Minor League Notebook: Tacoma Rainiers

Take a glimpse inside numbers with the Tacoma Rainiers. The pennant race is heating up and several players are nearing personal bests. Also included is an update with left-hander Travis Blackley.

Season Update:
W-L
: 66-53, 1.5 GB

Long Ball Update:
The Rainiers have slugged 156 home runs this season, one shy of the Las Vegas Stars league-leading total of 157. Tacoma is also second in the league with 118 steals, just two behind league leader Portland. Their lead in each category had evaporated since the call-ups of Justin Leone, Bucky Jacobsen, and Jose Lopez, along with the injury to Jamal Strong.

With all the power the club had for the majority of the season, the Rainiers are dead last in the league with 193 doubles.

Bucky Jacobsen's 26 home runs still ranks him fourth in the PCL and his 86 RBI still rank third despite being in the big leagues for the past month.

The lead in the Northern Division has also gone by the waste side, and the Rainiers now sit 1.5 games behind the Portland Beavers. Tacoma will have the opportunity to regain the lead, however, as the Beavers visit Cheney Stadium five times later in August, and host the Rainiers four times next week. The nine games will certainly be an enormous factor in who wins the division and who stays home for the 2004 postseason.

Speaking of Home Runs, and RBI:
Rainiers 2B Mickey Lopez hit his 8th home run of the year on August 9, bettering the 30-year-old's Triple-A best of seven, set last season. Lopez's career-high is 10, accomplished in 2001 with Reading of the Double-A Eastern League.

A.J. Zapp needs five home runs in the final 23 games to eclipse his career-high of 26, set last season with San Antonio. The 26-year-old also needs just 15 RBI to set a personal best in that department. Zapp drove in 92 last season in Double-A.

Zapp has whiffed 150 times on the season, already a Tacoma franchise record. The left-handed hitter needs 28 more to tie his personal high of 178, a dubious mark set last year.

Third sacker Greg Dobbs needs just eight RBI to break a personal best of 63 set in 2002 when Dobbs split time between Wisconsin and San Antonio.

Utility-man Luis Ugueto has eight home runs this season, after hitting just three all of last season. The former Rule V selection by the Mariners has 33 extra-base hits, besting his previous high of 20 set in both 2001 and 2003.

Right-hander Gustavo Martinez picked up a career-best seventh win on July 31 in a 8-4 win over Albuquerque.

Outfielder Greg Jacobs has 14 home runs between his stops with Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tacoma. In 2003, Jacobs first year with the organization, the 26-year-old hit 10 bombs while playing for the Inland Empire 66ers and San Antonio Missions.

Due to all of the injuries and roster turnover, Tacoma has just six players on the roster that have not been called up to the big leagues or promoted from Double-A during the season. Mickey Lopez and A.J. Zapp, as well as utility-man Luis Ugueto have been on the roster from day one, and pitchers Randy Williams, Cha Seung Baek, and Craig Anderson are the only members of the pitching staff that are with the club as it stood April 7.

Hello Athens::
A handful of Mariner prospects are representing their native countries in the Summer Games in Athens. Pitchers Craig Anderson and Ryan Rowland-Smith will throw for Australia, while Everett infielder Yung-Chi Chen will represent Taiwan. Wisconsin outfielder Wladimir Balentien, born in Aruba, will play for Team Netherlands.

Travis Blackley Watch::
Blackley is set to make his third start since being replaced on the big-league roster by former teammate Clint Nageotte. Still looking to get back on track, the 21-year-old already knows what obstacles stand in his way.

"Confidence was my problem" said Blackley. "I just need to get my confidence back and then everything else will be fine."

The Australian native cited his lack of confidence in his entire arsenal and approach as the reason for his struggles, refuting the popular media assumption that his immaturity was an issue.

"I don't care" Blackley said of the reports. "I can't pay attention to that. If I can get a few wins down here, I might get back." (to the big leagues in September)

Blackley is 7-4 with a 3.61 ERA with Tacoma this season.

Ryan Christianson: The Hitter: Former 1st-rounder Ryan Christianson will not catch for the remainder of the year, due to a shoulder injury that cost him virtually all of 2003. But the 23-year-old is using his time as a DH to work on his stroke. Christianson is hitting .296/.351/.423 with two home runs since being called up to Triple-A Tacoma on July 17th.

Rainiers Stat of the Week:
Coming into Monday's game versus Edmonton, Tacoma is 7-9 on Mondays. It's the only day of the week in which the Rainiers are not over .500 for the season.


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