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Midshipmen’s Log 6/14/22: Harry Ford breaks out, Bryce Miller stays unhittable, Joe Rizzo is red hot

Also: Tacoma walks it off, and more fun

Erick Mejia walks it off for Tacoma
Jeff Halstead

Welcome back to another edition of the Midshipmen’s Log! We promised that we would start including the complex league scores here, but since the ACL Mariners are currently [checks notes] tied for last place among the 18 complex league teams, maybe we’ll give the Baby Mariners and Marineritos a little more time to get their footing. (The DSL Mariners are actually currently faring much better than their stateside counterparts, with a 4-2 record). Also, John is still out of town so we’re stretched thin on the MSL as it is. But on to the interesting things that happened this week, for there are many of them:

Modesto (27-30) makes loss sandwich, split series with Inland Empire (28-29) 3-3

The Nuts might have split this series, but they absolutely hammered IE’s (LAA) pitching staff in the last two games of the series, hanging a total of 21 runs on the 66ers in those two games. Of course, they also gave up a fair few runs themselves, but let’s focus on the positive. Modesto opened the series with a bang, winning 6-2 behind another strong start from William Fleming, who surrendered just one run over five innings. Modesto’s pitching staff actually got away with some wildness—walking more batters (7) than they struck out—but the bullpen held down the fort, allowing just one run over their combined five innings. On an off day for offensive leader Edwin Arroyo, Harry Ford got back on track with a third-inning solo home run, leading the charge from the top of the lineup; behind him, Walking Cabrera, batting in the two-hole for Arroyo, had a double, Jonatan Clase continued his strong streak with two hits including a triple, and Robert Pérez Jr. had two hits including a double. Brett Rodriguez also hit his third homer of the year on a two-hit day.

After that thrilling initial win, things went downhill for the Nuts in Games 2-4 of the series. The Nuts got smoked 2-10 in Game 2 as Jimmy Kingsbury had an uncharacteristically shaky start, giving up six runs with Brayan Pérez struggling behind him in relief. Offensively, the Nuts struggled to get anything going off LAA’s #15 prospect Jack Kochanowicz other than a few singles (Arroyo, David Sheaffer, and Clase - and Clase was erased on a caught stealing, his fourth of the season); Sheaffer was the day’s offensive hero with three hits.

Game 3 was a narrower loss, 3-1, but the Nuts offense couldn’t overcome the three runs given up by starter Jordan Jackson over his 4.2 innings of work. Connor Von Scoyoc, who has a brother named Spencer who is a pitcher in the Phillies system, shut the Nuts down over six innings, striking out seven. Modesto’s lone run came on an Amador Arias single and three-base error that allowed him to score. Ah, the joys of low-A baseball. Oh, and Sam Carlson made a scoreless appearance in this game! That’s a good thing.

Back to a blowout loss for Game 4. Joseph Hernández has been the steady hand of Modesto’s rotation all season but struggled today, giving up four runs, walking more batters (4) than he struck out (3), and only lasting 3.2 innings. The real damage came against Yeury Tatíz, who was left out to weather the storm after Hernández’s early departure and surrendered six more runs over four innings. One offensive highlight from the 10-3 loss: Robert Pérez Jr. hit his 16th (!) bomb of the year.

On Saturday the Nuts decided they were tired of losing and the offense took out their frustrations on IE’s pitching staff, winning Game 5 14-3. Ben Ramirez started the scoring with a two-RBI double in the first, scoring Arroyo and Clase, and did the same thing in the third, except this time he scored Pérez in addition to Arroyo and Clase. Every Modesto hitter reached base somehow; Harry Ford had three walks, including a bases-loaded walk to score a run. In the ninth, Arroyo and Clase teamed up to go back-to-back jacks to put a final bow on the day. As good as the offense was, it was also nice to see starter Michael Morales, who got his third win of the season with a tidy five-inning, six-strikeout, no-walks scoreless performance, bounce back after a shaky stretch of road.

