By Steve Mullen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming off of their opening series loss in Sacramento by a 4 games to 1 margin, the Tacoma Rainiers edged the El Paso Chihuahua’s by a 2 games to 1 margin and split with Albuquerque, 2 games apiece for a 4 to 3 home stand and climb back to respectability with a 5 and 7 record with return matches with both El Paso and Albuquerque starting with a 3 game set with the Chihuahuas on Tuesday and ending against the Isotopes with a four-game set beginning in the New Mexico capital city on April 19.
Leading the charge for the Tacoma offense is third baseman Shed Long. The off season acquisition from the New York Yankees is hitting .372 on the season. (All the averages are through Sunday, April 14). Other big sticks for the Rainiers are shortstop PJ Crawford, obtained from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Jean Segura trade who checks in with a .325 average, center fielder Braden Bishop with a .324 average and right fielder Tito Polo at .286. On the mound right hander Ryan Garton currently carries a 2.45 era. Garton, who recently became a starter was called out of the bullpen to give the struggling Rainier pitching staff a big boost when it needed it most.
Struggling with 0-1 record and a 5.14 era, top prospect and hard throwing left hander pitcher Justus Sheffield is trying to find the mark with his mid to upper nineties fastball and devastating change with little success to this point. The consistent velocity usually comes to the hard throwing pitchers a month or so into the season so the concern at this point is at a minimum.
Waiting to return to the mound for Tacoma is another hard throwing fire baller, Gershon Bautista who is soon to comeback from a mild hip strain and will begin a couple of rehab outings in Tacoma before returning to the Mariners. (Pronounced Ger-shon). Aside from the shaky starts from the Rainier pitching staff, two games have defined the Rainier season to this point. Sunday the 14thof April saw Tacoma squander an 8-0 lead and eventually lose to Albuquerque by a score of 17-9 as the Isotopes would overcome an 8-7 deficit in the ninth ninth inning with a 10 run outburst in one of the strangest games seen at Cheney Stadium in quite some time.
On the flip side, Tacoma returned the favor by beating the Topes by a 10-0 score. Tacoma should get a real boost in the bullpen with the returning of former Rainier Matt Festa. The hard throwing right hander struggled with the Mariners with an era over 6 runs a game and will get many chances to right his ship, possibly as the team closer. Another possibility down the road could be right hander Justin Dunn who came touch the mid to upper nineties with his fastball to go with hard breaking slider and changeup. Dunn is currently at double A Arkansas who are currently in first place in the Texas League standings. The games can be heard on South Sound 850 with the play by play being handled by Mike Curto.