Mariners Insider Blog

Eighteen innings of Tacoma Rainiers baseball, a 1,000 tweet limit and Danny Hultzen's solid start

One of the great things about baseball is that there is no time limit. One of the worst things about covering baseball is that there is no time limit. But apparently there is a Tweet limit which I found out last night.

Last night/this morning I was once again reminded of that in an extreme way. The Tacoma Rainiers defeated the Sacramento River Cats 2-1 in 18 innings.

Yes, 18 innings. It tied a Rainiers record set on Aug. 1, 1999.  I was live tweeting my usual brand of snark and game updates, until Twitter shut me down in the 15th, having exceeded a 1,000 tweet limit over 24 hours. Didn't know they had that. But now I know.

So I couldn't tweet and offer updates when Scott Savastano, a utility infielder, came in and pitched a scoreless top of the 18th retiring the River Cats in order. Then in the bottom of the 18th, Savastano ripped a 3-2 sort of fastball off of Sacramento outfielder Shane Petersen over the left field wall to not only give him the win on the mound, but the game-winning home run.

It was crazy ending to a crazy game. It's kind of a running joke among sports writers and editors at the News Tribune, other local media and Rainiers staff about the coincidence of extra inning games when I'm covering. A jinx? Maybe. The last Rainiers game I covered went 13 innings and a few years ago I covered three straight extra inning games.

But none of that came to mind when I convinced our intern T.J. Cotterill to switch my Thursday game assignment for his Wednesday assignment.

When I arrived at Cheney Stadium, I didn't think that I was in store for 18 innings of goodness. After all, the Rainiers went 13 innings on Tuesday night, losing to Sacramento in a 4-hour and 43-minute marathon. And it was a night when top Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen and surging A's prospect Dan Straily were getting the starts.

Both were good to great as expected .... (more on that later).

But they were overshadowed by the ultra-marathon game that eclipsed the Tuesday game in terms of time limit . The game lasted 5 hours and 32 minutes, smashing the previous season-high record set the night before.

The numbers are crazy ...

It was the fourth extra inning game the Rainiers played on this homestand. Tacoma played 16 extra innings in those games.

The teams used a combined 13 pitchers, who threw 535 total pitches.  They combined to give up 17 hits, strike out 37 hitters and walk 16.

The Rainiers struck out a season high 21 times. Both teams combined to go 0-19 with runners in scoring position and stranded 26 runners. Eight players had eight plate appearances.

Worst batting lines on the night ...

For Tacoma

  • Nick Franklin: 0-for-6 with five strikeouts (Is that a platinum sombrero?) with a walk, four runners stranded.
  • Mike Wilson: 0-for-7 with three strikeouts, five runners stranded.
  • Vinnie Catricala: 0-for-6 with two strikeouts, two runners left on.
For Sacramento
  • Michael Taylor: 0-for-8 with four strikeouts, five runners left on, grounded into DP
  • Kila Ka'aihue: 0-for-6 with two strikeouts, two walks and four runners left on, grounded into DP
  • Daric Barton: 1-for-7 with a strikeout and four runners left on

But lost in all those pitches, all those scoreless innings, all those strikeouts and botched scoring chances were the showings of the starting pitchers … who were

Danny Hultzen gave the Tacoma Rainiers his best start since joining the team in mid-June. The heralded Mariners pitching prospect threw six solid innings, allowing just one run on three hits, while striking out eight and walking two.

But it wasn’t enough to get the win.

His counterpart - surging A’s pitching prospect Dan Straily – turned in a better effort, pitching eight innings allowing just one run on two hits, while striking out eight.

And that wasn’t enough to get the win.

While the outcome was historic and long, more importantly to the Mariners’ organization and its fans was the continued progression of Hultzen at the Triple A level.

The six innings pitched represented his longest outing with the Rainiers. Realistically, he might have been able to go even deeper into the game.

He was outstanding for the first five innings, allowing just a pair of singles and no runs, while striking out seven against a lineup that featured seven players with big league experience.

He looked every bit like the prospect he’s been touted to be. His fastball command was much better, while he showed good movement with his curveball and changeup.

But in the sixth inning, things went south. Hultzen left a first-pitch 89 mile per hour fastball – one of the slowest of the outing – up in the strikezone and Sacramento’s Jermaine Mitchell, one of the two players who hasn’t played in the major leagues, ripped it over the wall in right for a solo homer.

A one-out throwing error by shortstop Nick Franklin, followed by back-to-back walks loaded the bases. But Hultzen helped himself by being an athlete. A mix-up on signs with catcher Brandon Bantz led to a fastball that went to the screen. However, Bantz hustled to the passed ball, picked it up and fired it to a sliding Hultzen at the plate, who blocked and tagged out Collin Cowgill before he could touch home. Hultzen then struck out Michael Taylor on a nasty curveball to end the inning and his outing.

Hultzen threw 95 pitches on the night with 55 of them for strikes. Here's some more numbers ...

Hultzen threw 72 fastballs with 44 for strikes. He threw 12 breaking balls, six for strikes. He threw 11 changeups, five for strikes.  He had nine swing and misses - 2 on fastballs, four on breaking balls and three on changeups.

I don't know that throwing that many fastball is a good thing. But it was evident that Hultzen wanted to establish command with his fastball. When he did try and get the fastball to run away from lefthanded hitters, it tended to dive well away. Still, it was his best fastball commanded he's had since being in Tacoma.  The changeup and curnveball were both outstanding. You want to see him throw both pitches more.

If Hultzen was good, Straily was better. The Springfield, Ore., native might not have the hyped pedigree of a first-round pick like Hultzen. But Straily, a 24th- round pick out of Marshall University, might be in the major leagues sooner.

The 23-year-old right-hander pitched dominated the first eight innings, allowing just one hit – a Mike Carp double in the first inning – while striking out eight and holding Tacoma scoreless. With the eight strikeouts, he now has struck out 162 batters in 126 1/3 innings between Double A and Triple A this season – the most in all of baseball.

River Cats manager Darren Bush sent Straily out for the ninth to get the complete game shutout. But instead Straily pitched himself out of a decision. He gave up a lead-off double to Darren Ford to start the inning. Bush then called veteran right-hander Rich Thompson to secure the win. But Thompson couldn’t do it. Nick Franklin bunted Ford over to third and Mike Carp hit a line drive fly ball into left that was just deep enough to score Ford from third on a tag up.