Modesto kept the good times rolling into Game 6; the 17-9 final score wasn’t as close as it looks, as a grand slam off reliever Holden Laws in the ninth accounted for four of those runs and another two of them came on a home run off Jorge Benitez in the eighth, after the game was well in hand for Modesto. William Fleming allowed three runs over his five innings of work but was quickly staked to a lead by his offense, who scored three runs in the third on a pair of homers from Amador Arias and Colin Davis. The Nuts would wind up collecting a season-high 20 hits in this game, with every batter recording at least a hit. But make no mistake, this was the Harry Ford Game: with Clase sliding back up into the leadoff spot and Ford settling into the three-hole, Harry went four-for-five with a walk, two triples and a home run. After Ford has scuffled a little to get things going again after coming back from injury, it was great to see him have a breakout game like this, and hopefully a good sign for things to come.

Next up Modesto faces a significantly tougher task in the Cal League south division leaders Lake Elsinore (SDP), but at least they’re playing them in Modesto so we’ll get to see video.

Everett AquaSox (27-29) changes Wikpedia article to declare themselves owners of Hillsboro Hops (26-29), pull off rare mega-series sweep

Whew! It is good to see the Frogs do good!

Everett has, unfortunately, won just one series this season, also against Hillsboro. Hillsboro entered the series with a 26-23 record, good for a narrow third place in the league. It was a record that, much like your 2021 Mariners, managed to be propped up by something other than scoring more runs, as they had a negative run differential that became only more negative after a fair trouncing by the Frogs.

Everett has now won 11 in a row against Hillsboro - I think it’s fair to say they have their number. This series saw strong performances on the mound, in the box, and in the field from the AquaSox - let’s dive in.

Game One: Everett hops up that hill, wins 7-1

Prelander Berroa took another start on the hill, and improved on his past results, particularly in command. The recent acquisition went for another four shutout innings, giving up three hits, two walks, while striking out four. He lowered his ERA for the season to 2.18.

The runs came slowly but surely for the AquaSox as they buried the Hops, with several regular contributors pitching in. It started early, as Dariel Gomez (power hitter??) hit his tenth home run of the campaign in the first inning, scoring Alberto Rodríguez, who reached on an infield single. In the fourth inning, Lookout Landing farm team of the month catcher, Andy Thomas, added a solo home run of his own, and Spencer Packard scored Victor Labrada on a single.

Gomez added another home run in the fifth, this one a solo shot, and Thomas added an RBI-double to round out the scoring.

We also saw a new top of the batting order today, with Packard leading off, Noelvi staying at second, Berto sliding in at third, Gomez cleaning up, and Thomas hitting fifth.

The only offense the Hops managed to scrape across was a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth off of noted Erik Swanson-imposter, Bryan Pall.

Game Two: Hillsboro reveals themselves to be a double agent, Everett wins 8-4

Everett got contributions from all around on Wednesday - every member of the lineup got on base today, no one more than Labrada, who worked a prodigious four walks. But in the end, only four of the runs scored by Everett were “earned” - it turns out, the Hops’ biggest enemies was themselves.

Gomez added another first-inning RBI with a groundout that proceeded a two-run Thomas home run that scored Berto to put the Frogs up 3-0. In the third inning, Parker tripled to score Berto again, putting Everett up 4-1 and concluding the “earned-runs” portion of the evening.

The sixth inning was the fateful inning, where Hillsboro self-imploded. As a hint, what happened rhymes with “free terrors and a mild witch.”

The first error came on a James Parker single, where a throwing error put him on second. A four pitch walk and a single later, the bases were loaded. A Cole Barr ground ball resulted in a throwing error from the third baseman, A.J. Vukovich, scored the first run and left the bases loaded, again. Unfortunately for Vukovich, history repeated itself immediately and he had another error three pitches later on a Packard ground ball, scoring the second run. A wild pitch gave Everett their third unearned run of the inning.

As a little bonus round, Vukovich, for good times, had another throwing error in the eighth inning that resulted in a run scoring.

Notably on the pitching side, we saw the return of Isaiah Campbell, out since late April. He threw a scoreless ninth inning, with two strikeouts.

Game Three: Miller stays electric, trounces Hops, Everett wins 4-2

Bryce Miller has been that dude this season. Another six fabulous innings of one-run ball from Miller lowered his ERA to 1.83 on the season, as he added another four strikeouts to his totals for the season. His fastball and his slider combine to be nearly unhittable when they’re both on - check the heat vs his breaking stuff here.

