For this season-ending series against Reno, Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach is filling out a lineup with a pencil and eraser.
After his team clinched a Pacific Coast League playoff spot Thursday against Fresno, he knows his key guys need rest.
“Everybody will get a day off between now and Monday,” Listach said.
As far as position players, that process already has started. Second baseman Mike Freeman got the day off Friday. First baseman Dan Vogelbach, who was under the weather when he came to Cheney Stadium, sat out Saturday’s 7-2 defeat — a loss that saw the Rainiers surrender another 14 hits to a Reno team that’s had their number all season.
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Expect everyday shortstop Tyler Smith to get some rest over the final two games.
As far as the bullpen, Listach said he needed to get left-hander David Rollins and right-hander Andrew Kittredge at least two days off before pitching again.
“The bullpen is taxed right now,” Listach said.
The decisions are all geared to get the Rainiers fully ready — and healthy — before their best-of-five Pacific Coast League playoff series against El Paso, which starts Wednesday.
The Rainiers enjoyed good success against the Chihuahuas this season, winning three of the four head-to-head series — and going 2-2 in the other one. Overall, Tacoma won 11 of the 16 games.
“We’ve matched up with them pretty good,” Listach said. “The last time we went in there (Aug. 3-6) they were playing well — and we won three of the four games.
“What we did was score a lot of runs, which is not something we’ve been doing lately.”
Listach said the team is close to deciding who will pitch the opener Wednesday for the Rainiers. It is down to right-handers Jarrett Grube and Cody Martin.
Grube is 0-1 against El Paso this season, giving up six runs in nine innings (two separate games). Listach says he thinks Grube’s slider is a good weapon in the thin air of the west Texas ballpark.
Martin faced the Chihuahuas twice earlier in the season. One of those was his worst start of the year — he surrendered nine runs in two-plus innings on April 24.
“He’s been our best pitcher,” Listach said. “He may not have the most wins, but he has been our best pitcher.”
In Saturday’s loss, the Rainiers’ Nori Aoki hit a two-run homer that tied the game at 2 in the third inning, but Reno scored once in the fourth, once in the fifth and three times in the sixth to open a 7-2 lead.
Tacoma starter Zach Lee (0-9) allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Daniel Robertson went 2 for 4 for the Rainiers.
Listach has friends and his wife, Carolyn, in town for the weekend.
The group booked a dinner reservation well in advance Friday night at El Gaucho in downtown Tacoma.
When Listach finally arrived after a 2-1 loss to Reno, he was given a nice surprise by Rainiers president Aaron Artman — two bottles of red wine and a table full of appetizers.
Even with the night off, Vogelbach still has his 29-game on-base streak (.452 batting average over that span) intact. … Veteran catcher Rob Brantly (knee) was back behind the plate Saturday. He has only been playing at designated hitter after getting slid into Monday in a loss to Fresno. … Slugger Stefen Romero (hand) was back in the lineup after a four-game absence. … Listach was the runner-up in the voting for PCL manager of the year behind Steve Scarsone, who managed a young Nashville roster to the league’s best record.
The Rainiers and Reno will play the third game of the four-game series at 1:35 p.m. Sunday. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (3-2, 3.83 ERA) will pitch for Tacoma. Right-hander Matt Koch (4-2, 3.05) counters for the Aces. All action can be heard on 850-AM.