After a brief hiatus to the midwest this weeks (softball tourney), I caught a standby 6 a.m. flight to try and make it back for the Tacoma Rainiers final game of the season. And it was well worth the 4 a.m. wakeup call to do so. In one of the more special situations in sports, it all came down to the final game to decide the league title.
Basically the winner of the Rainiers-Colorado Sky Sox game would win the PCL Pacific Northwest division title and advance to the PCL playoffs to play the Sacramento River Cats. Fans packed Cheney Stadium and the Rainiers didn't disappoint, breaking open a close game in the last few innings and rolling to an 11-2 win.
I didn't cover the game, though I'm working on a feature story on Rainiers manager Daren Brown for tomorrow. But Grant Clark filed this game story. And our stellar columnist John McGrath was also there and wrote a great column about the Rainiers and all that they accomplished this season.
It appears as though Brandon Morrow, who was supposed to be called up to pitch Friday in Texas with the Mariners may stay with the Rainiers for one more start as he has been listed in the playoff rotation for the Rainiers. The pitching match-ups are as follows.
Wednesday at Cheney Stadium 7 p.m. -- RHP Chris Grissell (0-1, 3.52 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Seddon (9-8, 4.51 ERA)
Thursday at Cheney Stadium, 7 p.m. -- RHP Chad Reineke (9-4, 4.75 ERA) vs. LHP Garrett Olson (2-3, 4.94 ERA)
Friday at Sacramento, 7:05 p.m. -- RHP Jerome Williams (5-6, 5.58 ERA) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (5-3, 3.60 ERA)
Saturday at Sacramento, 7:05 p.m. -- RHP Shawn Chacon (8-4, 6.29 ERA) vs. RHP Gaby Hernandez (10-9, 5.23 ERA)
Sunday at Sacramento, 1:05 p.m. -- RHP James Simmons (7-7, 5.52 ERA) vs. To be Determined.If you are interested in attending the playoff games, you can click here to purchase tickets. They have gone on sale. And if you haven't been there, Cheney Stadium is a cool little place to watch a game.
Here's a few thoughts about the game and the season.
- On August 22, the Rainiers were 7 1/2 games out of first and they won nine straight games on the road.
- Rainiers manager Daren Brown deserves a ton of credit for what this team has accomplished this season. Being a Triple A manager isn't simple. Because your roster can change at any moment - and there's nothing you can do about it. You are at the mercy of the organization. You can lose players and add them at any time, and Brown has to find to keep it seamless. During the course of the season, the Rainiers lost Jeff Clement, Mike Morse, Michael Saunders, Jason Vargas, Randy Messenger, Doug Fister, Chris Burke, Chris Woodward and added Jerry Owens, Brad Nelson, Alex Cintron.
- Along these lines, Brown had to also balance a roster hat at times featured five or six first baseman and find at-bats for Nelson, Bryan LaHair, Mike Carp, Chris Shelton, Clement and keep them happy. That's not easy to do. But he found a way to make it work, getting Shelton to play third, LaHair and Nelson to play in the outfield.
- Speaking of LaHair, the guy was clearly one of the leaders of the Rainiers. And if I had to vote on a team MVP, he'd get it. He hit .289 with 28 doubles, 26 home runs and 85 RBI. He did strike out 116 times this season, and his OBP was still around .354, but his slugging was up .535. But importantly, he played wherever the Rainiers asked. Also his overall attitude about being in Triple A was something that rubbed off on players. LaHair along with Prentice Redman were the backbone of the team.
- Expect the Rainiers to get infielder Callix Crabbed and left-handed pitcher Nick Hill for the playoffs as well.
- I sat with Jack Zduriencik for a few innings. He was there with Tony Blengino, Dave Wallace and John Boles. I also talked with him after the game and he stressed the importance of learning to win in the minor league level, saying it was important to a player's development.
- The players were truly enjoying the experience and playing in meaningful games. As Jamie Burke said, "Nobody wants to be in Triple A, we all want to be in the big leagues. But if we are here, then we might as well win."
- Colorado called up right-hander Samuel Deduno, who was the Texas League pitcher of the year with Double A Tulsa after going 12-4 with a 2.57 ERA. The guy has an absolutely nasty breaking ball that impressed Zduriencik when we were sitting there. Deduno got squeezed on a 2-2 pitch to Prentice Redman with two outs that probably should have ended the inning, instead the Rainiers got a bases loaded walk and a double from Brad Nelson to get three runs. It could have easily been no runs and a different game.
- Sal Fasano is the starting catcher for the Sky Sox and Mark Bellhorn is on the team as well. Fasano has one of the best mugshots of I've seen.