Rainiers return home within striking distance

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Tacoma slugger Daniel Vogelbach has been nothing short of amazing since being sent down from the Seattle Mariners. The stocky left-hander was named the Pacific Coast League’s player of the week for his work during the Rainiers’ last road trip. In eight games, Vogelbach batted .429, with nine runs scored, four doubles, five home runs and eight runs batted in. Photo by Rocky Ross

The Tacoma Rainiers may not be lighting up scoreboards and striking fear in the hearts of their rivals, but after 40 games it’s pretty clear that there’s quite a bit of fight in this ball club. After a grueling 13-game road trip, the Rainiers return home to the cozy confines of Cheney Stadium with a better winning percentage than when they left. No matter how you slice it, that’s always good news.

With a 7-3 mark over their last 10 games, the Rainiers are well within striking distance of the first-place Fresno Grizzlies. Tacoma is currently 20-20, and tied for second in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Divisioin with the Sacramento River Cats. Both clubs trail Fresno (24-16) by just four games in the standings. The Reno Aces (17-23) are currently sitting in the division’s cellar.

While a 7-6 mark on their recent road trip was enough to bring renewed hope to the Rainiers’ faithful fans, it’s what lies ahead that should have the folks around these parts a bit excited.

Tacoma will play 13 of their next 17 games at Cheney Stadium. If they have plans to keep up with Fresno in the standings, this is going to be a great opportunity. As a matter of fact, if they can catch a little fire at home, they could begin closing the gap between themselves and the Grizzlies.

Ian Miller skies for the out. Photo by Rocky Ross

When we last caught up with the Rainiers, they were gearing up for their second game against the El Paso Chihuahuas, on Wednesday, May 9. The Tacoma bats came alive for 14 hits and scored eight runs. Despite committing three errors on the night, the Rainiers were able to hold off a late Chihuahua rally to secure the 8-5 win. Home runs by third baseman Taylor Motter and first baseman Cameron Perkins helped to power the win, with starting pitcher Rob Whalen getting back on track with a fine performance over six innings of work. Whalen earned his fourth win of the season by striking out seven Chihuahuas, while walking just two and yielding just one earned run.

The Chihuahuas struck back the following night in a big way. El Paso knocked Tacoma’s Max Povse around for eight earned runs in just two innings of work. After walking seven El Paso batters, the loss dropped Povse to 1-6 on the season. Tacoma designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach notched his fourth home run of the season, with catcher Chris Herrmann blasting his second.

Tacoma got the better of El Paso in their series closer with an 8-3 victory. Motter notched his third home run of the season, with second baseman Gordon Beckham adding his fourth. Starting pitcher Christian Bergman went six innings, striking out five Chihuahuas, while giving up just one earned run.

The Rainiers ran into a road block the following night in their series-opener against Sacramento. The River Cats scored all of their runs in the final three innings to take a 6-1 victory. Sacramento’s pitchers held Tacoma to just four hits. However, one of them was Vogelbach’s fifth home run of the season in the first inning. Starting pitcher Roenis Elias pitched 5.2 innings, surrendering three earned runs, while striking out seven River Cats.

Shortstop Zach Vincej is looking to get back into the groove he had early in the season. Photo by Rocky Ross

The teams would play a doubleheader on Sunday, May 13. Tacoma took the opener by a score of 3-2. Herrmann hit a two-run home run in the third inning to put the Rainiers on the board, while Vogelbach notched his sixth home run of the season in the sixth inning. Starting pitcher Ariel Miranda pitched five strong innings, giving up just one earned run, while striking out three Bees.

In the second-half of the doubleheader, Tacoma was unable to maintain a tie game going into the bottom of the ninth the following afternoon, and lost 5-4. Vogelbach continued his magic, hitting two home runs in the loss. Relief pitcher Shawn Armstong was saddled with the loss, giving up the final run of the ball game. 

On Monday, May 14, the Pacific Coast League announced that Vogelbach was its player of the week. The stocky slugger batted .429 in eight games, with nine runs scored, four doubles, five home runs and eight runs batted in. The lefty looks like he is doing everything in his power to get the call back up to the Seattle Mariners.

Tacoma scored runs in five innings of their Monday, May 14, game on their way to an 8-5 victory over Sacramento. Whalen recorded his fifth win of the season, despite giving up five earned runs in his five innings of work. Right fielder Jayson Werth hit his second home run of the season in the fifth inning with two runners on base.

The Rainiers would take the series win the following night with another 8-5 victory over the River Cats. Tacoma was assisted by four Sacramento errors. Relief pitcher Lindsey Caughel picked up the win, despite pitching just 1.1 innings. 

Tacoma returns to action on Thursday, May 17, when they welcome the Las Vegas 51s to Cheney Stadium at 7:05 p.m. It will be the beginning of a four-game series with the boys from “Sin City,” followed by a four-game tilt on Tyler Street against El Paso.

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