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Minor League Playoff Special: Day Four

A season ends, a season extends


Today, for the first time in this postseason run, the Mariners affiliates failed to reach .500 in their assorted games. Only one of the four teams in action today brought home a win (the AquaSox were off). Boo! However, the team that did win also captured a division championship. Yay! Here’s how it all went down:

Tacoma Rainiers 4 - El Paso Chihuahuas 5 (AAA)

El Paso wins series, 3-1

The Rainiers’ season came to an end Saturday night when they fell to the El Paso Chihuahuas, 5-4.

Tacoma led for the vast majority of the game and things seemed headed for a decisive fifth game, but El Paso rallied for three runs in the 7th and 8th innings, with a two-run home run off the bat of PCL MVP Hunter Renfroe being the final dagger.

Al Alburquerque, who surrendered the home run, took the loss for the Rainiers. Alburquerque’s time with the Mariners has been short and bad and he has looked nothing like the pitcher that put up 1.9 bWAR a couple years ago. Of course, this should be a given, considering he was pitching for a Triple-A team in September.

Rob Brantly, Stefen Romero, and Dan Vogelbach carried the Rainiers’ offense. Brantly stroked three singles and drove in a run. Romero had two hits, including a home run in the fifth that gave the Rainiers a 4-2 advantage. Vogelbach drove in two runs in a 1 for 4 night.

With the loss, several players are likely to join the Mariners in Los Angeles. Cody Martin, Romero, and Vogelbach are some of the more likely options.

Kudos to the Rainiers on a long, crazy, successful season. They underwent far more roster turnover than any other team in the system (remember Ed Lucas, Efren Navarro, and Justin De Fratus?), but managed to hold their first place standing the entire way. A severe lack of reliable arms really hindered them down the stretch, but they nearly made a serious run at it.

Jackson Generals 8 - Montgomery Biscuits 2 (AA)

Jackson WINS divisional series, 3-1, and advances to Southern League Championship

After stumbling late yesterday, Jackson came roaring back today with a decisive win over the Biscuits. It took all of three batters for Jackson’s lineup to get to Montgomery’s starter Hunter Wood, when Tyler O’Neill blasted his third home run of the series, a two-run laser beam, followed by a solo shot off the bat of Ryan Casteel. Montgomery answered in the bottom of the first by tagging Jackson’s starter Bryan Evans for a run on a walk and two singles, but that is all Mongtomgery would get off of Evans, a late addition to the Generals roster who played most recently for the independent league Lancaster JetHawks. The 29-year-old journeyman was outstanding, going six innings with eight strikeouts and only issuing one walk (no matter where you are, if you post a killer K/BB ratio, Jerry will find you). Ryne Harper would come on to work two scoreless innings, striking out three, and Brandon Sisk, another late-addition indy-league journeyman, closed out the game.

For the first few innings, it looked like this would be yet another close game before the Generals blew the game open in the fifth. After Benji Gonzalez singled and Tim Lopes doubled, Wood intentionally walked Tyler O’Neill to load the bases for Dario Pizzano, who hit into a fielder’s choice as the Biscuits nailed Gonzaelz at home. Ryan Casteel then worked a four-pitch walk to force in a run, requiring Montgomery to dip into their bullpen early. Leon Landry, who had been fairly quiet this series, immediately smashed a single off reliever Yonny Chirinos to score O’Neill and make it 5-1 Generals, and then Tyler Marlette ripped a double to score two more runs. Adam Law swung at the first pitch he saw to shoot a single back up the middle and it was 8-1 Generals. Montgomery managed to get one run off Sisk in the ninth but they were never able to close the gulf Jackson opened in that fifth inning. The Generals will advance to the Southern League Championship Series for the first time since 2012 (the year of James Paxton and Taijuan Walker), looking for their first title since 2000, and will get to kick off the series at their home field. Game one will start at 4:05 PST on Monday.

Top Performers:

Tyler O’Neill, 3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, IBB

Ryan Casteel, 1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB

Tyler Marlette, 3-for-4, 2 RBI

Bryan Evans, 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks

Bakersfield Blaze 9 Visalia Rawhide 11 (A+)

Visalia leads best-of-five series, 1-0

Is this game my favorite fall soup, because it was BUTTERNUTS. Bakersfield fell behind early, when Visalia lit up Anthony Misiewicz for four runs in the first inning, including a three-run homer off the bat of Marty Herum. He would surrender another home run to Michael Perez in the bottom of the second and not make it to the third inning, being saddled with six earned runs overall. Spencer Herrmann took over in the third and gave up another three runs before being lifted for Ramon Morla and Joe Pistorese, who each allowed one run, for a grand total of...eleven? Yeowch. Joe Pistorese was the only Blaze pitcher who pitched a 1-2-3 inning, in the bottom of the eighth.

The Blaze offense finally got on the board in the fourth, when Joe DeCarlo doubled in Kyle Petty, and Braden Bishop followed with an RBI single to score DeCarlo. Gianfranco Wawoe then doubled in Bishop to cut the deficit in half, from 6-0 to 6-3. But by the time the Blaze scored again, on a Kyle Petty solo shot in the seventh, the Rawhide had collected 10 runs. The Blaze made it interesting in the ninth, when Justin Seager hit an RBI single to score two runs, and Ray Guerrini, who I honestly have not heard of before typing this recap, stepped in to face new pitcher Bud Jeter (a real person! I swear!) and promptly walloped a three-run home run to pull the Blaze within two. Sadly, the rally fell short, and the Blaze now face an 0-1 hole in the Northern Division playoff. Today’s game is at Visalia at 6:05 PM PST.

Top Performers:

Drew Jackson, 3-for-5, BB

Kyle Petty, 4-for-5, HR

Justin Seager, 3-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB

Braden Bishop, 2-for-3, RBI, 2 BB

Clinton LumberKings 3 - Cedar Rapids Kernels 9 (A)

Cedar Rapids leads best-of-three series, 1-0

Clinton was completely and utterly overwhelmed by Cedar Rapids in Game One of the best-of-three playoff series, 9-3.

The LumberKings actually managed to hop out to a 3-1 lead early and appeared to be in good shape with breakout pitching prospect Pablo Lopez on the mound, but things quickly went south. The Kernels scored in five consecutive innings at one point, including multi-run efforts in the third (2), fourth (2), and fifth (3) innings. Lopez finished the day with an ugly line of 3.1 IP, 10 H, BB, and 5 R. Reliever Rohn Pierce was responsible for a significant amount of damage, as well, allowing three runs on three hits in one inning of work.

The LumberKings did all of their damage on offense early, with Alex Jackson and Arturo Nieto lining RBI singles in the first. Nieto also drove in Clinton’s third/final run in the third inning on a fly ball that dropped in for a RBI single.

Clinton will need to win two consecutive games to advance to the championship series. A loss will end their season. Game two will be Sunday afternoon at Clinton.