Despite rough May, Rainiers still in hunt

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Photo by Rocky Ross

The month of May has not been treating Tacoma’s boys of summer with much love so far this season. The Rainiers entered the month just a handful of games behind the division-leading Fresno Grizzlies. Luckily for Tacoma, those same Grizzlies have matched the Rainiers’ 3-5 mark so far this month. Had Fresno continued their hot streak, the Rainiers could be sitting much further behind the leaders than the 4.5- game deficit they currently reside in.

As of Tuesday, May 8, the Rainiers sit at 15-17 on the season, with eight games remaining on their current road trip. When Tacoma returns home on Thursday, May 17, to host the Las Vegas 51s, the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division standings could look quite different.

All it is going to take is for a team to catch a little fire.

Currently, the Reno Aces sit in last place at 13-20, yet they are only seven games behind the Grizzlies. Tacoma sits in third place, while Sacramento is 17-15 and just 2.5 games behind Fresno. With a full summer of baseball still ahead, it’s obvious that the race for the division pennant is still anybody’s to win or lose.

Photo by Rocky Ross

Hopefully, the Tyler Street boys can get back on track as the weather begins to turn more favorable in the Puget Sound. If the month of May is an example of what to look forward to, it’s going to be a tough road to hoe for Tacoma and their fans.

It’s still awfully early in the season though. Nobody’s hitting the panic button.

The Rainiers looked to close their recent home stand with a couple of wins over the Albuquerque Isotopes. However, they would have to settle for a split before they hit the road for 12 games. The Isotopes rocked the Rainiers to the tune of 12-3 on Wednesday, May 2, and it looked like a hitter’s clinic. Albuquerque bats exploded for 20 hits under the clear skies over Cheney Stadium and Tacoma had no answer. 

Starting pitcher Roenis Elias was knocked around in his three innings of work, giving up four earned runs on six hits and a walk. Relief pitcher Lindsey Caughel didn’t fare any better, giving up six earned runs, on nine hits, in his two innings of work.

Tacoma would bounce back the following night with starting pitcher Ariel Miranda on the mound. The veteran gave up just two earned runs, on four hits, in seven innings of work. Tacoma’s bats responded with 11 hits to put the Isotopes away by a score of 8-3 in front of 4,212 fans at Cheney Stadium. Home runs by Gordon Beckham and Mike Marjama accounted for four of the runs.

Photo by Rocky Ross

The Rainiers came out flat in their road-opener in Reno on Friday, May 4. Tacoma committed two errors, while scraping together six hits for their sole run of the ball game in a 10-1 defeat. Starting pitcher Rob Whalen had another rough outing, giving up eight earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. While Whalen managed to strike-out four Reno batters, he also issued five walks to the Aces.

The following night, Tacoma was able to rack-up 11 hits, but the four runs weren’t going to be enough, as Reno took the second game by a score of 7-4. Starting pitcher Max Povse was tagged for six earned runs on just four hits, while serving up six walks. The silver lining on the night was a solo blast by Daniel Vogelbach.

Reno didn’t let up the following night, dropping Tacoma by a score of 5-1. The Rainiers would muster just five hits, while drawing just a single walk. Tacoma batters were struck-out 10 times. Tacoma’s starting pitcher Christian Bergman (2-3) took the loss, giving up four earned runs and eight hits in his five innings of work.

Tacoma would get a little payback on Monday, May 7, but it wasn’t exactly a hit parade that got them a 3-1 victory. Elias dished-up six innings of solid work, while not allowing a single earned run. Vogelbach, Cameron Perkins and Zach Vincej had doubles on the afternoon, while Chris Hermann and Perkins accounted for all three runs batted in.

The following night, Tacoma began a four-game set against the El Paso Chihuahuas. Four runs in the top of the ninth inning powered the Rainiers to a 10-6 victory. After struggling for much of the season, Taylor Motter delivered a two-out, three-run home run in the ninth to push the Rainiers ahead. 

As of Tuesday, May 8, Tacoma’s leading hitter is Beckham with his .324 average. Ian Miller is not far behind at .320, with John Andreoli coming in at .316. Perkins is the only other Rainier currently above .300 with a .305 average.

Tacoma returns to Cheney Stadium on Thursday, May 17, against the Las Vegas 51s at 7:05 p.m. The Rainiers will play four games against the boys from Sin City, and then will host four games against El Paso.

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