Sunday, April 30, 2006

Game Report: Rainiers vs. Bees - Doubleheader of Doom!

Today I went down to Tacoma to see the Rainiers play the Salt Lake Bees. I was a bit confused; last time I saw them, they were the Salt Lake Stingers. Now they have grey/yellow/black uniforms which remind me of the old Pittsburgh Pirates uniforms, and are pretty snazzy.

Due to the rain yesterday, today was a doubleheader, though with some weird constraints: first off, they were starting the game today at the point where it left off yesterday, in the top of the second inning with runners on first and third; secondly, yesterday's starters would be replaced by today's starters; thirdly, the second game of the doubleheader would only last seven innings.

I got to meet up with the Mariners Morsels guys, and as I see, Marc already has his game report up and Paul has his insane photo album post up. This would probably be because I live further away and I called a friend and went to dinner after sitting through 6 hours of Rainiers baseball, and so I'm finally getting to this stuff now, way past my bedtime.

Game 1, short version: The Bees took a lead early, as Kendry Morales walked twice and scored twice (though one of those walks happened yesterday, he scored both runs today). Jered Weaver pitched innings 2-7 for Salt Lake, and pun intended, he really IS the bee's knees, as he struck out 12 guys in 6 innings and pretty much overwhelmed the Rainiers. Eventually he came out, though, and the Rainiers ripped up the Bee Bullpen for 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th, much of which stemmed from a horrendous 5-3 play that both Casey Smith and Kendry Morales booched; there was also a bizarre rundown and a successful double steal in the fray. Emiliano Fruto came out and nearly decapitated Mike Napoli to start off the 9th inning, but settled down to close out the game and get the save, as the Rainiers won it 4-2.

Game 2, short version: It started about 15-20 minutes after the end of Game 1, but at least this time there was a clean slate. The Rainiers strung together a bunch of singles in the second inning and Asdrubal Cabrera batted into a double play and an RBI. Baek pitched 6 strong innings and didn't let a run go by until Casey Smith hit a double in the 6th and the next two batters bunted him in. In the bottom of the 6th, Mike Morse got plunked in the hip and subsequently scored after singles by Sears and Jones, but Marcus Gwyn struck out the next two guys to leave it at 2-1. Renee Cortez was unable to consistently throw strikes in the 7th inning, and loaded the bases and then walked in the tying run, and Casey Smith hit a sac fly to score Nick Gorneault for the go-ahead run. However, Cortez was not the only pitcher having a slow day, and in the bottom of the 7th, Bohn and Dobbs managed to get themselves positioned at 3rd and 1st, and Hunter Brown grounded out to the pitcher Jason Bulger, who threw the ball to first base and somehow it got away from Dallas McPherson, scoring Bohn and tying the game. As such, it went into "extra innings" -- that is, the 8th inning, where Dallas McPherson, having struck out five times already and probably feeling guilty about that error, launched a home run over the left field wall. Bang. The Rainiers couldn't pick anything up in the bottom of the 8th and lost it 4-3.

view from behind home plate with Asdrubal Cabrera batting
Sitting up front is really cool.

As I mentioned, I got to meet up with the Mariners Morsels guys. I sat with Paul and his wife and son for the first game about halfway up Section C. His son is like 4 years old and spent the whole game yelling "SWING BATTER BATTER BATTER BATTER!" and such. It was cute, but I have to admit if I had paid more than $7 to get into the game, I'd probably want to kill him. Still, it amused most of the people around us. I think Paul should bring his kid to Philly someday, though he'd also have to teach him how to boo.

Paul and his family decided to leave after the first game, but we went and found Marc W, and so I sat with Marc for the second game. Sitting with Marc was really interesting, not just because it was cool to get to talk to him about all kinds of baseball stuff, but also because he had seats up in the home plate box area, like literally three rows back from the foul ball netting. At one point I simply walked up and took some pictures from right inside the screen, like the one above.

