River Cats take three out of five in Tacoma


By Steve Mullen – news@tacomaweekly.com



Rainiers players, wearing uniforms paying homage to the Tacoma Giants of the 1960s, celebrate Eric Young, Jr. crossing home plate to win the game on April 28.
Credit: Jeff Halstead

Limping home from a tough road trip to El Paso and Albuquerque, the Rainiers were looking to turn their struggling fortunes around before heading back out on the road. Tacoma was not the only team to turn a so far sour early season around.

The Sacramento River Cats got the best of the Rainiers by taking three out of five games, dropping the home town nine to 9 and 16 on the young season as the team was still searching for answers to solve their early-season struggles both at the plate and on the mound.

The bright spots so far have been center fielder Braden Bishop, catcher Austin Nola, and second baseman Shed Long. After dropping the first two of the five-game set, Tacoma got back on track with a resounding 5-0 win that included a leadoff round tripper by Bishop, a third-inning solo shot by first baseman Joey Curletta, a team-leading fourth of the season from Nola and Orland Calixte chipped in with a long ball in the seventh inning.

Trying to even the series in game four, the Rainier would come up short by a score of 4-3 to set up the finale on Sunday afternoon. Tacoma would salvage the series with a 4-3 win with Bishop’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Eric Young Jr. with the winning run.

Looking for some bright lights in this otherwise slow start to the 2019 season, the Rainiers have benefitted from slow starts from other clubs in the division including the Fresno Grizzlies, who are hovering just above the .500 mark as we are about to enter the month of May. With some immediate help just around the corner with the AA Arkansas Travelers, Tacoma’s Pacific Coast League fortunes could be improving in the very near future.

Rainier Notes: Aforementioned help for Rainier fans is just around the corner. Justus Sheffield looked like he belonged in the bigs with a solid three-inning effort while the parent Mariners were giving a little relief to Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi, limiting his innings to save them for later in the season in case a playoff race ensues in the American League West. He is not far away. Right hander Justin Dunn, acquired in the off-season trade with the New York Mets involving Robinson Cano’s very large salary is blowing hitters away with his upper nineties fastball, averaging one strikeout per inning in his 30 innings to this point of the season.

Another player to keep in mind is Ricardo Sanchez, who was acquired from the Anaheim Angels in the past off season. Sanchez is basically on the same track as Dunn, averaging one strikeout per inning at right around 30 strikeouts to go with 30 innings pitched. Both are starters who would be able to join the Seattle rotation in the event of injuries or Mariner starters falling on hard times during a long stretch of starts.

With Felix Hernandez finding a semblance of his old rhythm and the hopeful emergence of a legitimate closer in the Mariner bullpen, we might have an eventful summer and fall in Seattle, one can only hope.

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