Francisco Cruceta pitched the game of the year so far for the Rainiers, as Tacoma blanked the Colorado Springs Sky Sox 1-0 today at Cheney. Cruceta struck out *11* and didn't walk anyone, though he did plunk Ryan Shealy. He gave up just two hits, one of which was an opposite field pop up that landed about 15 feet down the line behind first base. There simply weren't many hard-hit balls on the day - including by the Rainiers, who were largely shut down by Mike Esposito.
Cruceta used a well-located 91MPH fastball and a very effective slider (78-81) to neutralize the Sky Sox (who, to be fair, suck. A lot. But not THIS much). Cruceta's best pitch may have been his splitter, but he used it sparingly; he generally saved it for lefties. Since only Omar Quintanilla and Jorge Piedra batted lefty, he didn't have a lot of opportunities. But the important thing was his command of his FB. It wasn't perfect, mind you - many of his pitches (including the split-finger) were up in the zone. But he was able to disguise the pitches such that batters either swung way too late or popped the ball up harmlessly. It was, in many ways, like watching a right handed George Sherrill. Sure, the delivery is different, but the point is professional hitters (Jeff Baker, Quintanilla, Shealy) were swinging way late on a good-but-not-great FB, and had no chance at breaking balls.
Emiliano Fruto got the save after surrendering a lead-off bloop double to Quintanilla, getting two strikeouts along the way. He also got the best-looking K, with a truly unfair slider to Jeff Baker.
The Rainiers got their run on back-to-back doubles by Doyle and Greg Dobbs. Good to see Snelling snap out of his slump with three hard-hit balls (though he was only 1-3). Dobbs had 2 of the Rainiers 4 hits.
Good to see MM reader Oly Rainiers Fan, who had the scoop on Doyle's rough night last night. I left town on Friday night to go to the Sasquatch festival at the Gorge, which, by the way, is the only place you can get a sun burn and covered in ice in less than 1 hour. So I missed Doyle's 3 K performance on Sunday, which sounded rather nasty, and missed the fact that he was in an 3-23 slump before his double today.
However, I can tell you that Rogue Wave and the Shins were excellent, Neko Case was great until she was cut short by a freakish (and very painful) hail storm, and that what everyone says about the Flaming Lips' live show is true. On the other hand, the Ben Harper portion of the evening was interminable, and I found Gomez' famously varied output a bit difficult to take (yeah! We bend so many genres that it's impossible to enjoy everything we do unless you're in the band, but plenty of people give us credit for being 'challenging' and 'innovative'). I spent much of Ben Harper's set in the bar with News Tribune writer Ernest Jasmine and a procession of horrifically drunk people, who, for reasons I'm not clear on, all thought they had to come up and harangue us (there was something about the Tri-Cities - that's about all I caught). A bizarre cap to a bizarre day.