Mariners Minor League Playoff Roundup - 9/7

It was a rough night for the Mariners minor league teams in the playoffs. Of the three - Tacoma, San Antonio and Wisconsin - none came away victorious on Wednesday. Here is a full rundown of all the playoff action.

Tacoma Falls to Sacramento, trails series 1-0
By Jason A. Churchill

After one inning of play on Wednesday night, the Tacoma Rainiers had a 3-1 lead after a sac-fly by first baseman Aaron Rifkin and a clutch two-out single by second baseman Hunter Brown.

But that was all the Rainiers would get out River Cats starters Adam Johnson as Sacramento takes game one of the Pacific Coast League semi-finals by a score of 7-3.

Wind out of the sails of the M's Triple-A affiliate? You could say that.

"Any time you lose the first one in a playoff, it's tough," said Brown. "We got that lead and just couldn't do anything more. You have to add on when you get an early lead like that."

Johnson settled down after that rough first inning, allowing just one hit over the next five frames – a Rifkin single in the fourth.

Tacoma southpaw Damian Moss started the ballgame and got two outs in the sixth before handing over a mess to reliever Jeff Heaverlo.

Heaverlo gave up a two-run double to pinch-hitter John Baker that gave the River Cats a 4-3 lead they would never relinquish.

The Rainiers bullpen allowed three earned runs on four hits over their 3.1 innings of work. The relief corps also walked four batters.

The silent Tacoma offense managed just two hits after the first, adding an Abraham Nunez double in the eighth.

"We're better than that," said Brown. "We jumped out there (early) and just didn't get it done. They had some pretty good pitchers out there, too."

Is the pressure on at home for Tacoma?

"We need a win," said Brown. "But I don't think it's any more pressure than the last four games of the season. We're going at it as a normal game but we know we need to take it."

Tacoma will send left-hander Bobby Livingston (6-2, 4.70) to the hill on Thursday night versus Sacramento right-hander Ryan Glynn (3-1, 2.78).

San Antonio drops second game vs. Midland, series evens at 1-1
By Chris Boehm

The Midland Rockhounds tied up the Texas League West final, winning game two against San Antonio, 6-3, by putting five runs on the board in the first inning.

Yorman Bazardo took the loss for San Antonio, failing to notch a single out after starting the game. The former Marlins prospect has been inconsistent since a brilliant first outing with the Missions. Bazardo allowed four hits and three walks.

San Antonio attempted a comeback in the fourth frame, putting three runs on the board against Midland's Mike Nannini, who earned a no-decision for his efforts.

The Missions offense produced seven hits, with no player slapping more than one.

In the fourth inning, Nate Espy started the surge with a double to center field and then moved to third on a Jesse Hoorelbeke single. A throwing error by second baseman Brian Stavisky scored Espy, with Hoorelbeke and Gary Harris on the corners.

San Antonio scored two more runs, on Jesus Guzman and Luis Oliveros singles, before Nannini was removed from the game. Matt Lynch (1-0, 0.00 ERA over 3.1 innings) took the mound, and with two men on, ended the threat by inducing a ground out from Jaime Bubela.

The series now shifts to San Antonio for back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday. The two teams will return to Midland for game five, if necessary.

Going into the series, the Missions were banking their hopes on a revamped starting rotation. Tuesday night, Rich Dorman did his part to shut down the Rockhound lineup, but Bazardo's outing was another story.

Bazardo's seven-inning shutout debut is a distant memory. Since then he has had trouble going deep and games, and it does not get any shallower than a 0.0 innings start.

Bazardo opened the game with back-to-back singles from Mark Kiger and Daric Barton singles, then walked Stavinsky. Two hits, two walks and a hit batsman later, Chris Key entered the game, and immediately got Steve Stanley to line out to right field. The man who started the monstrosity, Kiger, ended as well, hitting a double-play ball to Ismael Castro.

Jared Thomas took over for Key (three innings, no runs and two strikeouts), adding insult to injury by allowing Midland an insurance run in the sixth inning. Kevin Melillo led of the inning with a line shot over the right field wall.

San Antonio will host game three on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. The Missions will be collecting funds for Hurricane Katrina victims throughout the evening, while hosting 600 evacuees currently staying in the Levi Strauss.

Timber Rattlers lose, trail series 1-0
By Jeff Harrison

Coming into the playoffs series against a strong pitching staff like Beloit, the Rattlers knew hits would come at a premium. They just didn't know it would be this difficult. The Rattlers only managed to collect one hit, which came in the top of the eighth, in a 5-0 loss Wednesday night in the first of a best-of-three series with the Beloit Snappers.

Beloit starter Kyle Asselton kept the Rattlers bats in check all nightm, going eight innings and allowing just one hit while striking out 10.

Things didn't start out well for the visiting Rattlers, which got in trouble in early. The Snappers took the lead in the bottom of the first when Deacon Burns hit a RBI double to right field, scoring Trevor Plouffe.

Wisconsin was roughed up again in the third inning when Rattlers starter Mark Lowe issued a two-out walk to Burns and later gave up a run scoring single to David Winfree, making it a 2-0 Snappers lead.

In the fourth inning with two men on, Plouffe singled to short and a throwing error by Matt Tuiasosopo allowed Javier Sanchez to score - 3-0 Beloit.

With Lowe struggling all night, Rattlers manager Scott Steinmann decided to go to the bullpen early and brought in Shawn Nottingham in the bottom of the fourth inning. Lowe lasted only 3.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and six walks.

Nottingham offered the Rattlers some relief when he pitched out a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth. The left-hander looked good, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings and striking out three.

Hope for the Rattlers came in the sixth inning when Asselton issued two walks to Brandon Green and Brent Johnson giving the Rattlers two runners aboard with two outs. But Asselton regained control, striking out Oswaldo Navarro for the third out.

Asselton continued his dominance by working a 1-2-3 seventh inning, taking his no-hitter to the top of the eighth inning.

But the no-hit bid was broken up in the top of the eighth when Tuiasosopo doubled on a line drive to right, putting the Rattlers in scoring position with one out. Unfortunately the Rattlers failed to take advantage when Green and Josh Womack both grounded out.

The Snappers scoring wasn't finished yet when Jeremy Pickrel hit a home run to right off of Wisconsin reliever Steve Grasley. Later, Sanchez doubled to left off of Ivan Blanco, making the score 5-0.

Beloit reliever J.P. Martinez pitched a scoreless ninth inning to seal the deal for the Snappers.

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