Somewhere in the rainy mess at Cheney Stadium on Thursday night, Carolyn Listach gave her husband the signal from the grandstands.
It was a thumbs-up — Reno lost.
And that meant manager Pat Listach and the Tacoma Rainiers finally clinched the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division championship.
It was right after 9:30 p.m. when Sacramento finished off a 3-1 victory over the Aces to hand the Rainiers their first divisional title since 2010.
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The team had to wait to celebrate, though. It took the Rainiers until after midnight to put away Fresno, 2-1, at Cheney Stadium thanks to a Ryan Strausborger RBI single in the 14th inning.
Tacoma will open a best-of-five PCL playoff series at El Paso on Wednesday.
But first, the Rainiers still have to finish off the regular season at home against Reno. That four-game series will conclude Monday. Many of the team’s regulars figure to get a game or two off before heading to the postseason.
“That is the most important part why you try and wrap it up — it gives guys a little bit of a break before playoffs,” Rainiers utility man Daniel Robertson said.
It has been quite a season for all of the Mariners’ minor league teams. All seven of them clinched playoff spots — with the Rainiers being the final one to do so Thursday.
Double-A Jackson and Single-A Clinton clinched postseason berths in June. The rest of them — advanced Single-A Bakersfield, short-season Single-A Everett, the Arizona League Mariners and the Dominican Summer League Mariners all sewed up spots in the past week.
“I don’t think anybody anticipated seven teams in the playoffs,” Pat Listach said. “Anybody in their right mind would … think there’s no chance we could do that. To be (in position) to do that meant something to everyone in the organization, from top to bottom.”
Before the game Thursday, finally clinching the wire-to-wire PCL Pacific Northern championship was a hot topic in the clubhouse.
A few of the players talked about the in-clubhouse celebration.
“I’ve never popped a bottle (of champagne) and celebrated,” Tacoma reliever Paul Fry said. “We’ve been close. It’s really cool to be able to do it tonight.”
Fry, along with shortstop Tyler Smith, are the only two players to have been with the Rainiers all season.
“At the beginning of the year, the atmosphere around here was all about winning,” Fry said. “I know the makeup has changed a lot over the course of the season, but it is still the same attitude.”
The Rainiers will be on the road for the first two games of the playoffs, then return home for game three Sept. 9 at Cheney Stadium. The final two games, if necessary, will be in Tacoma.
Home playoff tickets will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m., and are available online or at the box office.
Catcher Rob Brantly (knee) was back in the lineup after missing the past two games. He was in the batting cage with hitting coach Scott Brosius early Thursday, and got the start at designated hitter. … Reliever Evan Scribner (back) was recalled from his rehab assignment, and activated from the 60-day disabled list by Seattle. … First baseman Dan Vogelbach extended his consecutive on-base streak to 28 games with a first-inning single Thursday. … It was “Tacoma Stars” nights at the ballpark Thursday. That indoor soccer season starts Oct. 29.
Ah, finally — the final four-game series of the regular season. And it is Reno that comes to town. Right-hander Cody Martin (10-7, 3.82 ERA) pitches for the Rainiers. Left-hander Anthony Banda (4-4, 3.92) counters for the Aces. All action can be heard on 850-AM.