His heater touched 96, and notably, he got three of his strikeouts on that pitch.

The offense was relatively quiet (just six hits) and took time to get going, but was able to get the job done in the eighth inning after mustering just two singles through seven innings. Labrada finally put his excellent speed tool to good use. He laid down a beautiful bunt single to lead off the inning before stealing second base. Barr worked a walk, his third of the night, before a Packard single loaded the bases.

Welch hit a sac-fly to tie the game, and Berto sliced a single that put the Frogs up 2-1, though the not-especially-fleet-of-foot Packard was thrown out at home trying to score. With the Hops scoring another run in the bottom of the eighth, it was a run the Frogs could have used.

Luckily for them, the Hops had other plans, to the tune of three walks and a hit batter in the top of the ninth to clinch the game for Everett - a very low-minors end to a game.

Game Four: Everett walks around the bases on the way to an 9-3 victory

Riddle: How does a team score 9 runs on just six hits and one error?
Answer: 8 walks, apparently.

Everett’s offense, as noted in our State of the Farm’s, has been pacing the league, and in particular, in walks - they currently have recorded 261 walks, good for 40% more than the average of the other five teams in the league (186). Way to C that Z!

Everett hit four of their six hits in the sixth inning, where they scored six of their eight runs. Noelvi got the party started with a solo home run. Good to see him getting his power back.

Thomas singled to set the stage for another trio of walks, this time to Berto, Gomez, and Parker to walk in a run. Then, with the bases loaded, local kid Trent Tinglestad smashed a bases-clearing double before coming around on a double from NWL’s May Player of the Month, Justin Lavey.

In the seventh inning, Berto also came around to score from second base by way of a pair of wild pitches. Meanwhile, the ninth saw two more runs score on one single, two walks, and two hit batters.

Jimmy Joyce started on the mound, throwing 4.2 innings of two-run ball. Jarod BAyless, Evan Johnson, and Brendan McGuigan combined for the other 4.1 innings, combining for just one hit and zero runs.

Game Five: Déjà vu all over again, as Everett wins 5-2

Another day, another eight walks for Everett, I guess? This time, they actually hit enough to not need them, though, putting up nine hits of their own.

The first of which was the loudest - just listen to this leadoff home run from none other than the Pac-Man.

A Rodríguez single and a pair of walks left the bases loaded for Parker, who drove in one run on a single, while another scored on a throwing error from the left fielder for the Hops, Danny Oriente.

A Barr sacrifice fly in the fourth and a Noelvi single in the sixth scored the other two runs for Everett.

Sad news on the pitching side, as Juan Mercedes, off to a strong start, took a line drive off his wrist after three innings. Let’s hope it’s minor and he’s back soon - he’s been hot as of late, and looked good in this outing to start.

[Note from Kate: per Mercedes on Instagram, all is good [multiple prayer hands emoji]. Phew!]

The back end of the bullpen came in clutch in this game. Blake Townsend, Leon Hunter Jr. and Isaiah Campbell combined for four scoreless innings with just two hits surrendered between them, shutting down any chance of a Hops comeback.

Game Six: Frogs say “frodoitsdone.gif”, begin off-day nap early, complete sweep

This game was definitely interesting - as interesting as a 1-0 game that’s settled in the second inning can be, though.

Some tidbits - First, Berto got three of the five Everett hits! Love that for him. Each Everett pitcher gave up exactly one hit. The only run was scored on a not-hit, a Barr sacrifice fly to score Victor Labrada. Everett worked another seven walks and gave up just one of their own, versus 11 strikeouts from the staff.

The Hops only ever had three runners in scoring position, and only one after the fourth, so it wasn’t as though it ever felt particularly close. A bit of a snoozy game, well-deserved after all the energy Everett expended. Regardless, this was a great cap to a great series for the Frogs, hopefully one that gets their season back on track.

