James Paxton hurled six shutout innings, Chris Taylor doubled twice, and the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers edged out the El Paso Chihuahuas, 3-1. The Rainiers improved to 10-3 on the year with the victory, putting them up 2.5 games up in the American Northern division.
Paxton–who turned in two rough outings to start the season–was brilliant, allowing just three hits and no walks on 71 pitches (48 strikes). He only struck out three in the performance, but his command was significantly better as he lived on the edges of the zone throughout the game. The Chihuahuas will probably end up being one of the weaker teams in AAA this season, but it was still a solid performance for Paxton, who needed a good start to build off in the worst way. At one point he did this:
It was a pretty impressive sequence of breaking balls and fastballs. Catcher Rob Brantly wanted the fourth pitch buried and Paxton missed badly, but no harm, no foul.
Blake Parker pitched a scoreless ninth to secure his fourth save of the season. Tacoma's heavily bearded closer is yet to allow a run in five innings this season.
Offensively, the Rainiers were paced by Chris Taylor and Efren Navarro, who both tallied two base hits and a RBI. Dario Pizzano and Rob Brantly chipped in two hits of their own, as well.
The Rainiers play two more in El Paso before coming home for a four game series against Sacramento.
To the notes!:
- Rob Brantly looked decent behind the plate today. He made a few tough stops and gunned down a couple of runners who took off on balls in the dirt. I can't imagine the gap between him and Steve Clevenger was very large coming out of Spring Training and it's nice to know there's a perfectly serviceable backup plan if Clevenger doesn't pick it up soon. He hasn't been too shabby with the bat either, going 5 for his last 14 with 3 RBIs and a homer.
- Mike Zunino went 0 for 4 to drop his average down to .413 but it was against AAA pitching and therefore doesn't count.
- Chris Taylor is at war with El Paso's unrealistically large mascot.
We have video of the Chris Taylor-Chico the Chihuahua incident. Better quality than the Zapruder film, & in Spanish: https://t.co/zPjVuEK3xX— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) April 20, 2016
- It didn't end there.
- Leon Landry hit a walk-off single in Double-A Jackson's 4-3 victory over Birmingham. The former LSU Tiger is now hitting .302/.375/.419 and could be in Tacoma within the next month or so. At 26 years old, he's not much of a prospect anymore, but that doesn't prevent him from being fun as hell to watch.
- D.J. Peterson picked up a couple more hits and is slowly making up for a really slow start. He's now at .231/.273/.346 and has been driving the ball more in recent games. Not many strikeouts, either. Good things could be coming there.
- Marcus Littlewood tallied three hits and is now slashing .316/.381/.421 over a very tiny sample size (18 at-bats). Marcus, you have my total and complete permission to be a late bloomer.
- Tyler O'Neill has three walks in his last two games. No, I don't know what the hell is going on, either. But honestly he appears to be recognizing breaking pitches much better this year, and that bodes very well for his future. If he can start squaring them up, watch out.
- Braden Bishop went 2 for 4 in Class-A Clinton's 6-4 victory over Peoria, bumping him up to .260/.327/.280. Most importantly, Bishop has four walks in 51 plate appearances this season; he had five in 248 plate appearances in Everett last year.
- High-A Bakersfield Blaze lost another low-scoring contest, falling to Modesto, 1-0. Drew Jackson and Austin Wilson had a hit, but not much else happened for the offense. Tyler Pike was brilliant on the mound, twirling seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball. There's not a ton of good offensive stuff happening down in Bakersfield right now. Brock Hebert is slashing .324/.432/.486.
Things are good on the farm, Pa. Things are good.