the final home stand. Grab the kids and granny and get out there. You’ll be happy that you did.

Elsewhere in the PCL, the four division pennant races have nearly sorted themselves out. There is still an outstanding battle going on between the Oklahoma City Dodgers (66-59) and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (64-59) in the PCL American Northern Division. The Dodgers hold a one-game lead over the Sky Sox, who are playing their final season of Triple-A baseball.

Otherwise, the Memphis Redbirds (76-51) have all but sewn up the PCL American Southern Division with a nine-game lead over second-place Nashville (67-60). El Paso will be looking to close-out the PCL Pacific Southern Division with some victories at Cheney Stadium against the Rainiers. The Chihuahuas (74-52) hold an 8.5 game lead over the second-place Salt Lake Bees. Fresno (73-54) holds a seven-game lead over second-place Reno in the PCL Pacific Northern Division.

Let’s take a look at the Tacoma Rainiers’ previous week of action.

On Wednesday, Aug. 15, the Rainiers wrapped up their road trip against the Albuquerque Isotopes. With a slight, glimmer of hope remaining in the division race, Tacoma was unable to answer the 13-hit effort by the home team and fell by a score of 7-2. Right fielder Cameron Perkins slapped two doubles in the game, with left fielder John Andreoli adding a triple. Starting pitcher Dan Altavilla was tagged with the loss after giving up two earned runs and a walk on 23 pitches.

Tacoma returned home the following night, and a big crowd of 6,895 fans came out to Cheney Stadium to welcome the boys home. The Rainiers answered with a 10-6 victory over Fresno. The home town boys racked up 14 hits on the night, including doubles by Ben Gamel, Daniel Vogelbach, Gordon Beckham, Andrew Aplin and Zach Vincej. Catcher David Freitas added a three-run homer in the seventh inning to seal the deal for the Rainiers. Relieve Nick Rumbelow earned the victory, despite blowing his save opportunity. Shawn Armstrong earned his 13th save of the season.

A crowd of 7,006 came out on Friday, Aug. 17, to see the Grizzlies dish out a little payback. Fresno scattered 14 hits in their 8-1 victory, while the Rainiers couldn’t get things rolling. A double by Cameron Perkins and a solo home run by Ian Miller were the extent of the fireworks for Tacoma. Starting pitcher David Rollins was knocked around for eight earned runs in his 5.1 innings of work, earning him the loss.

Tacoma would muster just seven singles in their 3-1 loss to the Grizzlies the following night in front of a crowd of 6,826 fans at Cheney Stadium. Altavilla took the loss, despite pitching just one inning and surrendering one earned run.

The series finale went well for the Rainiers, as Tacoma took a 6-4 victory in front of an afternoon crowd of 7,007. Tacoma would get after the Grizzlies’ pitchers for 13 hits, including doubles Vincej, Cameron Rupp, Freitas and Aplin. Starting pitcher Bryan Evans earned his sixth win of the season, pitching a six-inning gem. Evans struck out eight batters, while giving up just four hits and surrendering no runs. Armstrong would earn his 14th save of the season.

After a night off, the Rainiers began their three-game set against the Reno Aces in front of a crowd of 7,223 fans that braved that smoky Tacoma skies. The game would stretch for nearly four hours and into the 10th inning before the Aces came away with a 3-2 victory. Armstrong suffered the loss, while the Rainier bats were unable to generate much extra-base action.

Tacoma will end their series with Reno on Thursday, Aug. 23, with a 7:05 p.m. start time. The final fireworks show of the year is set for Friday, Aug. 24, at 7:05 p.m. as the Rainiers welcome El Paso to town for start of the final four-game home stand of the season.

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