Up Next: Everett comes home to host the Spokane Indians (28-27). The Frogs will hope to continue this new-found hot streak and continue their climb out of the NWL cellar. -NV

Arkansas Travelers (31-26) make like the weather, heat up, win their fourth straight series over Wichita Wind Surge (32-23)

We have known how impressive the Travs pitching has been this season. That was no different this week. Taylor Dollard has pretty much cemented himself as the starter in the all-star game at this point, barring disaster. Connor Jones had two impressive starts after a shaky outing last time through the rotation. Emerson Hancock and Levi Stoudt had big outings too. The offense continues to heat up. Joe Rizzo had an outstanding week. Things are really clicking for the Travs as they picked up their fourth consecutive series win, something that is much more challenging when playing six-game sets.

Game One: Jones bounces back; big offensive inning carries Travs to 6-1 win

Good news, I don’t think my Space Jam/Thunderstruck theory has legs after all. I was a tiny bit concerned that Connor Jones somehow got magic powers that made him nearly unhittable for May, and they were due to wear off as soon as the calendar flipped to June. I was even more concerned when Jones got lit up for eight runs in his previous outing. All those concerns can be laid to rest as Jones looked like his dominant May self on Tuesday night.

The 27-year-old allowed just four hits scattered across six innings, while allowing one run to score. He walked three and struck out four Wind Surge Wind Surges Wind Surgi Wichita batters

With the offense starting to pick things up lately, this team is really dangerous when everyone in the rotation can give them a solid start. It is not always the case, as we will get into in a second, but the fact that everyone in the rotation has the potential to go deep into the ballgame is a massive bonus for the Travs.

Jones had plenty of room to work with, thanks to a four-run third inning. Polcovich started the scoring with a double to bring in Tanner Kirwer. Scheiner and DeLoach each had RBI singles to make it 3-0. A Cade Marlowe force-out extended the lead to 4-0. Marlowe also had a home run in the eighth inning, his fifth of the season.

The bullpen was dominant in relief of Jones. Ellingson, Shipley, and Kuhn combined for just a single walk over the final three innings to seal the series-opening win.

Game Two: Stoudt struggles in opening game of double header

Remember last week when I said Stephen Kolek could be a potential ace of this rotation if he is able to string together impressive outings and avoid a nightmare eight-run outing? Yeah, that was actually supposed to be about Stoudt too. Stoudt’s stuff has looked impressive this season, and his underlying numbers alleviate most of the concerns this season; he has just a 4.36 FIP. Still, Stoudt has struggled with consistency this season. His stuff is probably more likely to play at the next level than Dollard’s low-90s fastball, but I don’t think it is really a debate which one deserves a promotion to Seattle if a spot opens up.

The positive is that he struck out seven batters in an outing where his stuff clearly wasn’t working as he would like, but eight hits and six earned runs over 4.2 innings isn’t ideal. We can blame the Wednesday game getting rained out for getting Stoudt out of his rhythm.

The offense tried to support Stoudt early, despite facing a 1-0 deficit before they even got to the plate. Joe Rizzo continued his recent hot streak by sending a solo shot to right to knot it up at 1-1.

Jake Scheiner gave the Travs the lead with a double late in the bottom of the first frame, giving them a lead that they held onto for a few innings while Stoudt looked to settle down in the next two frames. However, a three-run fourth and two-run fifth made that lead evaporate quickly. The Travs added one back with a Polcovich base knock, but it was too big of a deficit to crawl out of in the shortened contest.

Game Three: Kolek flirts with Travs second seven-inning no-hitter to split double header

Part of me is a little glad that Stephen Kolek lost his no-hitter in the sixth inning because it would’ve just been me copying and pasting what I wrote after Connor Jones closed out his seven-inning no-hitter a few weeks ago. There are a lot of weird baseball rules that I am not all that passionate about. The Designated Hitter? I would prefer it, but whatever. Banning the shift? It would help Jarred Kelenic, so I like that aspect, but overall I don’t really have the energy to even pretend to care. Seven-inning no-hitters counting in the record books? ABSOLUTELY YES. It is an absolute travesty that we still have to have this conversation. (unless, of course, it is a seven-inning perfect game in MLB before someone else knocks Felix off his last perfect game throne, in which case, forget all of this)

So thank you, Stephen Kolek, and more specifically, thank you to Edouard Julien for breaking it up six outs away from the finish line, so we did not have to have that hypothetical argument. Outside of the sixth inning, Kolek was the most dominant he has looked all season. It was not just the near no-hitter, but he had batters looking silly up there. He worked around a walk to strike out the side in the first inning. Another weird baseball thing that people are super passionate about, I think I am in the camp where it has to be a perfect inning for it to be striking out the side, but also, I could not care less if I tried. He legitimately struck out the side in the second. For those keeping score at home, that is six strikeouts in seven batters. Not too shabby.

