Despite roster moves, Rainiers show grit

Tacoma starting pitcher Christian Bergman has been having another solid season for the Rainiers. The right-hander is currently 3-3, with a 3.29 earned run average. Bergman had a sensational spot start for the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, May 16, tossing seven innings of shutout baseball, while striking out five Texas Rangers. Photo by Rocky Ross

One thing that baseball fans around these parts can bank on these days, is a busy (and lengthy) transaction list when it comes to the Tacoma Rainiers. With all of the injuries to the Seattle Mariners last season, the Tacoma transaction list finished the season at several pages in length. Sure, there were a few players on the disabled list to start this season, but the baseball thinking man had to figure that they would steer well-clear of last season’s tremendous transaction turnstile.

Well, it looks as though they’re at it again.

When Seattle’s Dee Gordon was sent to the 10-day disabled list due to a fractured toe on Monday, May 21, the call was going to be made to Tacoma. Instead of going for some speed to match Gordon’s fleet feet on the base paths, the Mariners went with the bat of Daniel Vogelbach. It would also prove to be Tacoma’s 90th roster transaction in 46 games. After knocking the cover off of the ball in spring training for the Mariners, Vogelbach earned himself a spot on the opening day roster for Seattle. However, the fire that he had found in his bat in Arizona hadn’t caught a ticket with him back to Seattle, and he was soon sent back to Tacoma.

Catcher Chris Herrmann gets into his home run trot. Photo by Rocky Ross

Rainiers’ fans love the pop in Vogelbach’s bat, as well as his fire, but we’re pretty sure that it would be okay if he were to just start crushing the baseball for the Mariners, and say farewell to his appearances with Tacoma. In just 24 games with the Rainiers, Vogelbach was back in great form. The slugger was batting .301, with nine home runs, seven doubles, 15 runs battled in and 18 runs scored. Vogelbach had also drawn 22 walks, while striking out just 10 times. In his first appearance back with the Mariners, Vogelbach went 1-for-2, while drawing two walks and scoring a run in Seattle’s 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, May 22.

The 10-day disabled list for a broken toe seems like a first “wait and see” move by the Mariners. With Gordon being one of the fastest players in all of Major League Baseball, we’re pretty certain they’re not going to be suiting him up until that little fracture has healed up completely. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll see Gordon in Tacoma for a few rehabilitation starts before he heads back up to the big club.

Now, the Rainiers are going to have to buckle down even more if they want to keep pace with the rest of the clubs in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division. Tacoma has already been without the services of second baseman Gordon Beckham, who was batting .300 for the club through 25 games. Beckham was called up to Seattle after second baseman Robinson Cano was popped for an 80-game suspension.

After 46 games, Tacoma (23-23) is sitting just five games behind the division-leading Fresno Grizzlies (28-18). The Rainiers are .500 all-around, with an 11-11 mark at Cheney Stadium, and a 12-12 mark on the road. The Sacramento River Cats (22-24) look as though they should also be in the mix for the division pennant through the summer. The River Cats played Tacoma tough this season, with the Rainiers owning a slim 9-7 mark head-to-head. Sacramento may continue to be a thorn in the side of Tacoma in the standings, but it won’t be happening against each other. The two teams have played each other for the last time this season.

Right fielder John Andreoli slides in for a successful steal. Andreoli is has been having a strong season for the Rainiers, batting .294 through 32 games. Photo by Rocky Ross

Following a 13-game road trip, Tacoma returned home to face the Las Vegas 51s on Thursday, May 17. The boys from Sin City knocked starting pitcher Roenis Elias back to the dugout after just 3.2 innings of work. Las Vegas put four earned runs on the scoreboard before the veteran was relieved, and the damage was done. Vegas would go on to win the game by a score of 8-3, but there was some silver in the lining. Major League veteran Jayson Werth crushed a two-run shot in the first inning, while Taylor Motter notched his fourth dinger of the season in the fourth inning. The fortunes of this club could easily head north if their bats could get back to form.

The following night, Tacoma benefited from an exceptional start from Ariel Miranda. The veteran earned his fourth victory of the season with seven innings of work, while giving up just one earned run and striking out eight Las Vegas batters. Seth Mejias-Brean clubbed his first home run of the season in the fourth inning, while Werth crushed a three-run shot in the fifth inning, in front of 6,301 fans at Cheney Stadium.

Another big crowd showed up on Saturday, May 19, to see another fine pitching performance from the Rainiers. Rob Whalen earned his sixth win of the season, going six innings, while giving up just two earned runs. Tacoma would add a couple of home runs from Danny Muno and Chris Herrmann to fire up the 7,125 in attendance and boost the Rainiers to a 10-6 victory.

The Sunday matinee was a tight affair, with Tacoma coming out on top by a score of 3-1. A crowd of 7,329 saw Tacoma starting pitcher Casey Lawrence go four innings, while giving up just one earned run. Four Tacoma relievers shutout Las Vegas the rest of the way, while Mike Marjama hit a two-run dinger in the second inning, and Vogelbach added a solo-blast in the fourth inning.

The El Paso Chihuahuas came to town the following evening, and Tacoma was unable to find their groove at the plate. Despite a strong performance from starting pitcher Christian Bergman, the Rainiers fell by a score of 4-2. Bergman gave up just two earned runs in seven innings of work, while fanning eight batters and delivering zero walks. Herrmann added some spark in the fifth inning with a two-run blast, but that would be all the fireworks Tacoma had in the arsenal on the night.

The little doggies dropped the boom on Tacoma the following night. It was another rough outing on the mound for Elias, as he gave up six earned runs in just four innings of work. El Paso racked up 15 hits on the night to power their 10-6 victory.

After Tacoma finishes their series with El Paso, the Rainiers will hit the road for a five-game swing against Las Vegas beginning on Friday, May 25. The Rainiers will return home on Wednesday, May 30, to host the Salt Lake Bees for a five game series. Following a seven-game road trip that will stop in Memphis for three games, and Nashville for four, Tacoma will return home for a three-game set with Omaha beginning on Wednesday, June 13, followed by a four-game set against Iowa starting on Saturday, June 16.

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