Seattle Mariners

Minor league notebook: Rainiers locked in PCL’s only playoff race

Despite being in first place every day of the season and holding the best record in the Pacific Coast League, the Tacoma Rainiers are in the league’s only tight playoff race.

Tacoma (69-50) entered Saturday’s action with a three-game lead over second-place Fresno, while third-place Reno remains in the hunt at 6 1/2 games behind Tacoma.

There are about two dozen games left in the regular season.

The league’s other three division races appear to be over.

The PCL’s sixteen teams are divided into four divisions, with only the division champions advancing to the playoffs. There are no wild cards.

Tacoma’s division — the Pacific-North — is the only division in which more than one team is over .500. Tacoma, defending league champion Fresno (66-53) and Reno (63-57) are all playing winning baseball.

The Pacific-North winner will play the winner of the Pacific-South, which almost certainly will be El Paso. El Paso (65-55) is eight games ahead of second-place Las Vegas. Mired in a five-game losing streak, Las Vegas (57-63) is more concerned with reaching .500 than catching El Paso at this point.

The American Conference is void of any pennant races. Oklahoma City (66-52) comfortably leads the North, where second-place Colorado Springs (57-59) is under .500. Nashville (69-51) is far ahead in the South, sporting the league’s second-best record and a 10 1/2-game lead over second-place Memphis (58-61).

As for the Rainiers, their playoff hopes are likely to come down to the last two weeks of the season: Tacoma’s final 13 games are against Fresno and Reno.

Top prospect sidelined

Low-A Clinton starting pitcher Luiz Gohara landed on the disabled list last week with a tight hamstring, although he is not expected to miss much time.

The left-handed Brazilian is regarded as the top pitching prospect in the Mariners system. The organization has been cautiously building the 20-year-old’s workload, waiting until the first week of July to send him to Clinton.

“Stuff-wise, pitching ability, he’s got to be our No. 1 guy,” says Mariners pitching coordinator Rick Waits. “Here’s a guy who has no trouble with command, he hits 96, 97 (mph) comfortably, and he has a wipeout curveball. Now he’s fallen in love with his changeup, which is a good thing.”

In seven starts for Clinton, Gohara is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He has struck out 49 and walked 14 in 41 2/3 innings.

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.