He hit the first two batters he faced in the fourth inning but escaped the jam with a strikeout and a double-play ball on a liner to Rizzo at third. Speaking of Rizzo, he hit his eighth home run of the season to give the Travs an early 1-0 lead in the first. DeLoach added another run with a double in the third before Rizzo sent yet another solo shot to right for his third home run on the day to make it 3-0

If Rizzo is able to turn some of those doubles he’s been getting this season into home runs as the weather warms up, then this Travs offense could really get clicking, words I never thought I would type a few weeks ago.

Rizzo and Kolek’s monster days were almost for nought with a nearly disastrous sixth inning. A walk, a double, and Kolek’s third HBP of the day loaded the bases for Wichita. The Travs came out for a mound visit to try to get Kolek back into a rhythm, but he was yanked after walking in a run to the next batter. Michael Stryffeler came into an unenviable situation with the tying run standing at second base. He calmly struck out the next two and got an easy fly-out to end the threat. I know that he is a bit older and does not have the prospect shine on him that a handful of other guys on the Travs’ pitching staff have, but Stryffeler has been absolute nails for the bullpen all season, and I am not sure where they would be without him this season.

Devin Sweet finished the game with a perfect inning to give the Travs the win and a split of the double-header.

Game Four: Emerson Hancock is good; we don’t have to talk about the rest of the game

Welcome back to the Emerson Hancock show. The Ms #5 prospect had his third straight stellar outing and appears one start away from being fully back, if he’s not already. The former Bulldog threw a season-high 80 pitches on Friday night, up from 68 the previous outing. It would not be shocking to see the reigns fully off Hancock in his next start on Thursday. The 80 pitches is encouraging, as is the line of just three hits allowed over five innings with one earned run, two walks, and five Ks. All that is nice, but the most encouraging part is that Hancock was able to bounce back from his “bad” inning.

Hancock breezed through the first three innings, retiring everyone not named Edouard Julien, who reached on a leadoff single and a walk. The fourth wasn’t quite as easy. Anthony Prato lied a leadoff double. He was moved over on a fly-out and brought in on a ground out. Hancock gave up another double after that and walked the next batter before retiring the side with a strikeout by DaShawn Keirsey. Last week that would’ve been the end for Hancock. A fine outing, but he wouldn’t have gotten the chance to go back out there after a hiccup of an inning. He did get that chance this week and showed why he should still be considered one of the better pitching prospects in the game.

He retired the side in order in the fifth inning, including setting down Julien for the first time, to put a cap on his fifth start of the season.

And that’s all that happened in this one. Weird they only played five innings, but you know Rob Manfred and his ever-changing rules. Alright, I guess I can mention the bad stuff that happened too. The offense was non-existent until a DeLoach single in the fifth broke up a no-hitter, but they couldn’t get anything going even after that. The Travs were still in it until a disastrous eighth inning for the otherwise reliable Braden Shipley. Shipley walked in two runs before giving up a grand slam and recording not a single out in the frame. The brutal outing made his ERA balloon from a nearly very nice 0.68 up to 2.70.

Game Five: Taylor Dollard continues to be the best pitcher in the world, Travs win

The cool part of Taylor Dollard starting the first game of a series means that he is more than likely pitching the finale on Sunday. The not quite as cool part of that is that we have to wait until game five of the following series to wait for the best pitcher in the Texas League to take the mound again.

Dollard was once again worth the wait. I am waiting for the day where I pull up a Travs game or check in on @MilbMariners and see that Dollard is struggling, but like what if that night doesn’t come? I am running out of praise for Taylor Dollard. Just reciting his mind-blowing stats is barely enough. I guess we’ll go through them real quick before we try to find a more exciting angle. Dollard went five innings, allowing just four hits and one walk, and he struck out eight batters. That outing lowered his ERA to 0.86. His FIP is down to 2.54. He is very good at baseball.

