The Rainiers played Albuquerque today at the unconscionable hour of 11:35AM. This was billed as a treat for the kids that just took the WASL - but do kids buy beer? No, they do not. Let's not mess with your biggest fans, Rainiers. A 1:30 game would've made it much easier to actually get some work done and then get back up to Cheney.
Two major misconceptions were shattered today, as Chris Snelling took the field (he played 5 innings in right) and looked fine. Second, overturning decades of misinformed jeering, Isotopes' starter Jeff Fulchino looked every bit as much a belly itcher as a pitcher. While his itching was more potential than kinetic, he's still got the stuff to be a legend (just not as a pitcher). The kids were screaming that it was his pitching that they were here for, but I was sidetracked by the thought that it might take him the best part of an hour to scratch every part of his belly. And it's not because his hands are small. Looking like a combination of Sidney Ponson and Butterbean, with an arsenal of curves and changes as soft as his cheeks, he was able to skirt damage by keeping hitters off balance and by walking Chris Snelling.
His luck ran out in the third as the Rainiers scored 5 times (their first runs since the 9th inning of *Saturday's game*), the final two runs scoring on an absolute blast of a double (off the wall in CF) by Adam Jones.
On the other side, Cha Seung Baek gave up line drive after line drive, which resulted in three runs in the second (all unearned after a truly indefensible error by Michael Garciaparra), one in the fifth and then another three in the sixth. The big hit in the sixth, which gave Albuquerque the lead, was a 2R HR by Mike Colangelo (who, I'm told, 'would make a great manager some day.' Yeah, well, that's what they used to say about Domingo Ramos and Bruce Bochy). For a little while, it looked like Baek might scoot through 5IP with no *earned* runs against him, despite every ball being hit on a line. This is why I'm still not sold on his resurgence - sure, he's looked a lot better this year (I think he's healthier), but his best attribute might be Cheney Stadium. In his last start v. Round Rock, there were three balls that would've been out of many PCL and even MLB stadia. Today, his line drive percentage must've been around 50%, and he still almost qualified for a 'quality start.' I'm not saying he's not without his uses - he's a capable innings-eater. But if he needs to give the M's a lot of innings this year, look out.
Mike Morse (speaking of nice 'org' guys) continued to show signs of breaking out a bit (he may get to .250 soon! yay!) with a long double to right-center and a single to left. Shin-soo Choo also got off the schneid a bit with two line-drive singles the other way. Indeed, the Rainiers managed to pound out 11 hits, but could do nothing of any import off the Isotopes bullpen. The Isotopes sweep the Rainiers at home in a really disspiriting four-game set. If you're wondering if the Isotopes are a 'loaded' team, they're not. They've got essentially zero position-player prospects. What they *are* is a team of AAAA, PCL veterans, and you can be very successful with that.
I wonder sometimes if I'm not such a huge fan of the Rainiers precisely because it's so easy to rationalize every defeat: "yeah, they lost, but Jones' development is still right on track. Yeah, okay, another shutout, but Jimenez is coming around. Yeah, so we're in third, but have you seen AsCab's OBP? Yeah, they swept us, but that's because they're a bunch of AAAA roster-filler." Whatever it is, I still feel blessed to get to see a half-decent ballgame (esp. in comparison to Sunday's stinker) in the 80-degree Tacoma sun. Rainier baseball, Rainier beer and Chris Snelling making an important milestone on his way back to Seattle? I'll take it.
[edited to add news of that other aussie]
Speaking of prospects who are just about all the way back from Injury, Travis Blackley put together his second straight gem today, going 7 scoreless agains Frisco. Blackley allowed 5H in 7IP, with 2BB and 4Ks. I think it's just about time we see him up in Tacoma, though it'll be tough with Livingston back and Appier still in the rotation. The M's need to sort out what they want to do with all the parts they have lying around.
The more I think about it, the more likely it is that Blackley stays put, building up some stamina until he's needed in Tacoma. But I'd like to think he's the next call-up...