Rainiers picking up steam in Northern Division race


By Steve Mullen – news@tacomaweekly.com


Justus Sheffield
Credit: Jeff Halstead

The Rainiers, after getting of to a slow start in April, have righted the ship in early May by winning five of their past eight games with the latest being a 12-8 slugfest against the Albuquerque Isotopes on May 6 at Cheney Stadium in front of 2,697 fans on a warm 70-degree night.

Top prospect Justus Sheffield rebounded from a rough start last week in Salt Lake City with a 5.1-inning outing that saw his vaunted fastball touching 95-96 miles per hour for most of his outing. “I had good footwork on the mound tonight. I have been working on that for the better part of season,” said the rangy left hander, who picked up his first win of the season and lowered earned run average to 3.76. Sheffield also credited his outing to his internal focus throughout the game.

“I have to maintain it constantly every fifth day. It’s a reward to toe the rubber every fifth day and staying focused is a huge factor.”

The difference in the game offensively for Tacoma was shortstop J.P Crawford, who drove in six runs and went four for five at the plate. “When I first got called up in 2017 in Philadelphia, I learned one thing right off the bat. If you do not produce on a regular basis, a lot of people will let you know about it, especially in a sports city like Philly.”

Crawford also stressed the importance of another thing that we all adhere to in our daily lives – being on time every day at the ballpark and getting all of your practice work done. “It’s paid off for me to this point in my career,” he said.

When all was said and done after the three-hour and 38 minute, nine-inning marathon, manager Darren Browne reflected on both Sheffield and Crawford. “Sheffield was really on his game tonight, with the exception of his 23-pitch second inning, and he’ll only get better from here,” said the veteran Tacoma skipper.

Browne also reserved some praise for Crawford’s work of late. “J.P. has put in a lot of work to this point of the season and it is showing on a daily basis.” Crawford is hitting .321 on the season.

The Rainiers received some more good news earlier when left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone was awarded the Pacific Coast League’s pitcher of the week award. His week was capped off by his stellar seven-inning shutout work of Albuquerque on May 5.

“It’s a great award and I thank all my teammates playing behind me,” said Milone, who has been the steadiest pitcher on the staff to this point of the season. The crafty lefthander, who has pitched in the major leagues for the better part of eight years, credits his success with Tacoma to a couple of different factors. “You have to be able to improve game to game and stay consistent with your delivery until you are real satisfied with it,” he said.

With his season to this point, Milone points to some other factors that have contributed to his success. “My confidence level has been sky high so far this year and I am hoping that at some point I get another shot to finish my career at the big league level. With that being said, I would like to thank my teammates here in Tacoma for playing real well behind me. And every time I put on this uniform here in Tacoma, I will compete on each pitch.”



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