Taylor Dollard, I know all of your energy is being spent on being the best pitcher in minor league baseball. That’s great, but if you could spend a little bit of time working on more of a social media presence to make my writing not as repetitive about how you are consistently dominating the Texas League, that would make my life a little easier. Just get a pet or something, please. The highlight from scouring the internet is either this picture from October 2021 featuring the two best pitchers in the Ms organization right now.


The other highlight is a LinkedIn profile he created in 2017 (and has not been updated since) in which he said, “I am uncertain what career path I want to take, but I believe I want to become a coach one day.” I think he might’ve found an updated career path thanks to his absurd start to the 2022 season.

The Travs offense gave Dollard some immediate run support with four runs in the first inning. Jack Larsen brought in one with a forceout. DeLoach followed that up with an RBI single. Cade Marlowe hit his sixth home run of the season to make it 4-0, more than enough run support for the best pitcher in the world right now. The Wind Surge scored a couple after Dollard was taken out, but Stryffeler easily closed out the game for his league-leading 10th save of the season.

Game Six: Deja Vu, Connor Jones leads Travs to 6-1 victory

No lie, I had to triple-check that I was looking at Sunday’s game and not Tuesday’s. The odds of Connor Jones being the winning pitcher in two 6-1 outings in the same series seem minuscule and I am writing this late at night and it almost broke my brain.

It is nice to see that the four-run start he had to open June seems like more of an anomaly and he has fully found his groove over the last six weeks or so. Jones was dominant again on Sunday. The 27-year-old went five innings and gave up just four hits and one unearned run.

The bullpen was nearly unhittable in relief of Jones. Onyshko, Arias, Haberer, and Kuhn allowed a total of two baserunners and struck out six over their final four innings of work.

The offense was carried by Joe Rizzo. The former second-round pick has really been heating up over the last stretch of games.

Rizzo reached base four times on Sunday, including driving in two runs with a single in the sixth. Jose Caballero, Jack Larsen, and Jake Scheiner also drove in runs on the afternoon.

Up Next: The Travs look to keep their hot streak going this week as they travel to NW Arkansas to take on the Naturals (28-28), the Royals affiliate.

Tacoma Rainiers (23-36) benefit from traditional series lengths, technically win two series against Salt Lake Bees (31-29) and Round Rock Express (33-27).

Hello, good news and bad news. The bad news is that John is still out of the country so you are stuck with me (Kyle). The good news is that Tacoma actually played fairly well this week and we have an entertaining set of games to get into. So away we go.

Game One: Rainiers drop high-scoring clash 9-8

Jarred did the thing again.

Kelenic’s monstrous home run was part of an early scoring surge for the Rainiers. Justin Upton hit his second home run of the season in the first inning, and Cesar Izturis Jr drove in two with his first double of the year. Tacoma held an early 5-0lead after 1.5 innings.

Unfortunately, Justus Sheffield, coming off his best outing of the season, fell all the way back down to earth and gave that five-run lead up immediately. The Bees knotted it up by the end of the second inning. Justus had another tough inning in the fourth with three more runs crossing the plate on a Jack Mayfield three-run shot. Sheffield gave up eight earned runs, seven hits, and walked three in his four innings of work.

Tacoma chipped away a bit in the sixth inning with a Marcus Wilson two-run home run to narrow it to 8-7.

The two teams alternated scoring in the bottom of the seventh and top of the eighth, but ultimately Tacoma could not get the lead back and fell 9-8 in the series opener.

Game Two: Tacoma takes advantage of going against a bullpen day, win 13-6

The Rainiers saw what was going on down in Arkansas with their recent offensive explosion and decided that looked pretty fun. It probably helps a bit when you’re playing in the notoriously offensive friendly confines of Salt Lake.

Tacoma put up a five-spot in the second inning. Mason McCoy walked with the bases loaded for the first run of the evening, then two batters later, Scott Heineman launched his first home run of the season to make it 5-0.

