Down on the Farm: Fading Down the Stretch

None of the Mariners affiliates with a chance at postseason play were able to pick up victories on Wednesday.


Blanton Baffles Tacoma in Sacramento Win
Sacramento starter Joe Blanton limited Tacoma to two runs over seven innings en route to a RiverCats 7-4 win over the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium.

Tacoma (75-61) will now need a minor miracle to reach the postseason, dropping 4.5 games back of Portland in the race. The Beavers beat Fresno, 5-2, on Wednesday for their seventh-straight win, all but solidifying their spot in the playoffs. Portland has five games remaining – one more with Fresno and four against Sacramento – while Tacoma has six games left on the schedule – one more with Sacramento and five with Tucson.

The Rainiers managed 10 hits, including a 4-for-4 night from outfielder Greg Jacobs and a monumental home run over the center field wall by A.J. Zapp, but it all came in a losing effort.

Sacramento hammered out 13 hits, led by the three of first baseman Dan Johnson.

Blanton improved to 11-7 on the year, while Tacoma starter John Kelly, who allowed two runs on six hits in three innings, fell to 0-2 with the loss.


Missions Drop Low Scoring Game, Snap Streak
The San Antonio Missions entered Wednesday having won four games in a row, but Tulsa put an end to that with stellar pitching in the Drillers' 3-1 win at San Antonio's Wolff Stadium.

Singles by Jaime Bubela and Hunter Brown and a double by T.J. Bohn were the only hits on the night for the Missions, which fell two games back of Round Rock in the playoff race.

Justin Hampton (10-9) earned the win for the Drillers, striking out three in seven innings of work. Emiliano Fruto was the hard-luck loser for the Missions, taking the L despite allowing just one run in three innings of relief for starter Chris Buglovsky. Buglovsky started and surrendered only one run in five innings, coming away with a no decision.

The Missions (35-29) will finish their 2004 regular season with four home games against Round Rock, putting fate into their own hands. They'll need to win three of four games to earn a tie with the Express – both in the final second-half standings and in head-to-head (would be 8-and-8) - or win with a four-game sweep to win the Texas League West Division second-half standings outright.


Sandoval Roughed up in Sixty-Sixers Loss
Inland Empire starter Juan Sandoval was pounded for seven earned run and nine hits in just 5.1 innings against Lancaster on Wednesday, and the 66ers couldn't recover, losing 8-4.

Leadoff hitter Gary Harris led Inland Empire with three hits, including his eighth homer of the year, in the losing effort. Catcher Gregory Slee and first baseman Matt Hagen each added two. The 66ers ended the night with 11 hits.

Lancaster starter Clifford McMachen struck out five and gave up four earned runs in five innings of work, improving to 2-1 on the year.

Sandoval fell to 11-11 on the year.

Inland Empire (36-29) currently stands four games behind Lancaster for first place in the California League South Division, but can earn a playoff berth by holding on to second place. Through Wednesday's action, the 66ers maintain a three-game lead in front of both Lake Elsinore and Rancho Cucamonga.

The 66ers have five games remaining on the regular season schedule, playing one more at Lancaster on Thursday before returning home for a four-game series with Rancho Cucamonga starting Friday.

One more win by the 66ers will make it awful tough for the two other teams to catch them for that final spot.


AquaSox Go Down in the Rain
Everett pitcher Mumba Rivera entered Wednesday night's home game versus Salem-Keizer sporting a 2.96 ERA, good for second-best amongst the starters on the team. But even the hot hand of Rivera on the mound couldn't stop the bleeding for the reeling AquaSox, which fell 13-3 to the Volcanoes in a rain-shorted eight-inning game.

It was the ninth loss in 10 games for the AquaSox.

Vancouver, the leaders of the Northwest League West Division by 2.5 games heading into Wednesday, lost 2-1 to Eugene to keep their advantage right where it was at. At this stage in the season, with only one week to go, the Canadians can afford to exchange losses with the AquaSox.

Everett's loss dropped Vancouver's magic number to three, meaning any combination of Everett losses or Vancouver wins totaling three the rest of the way will clinch the league title for the Canadians.

Vancouver wasted little time jumping on Rivera, scraping off two runs in the first and another in the third. While the Everett offense remained non-existent, Rivera again got into trouble in the fifth inning and gave up two more runs before being relieved for Terry Forbes. The Volcanoes tacked on five runs total in the inning to leave the score at 8-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

The Frogs scored all three of their runs in the bottom of the fifth to draw to within 8-3, but again couldn't keep the Volcanoes off the board. Salem-Keizer added two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth before the game was called to complete the scoring.

Rivera (4-7) took the loss, giving up seven runs, five earned, in 4.1 innings. Jonathan Sanchez earned the win for the Volcanoes, improving to 2-1 on the year after an 11-strikeout performance.

Yung-Chi Chen, struggling since his return from the Athens Olympic Games, was charged with two errors in the game.

Everett will play it's final scheduled regular season home game on Thursday against Salem-Keizer at 7:05 p.m., then will head down to play the Volcanoes for three more games in Oregon to conclude the season.

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