Clint Nageotte was sitting across the aisle from us, charting pitches. Francisco Cruceta was sitting in the row in front of him holding a radar gun. I tried to discreetly take a picture of them because I felt a little weird about it, but this is the best I could do. Dustin Moseley and one of the other Salt Lake pitchers were sitting a few rows behind them with their own pitch chart papers and radar guns. I had no idea that pitchers had to do stuff like that on their non-starting days. Paul had given Marc a few 8x10 prints of a picture of Nageotte pitching during the Rainiers' opener, and between the first two innings we went over and got him to sign them. I have to admit, Clint Nageotte is actually pretty cute when he's sitting there in jeans and casual clothes and isn't like, dripping sweat while pitching in a Mariners or Rainiers uniform. Several times during the game when the Rainiers did something cool, I'd cheer and smile and glance around at people and then have to remind myself, you're grinning like an idiot at an MLB pitcher, even if he just looks like another dude in the stands.

A few sections over from us were all the players' wives; Marc said at one point, "See that little kid running down the aisle there? That's Shin-Soo Choo's son." It was just pretty neat. I've been to Cheney a bunch of times, but never sat up so close.

The second game was actually fairly empty and really low-key, too -- at one point during the 5th inning, someone yelled, "IT'S TOO QUIET!"

Jered Weaver is amazing. I wish I'd been sitting way up front to see him pitch. He's got this sort of crazy motion and looks all contorted and stuff, but the Rainiers totally couldn't figure him out for the most part, and when they did get a good smack off him, it was generally nullified by the huge confines of Cheney Stadium, where a home run elsewhere would usually bounce off the high walls for a double here. It's just sad that their bullpen and fielding imploded and lost the game for him. Also, he totally looks like he's trying to mimic his older brother's hairstyle.

Asdrubal Cabrera is a stud. It'll be interesting to see what happens with him this year. His fielding is pretty awesome, and his batting approach is great so far as well; he was the only Rainier to manage a walk off Jered Weaver.

Adam Jones is really interesting to watch develop as an outfielder. He *is* really athletic and can cover a ton of ground; at one point he and Morse converged on a ball that totally should have been Morse's, and yet Jones got to it first, though I think the ball actually hit the wall for a double. His instincts are decent, and will probably get better with time.

Greg Jones, the Bees pitcher, totally reminded me of a throwback sort. He had high socks and for some reason, watching him warm up, I almost felt like I was seeing pictures of an old-time pitcher like Cy Young or someone, in his motion and followthrough. It was weird. He also got beat up by the Rainiers in that first game, but I still found him interesting to watch.

Two Bees managed to get themselves ejected in the games, both for arguing strikeouts. McPherson argued his in the first game and got tossed, though I couldn't see it well enough from up in Section C to tell whether it was a good or bad call. In the second game, Brian Specht argued a called third strike, and sitting close up this time, I think he was actually dead right -- the pitch nearly hit him in the shins, it was pretty low and inside. Specht got ejected, and the manager came out to back him up. Ahhh, minor league umpires -- how we eagerly await your return to the field!

I think the second game would have been a great one for a Win Expectancy graph, mostly due to the last two innings. I'm curious how much McPherson's error vs. McPherson's home run would have scored him eventually, combined with all his strikeouts. Considering that if the play at first was fielded cleanly, Hunter Brown would have been out and the game would have been over, it's got to have some huge effect on the WExp.

I don't get why Aaron Looper is still pitching for us. Well, I suppose I do -- but still, McPherson really crushed that pitch. It was huge.

I couldn't come up with a new Rainiers player to adopt, so I'm still adopting Hunter Brown for this year, and yet, my presence seems to curse him. I suppose maybe I could adopt T.J. Bohn, though I think some other bloggers already have him claimed. I'm not sure. Maybe Scott Youngbauer -- when I adopted Hunter Brown he was hitting a pathetic .148 or so and raised it to a respectable .291/.366/.448 by the end of the year, so maybe if I adopt Scott Youngbauer, he'll take his .125 and raise it to something that doesn't suck.

Anyway, overall, I had a lot of fun. Doubleheaders are neat.

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