The five runs were more than enough to work with for Tommy Milone, who continued his stellar run in the PCL this year. Milone went five innings, giving up four hits and one earned run while striking out five. The outing lowers his ERA to a very impressive 1.38 on the season.

The Rainiers, and more specifically Ken Giles, ran into some trouble in the sixth. Giles gave up three solo home runs over his 0.2 innings of work. Giles has looked decidedly not great in his rehab outings with Everett in Tacoma. There’s a chance that he is up in Seattle when you’re reading this, and that seems like an interesting decision when he is struggling to retire Triple-A hitters.

Tacoma added four more runs just to be extra safe in an offensive environment where no lead ever truly feels secure. Kelenic lasered a double to right to drive in one of the runs. However, he was removed from the game with hamstring tightness a couple of minutes later. The only potential sign of injury was from the previous day when he made this spectacular catch, but he stayed in the game after in and played seven innings on Wednesday.

Kelenic returned to the lineup on Thursday but seemingly re-aggravated it on Saturday and did not play on Sunday.

Game Three: Early offense against a familiar face powers Rainiers to a series victory

As we have already established, I am not John, and I am, in fact, Kyle. That means that I have not spent as much time and energy on the Pacific Coast League as I have on the Texas League this season. So you can imagine my surprise when I pulled up the box score from Thursday night and saw Aro pitched for Salt Lake. My immediate reaction was, “that’d be wild if that was the former Mariner dealt in the Carson Smith trade to Boston, but there’s literally no way.” Reader, there was, in fact, a way, and it was indeed Jonathan Aro that the Rainiers lit up for five runs across his 2.1 innings.

This is probably the spot where I tell you that I was ridiculously high on Aro and thought he could legit be a solid player for the Ms. I guess this is also where I admit that I bought a custom Carson Smith jersey (it was custom because there was no way they were going to see their money back if they ordered a bunch of Carson Smith jerseys in bulk) I probably should’ve reconsidered when the person working the team store at Safeco Field at the time assumed that “Smith #39” was in fact not on the current iteration of the Seattle Mariners, which played on 10 TVs behind them. That jersey still hangs proudly in my closest. I keep getting close to re-customizing it, but it is sort of a badge of honor for the worst $150 I ever spent, as he was shipped up to Boston a few months later.

This is not about Carson Smith, though; this is about how the Rainiers’ offense attacked Aro early for five runs in the 31-year-olds limited action. Tacoma took advantage of some poor Salt Lake defense to put their first run across. Alex Blandino followed that up with a double to make it 2-0. Marcus Wilson added a double of his own in the third inning to make it 4-0 and chase Aro from the ballgame.

Andrew Knapp reached on a single to add one more earned run to Aro’s line. That was just enough run support for the Tacoma pitching staff. Darren McCaughan went five innings and gave up just two earned runs on a home run by Jake Gatewood. He struck out four and walked just one. The bullpen impressed from there. Fernando Abad, Patrick Weigel, and Nick Margevicius threw three hitless innings between them. Sam Koch had a slight blemish with a solo shot by Monte Harrison, but the ending was never in much doubt as the Rainiers won the three-game series.

Game Four: Fireworks are delayed, but somehow also happen prematurely

*Stefan voice* this game had everything. A minor league team not showing up to the stadium in time. A delay of over 2:30. Fireworks going off in the parking lot. A walk-off grand slam.

I know it is only June, but I think it is safe to say that the Rainiers won’t play a more eventful game this season. Because Arkansas has not dealt with them at all, and the Rainiers sparingly have, I almost forgot that not every single series in minor league baseball isn’t a six-game set. With the built-in Monday off day and sub-par living and travelling conditions for minor league baseball players (unionize the minors), it would make the most sense for teams to use Monday as a travel day for the whole week. While that is usually the case and results in games being played without delay, sometimes we get a team from Texas playing a game in Las Vegas the night before and then they have to travel to Tacoma for a game approximately 21 hours later. When it was evident that that would not be something they could do, the game was pushed back a couple of hours and changed to a seven-inning contest.

