PORTLAND – If you had to draw up a plan for how a team teetering on the brink of elimination would get itself back into the playoff hunt it wouldn’t look much different than what the Tacoma Rainiers have accomplished since Aug. 22.
Sunday afternoon they won their ninth Pacific Coast League game in as many days – 6-3 over the Portland Beavers – and with seven losses in eight games by the division-leading Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Rainiers have made up a 71/2-game deficit and find themselves in a share of first place in the Pacific North Division for the first time since early April.
It took outfielder Prentice Redman a second to grasp that his team had made up 71/2 games in the standings in a mere nine days.
“Is that what we did?” Redman asked. “That’s amazing.”
Manager Daren Brown put the team’s perfect road trip in another light as he prepared to return home for a now-critical eight-game, season-ending homestand with division rivals Salt Lake and, you guessed it, Colorado Springs.
“Basically that’s what we had to do if we wanted to get back in (the playoff race) and we did it,” Brown said. “If we’d have come back home down two or three we’d have felt good about it, but to come back now tied … obviously it doesn’t happen very often.”
Brown said his team seems to be hitting on all cylinders.
“It seems to be somebody different every night,” he said, “and when you talk about a club that gets going it’s usually a situation where it’s a different guy every night.”
Sunday afternoon Redman and starter Chris Seddon took their turns to stars as Tacoma finished a five-game sweep of the Beavers.
After sitting out two of the four games in the Portland series, Redman returned to the lineup with a vengeance, blasting a solo home run, scoring three runs and reaching base in all five appearances.
Seddon continued the Rainiers’ series-long streak of solid starting pitching to pick up his first win in a month. He allowed two runs in six innings and struck out one.
He said he was just feeding off his teammates’ strong performances.
“You see the guy before you doing it, it just makes you want to go out there and compete with the rest of your teammates as much as possible,” he said.
With the win, the Rainiers finished the season 13-3 against Portland. Tacoma’s nine-game winning streak is its longest since the team won 10 in a row July 29-Aug. 8, 2008.
Seddon and Redman said they had never been on a team that had made up so much ground in so little time.
“It’s electric in there,” Seddon said of the postgame clubhouse. “Everybody’s burning off of each other.”
Even the normally stoic Brown could be seen smiling before turning his attention to the task ahead.
“We took care of business here on the road and got ourselves in a good position going home, so we just need to take care of business at home,” Brown said.
Tacoma opens the penultimate series of the 2009 season at 7 p.m. today against Salt Lake at Cheney Stadium. Probable starting pitchers: Garrett Olson (2-2, 4.46 ERA) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (6-4, 5.56).