They finally took the field at 9:47 p.m., or around the same time the originally scheduled nine-inning affair would’ve been wrapping up. I was not at the game, I joked that I was thinking about going because what else am I doing on a day off at 9:47 p.m, but I can preeeeeeeety confidently say that the attendance of 6,180 was not reflective of the number of people who actually saw Konner Wade throw the first pitch of the ballgame.

As for the contest itself, we got a doozy, because that was the only possible result we could’ve gotten on a wild Friday night. The Express took an immediate 1-0 lead thanks to three hits in the first inning; if you thought they would come out slow after a hellish travel day, no. Tacoma tied it up in the bottom of the frame, thanks in part to a Jarred Kelenic double.

Pretty cool that Jarred is good at baseball again. Marcus Wilson gave the Rainiers the lead with a solo shot in the second inning, and then the offense kind of took a break for the next few innings. I mean, these poor fans are here way later than they signed up for, so what’s the point of giving them a show in the 3rd-6th innings? It is all about the theatrics and giving them their money’s worth. The Express made up for the lack of offense from Tacoma by scoring three unanswered runs to take a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning.

I wish I could tell this epic story like the Rainiers battled their way through each plate appearance. Some sort of story about how a perfectly placed base knock gave the Rainiers life when it felt like all hope was lost. But it was actually a pretty dull inning until the final moment. Erick Meija started it out with a four-pitch walk. Marcus Wilson joined him on the basepaths with a five-pitch walk. Andrew Knapp did battle a little bit in his seven-pitch walk to load the bases with zero outs. Sensing that fans were already out way later than they planned and were probably dreading the idea of extra innings, Alex Blandino swiftly ended a marathon day with a bomb to left field for a walk-off grand slam. If those fireworks weren’t enough, the Tacoma faithful that stayed until nearly midnight were rewarded with their typical Friday fireworks deep into the night.

Game Five: Rainers lead a miraculous comeback, only to lose in extra innings.

This game brings me back to my question, is it better to lose early and get it over with knowing it won’t be competitive at the end, or is it better to lose in dramatic fashion? The Rainiers flirted with the first option before ultimately succumbing to the second.

There’s not much positive to say about the pitching, other than that there was a lot of it. Tacoma used nine different pitchers. Round Rock used seven. Even if this didn’t go to extra innings, good lord that is already such a long and brutal game to watch. The final game time was 3:56. You could watch Shiva Baby 3.06 times during that same time span.

It was back and forth until Round Rock looked like they were putting the game out of reach with two in the sixth and three in the seventh to give themselves a four-run cushion. They tacked on one more in the ninth just to be safe.

Scott Heineman drove in two to make it a three-run ballgame in the ninth, but the next two Rainiers were retired, and things looked bleak. Alex Blandino reached on a single and Mason McCoy drove out the first pitch he saw to tie the game. Justin Upton could not be the hero with a runner on second and to extra innings, we went.

The bat pitching continued in extras, with Round Rock putting up a five-piece of their own in the top half of the frame. Tacoma scored once in the bottom of the inning, but it wasn’t enough.

Game Six: Rainiers walk-off winners to clinch series W

Maybe I am way off here, but I would think it would feel better to win two three-game series against two different opponents as opposed to one six-game series win. Anyway, The Rainiers tested my theory out by taking the finale against Round Rock with a dramatic ending.

Tacoma scored two in the first on Brian O’Keefe and Marcus Wilson doubles to jump out to an early lead. Round Rock responded with five runs in the fourth inning. Justus was cruising up to that point too. Sigh.

The bullpen did a good job of limiting the damage and keeping the Express off the scoreboard the rest of the way. Patrick Weigel’s three innings of scoreless ball were especially critical.

Tacoma got two back in the sixth to cut it to one. Marcus Wilson sent a shot to left for his 11th home run of the season. It’s possible that bomb clinched him the PCL player of the week award.

Forrest Wall opened the ninth by reaching on an error. Upton put the tying run in scoring position with a soft single to center. Heineman drove in Wall with a double, putting the winning run just 90 feet away with no outs. Erick Mejia wasted no time in ending the game with single to left to clinch the series.

Up Next: Tacoma looks to make it three (3!) series wins in a row as they host the Sacramento River Cats for a six-game series.