Mariners Minor League Playoff Roundup - 9/8

While Wisconsin got a great pitching performance, San Antonio was stung by a rough night on the mound for the second straight game and Tacoma couldn't hold an early lead.

Tacoma Blows Lead, Now Trails Series 2-0
By Don Jacobson

After five innings it looked like the Tacoma Rainiers would be headed to Sacramento with their playoff series tied 1-1. Instead, the Rainiers will need three straight victories to keep their dreams of a PCL championship alive after a 7-4 loss at the hands of the River Cats.

"We're playing as hard as we can, it just didn't work out tonight," said Tacoma manager Dan Rohn. "We had chances to score more runs and we didn't, and they battled with us. It's been this way the whole season. I didn't expect it to be any different."

Sacramento opened the scoring in the fourth when Hiram Bocachica's looping single to right scored Jermaine Clark from third. Bocachica later scored on a Shawn Garrett RBI double.

The Rainiers answered in the bottom of the inning. With runners on first and second, Wiki Gonzalez smashed a RBI double down the third base line. Bucky Jacobsen followed with an infield single that hit River Cat Bocachica in the face at third base, scoring Abraham Nunez, and sending Gonzalez to third. Hunter Brown then hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Gonzalez and giving the Rainiers a 3-2 lead.

Tacoma scored again in the fifth when T.J. Bohn led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Nunez, making the score 4-2.

The River Cats closed the gap in the top of the seventh. With runners on second and third and only one out, Sacramento catcher Tom Gregorio hit a sacrifice fly to right. Nunez threw to third instead of home and nailed Andre Ethier, but the umpire ruled that Andrew Beattie crossed home plate just before the out was recorded.

Sacramento completed the comeback and took the lead in the top of the 8th. Jack Cust hit a RBI two run double to tie the score. After the next batter walked, Tacoma turned to closer Masao Kida. Kida seemed to have the upper hand, going ahead 0-2 on Andrew Beattie, but Beattie singled past a diving Brown to drive in the go-ahead run.

The River Cats added two more runs in the ninth on a Clark home run off Kida. The Rainiers loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Sacramento's Jairo Garcia struck Wiki Gonzalez out to end the game.

Tacoma starter Bobby Livingston pitched around eight hits in his six innings of work, giving up just three runs. He was helped by his defense which turned three double plays behind him. Andrew Lorraine was charged with the loss after giving up two runs in his 1 2/3 innings of work.

The Rainiers now have to travel to Sacramento and their goal is simple.

"Now we have to go to Sacramento and win three ballgames," explained Rohn.

If only it were that easy. Sacramento has won back-to-back PCL championships and was 42-30 at home during the regular season. Tacoma will send Jesse Foppert to the hill on Friday to face Sacramento's Mike Saipe with their season on the line.

Oldham Hit Hard, Missions Fall Behind in Series, 2-1
By Chris Boehm

An abysmal showing at Nelson Wolf Municipal Stadium (2,729 fans) watched a likewise dismal performance from the Missions Thursday night. The club from the Alamo City dropped a 5-2 contest to Midland, and now trails 1-2 in the best-of-five Texas League West final.

Midland's Brad Ziegler picked up the win, allowing two runs over five innings. Alex Santos earned his second save of the playoffs with a scoreless ninth inning.

Thomas Oldham (0-1, 9.00) followed up Yorman Bazardo's horrendous outing on Wednesday with a five-inning, five-run performance. The Missions were behind from the start, as Midland put two runs on the board on four hits in the first frame.

Oldham opened the game by allowing back-to-back hits to Matt Kiger and Daric Barton. After a Brian Stavisky ground out, Jeremy Brown smacked a shot off the left-field wall, scoring Kiger.

A Danny Putnam walk loaded the bases, setting up a Casey Myers singled that scored Barton.

"That was uncharacteristic for (Oldham) to walk two runners in one inning," said Missions manager Dave Brundage. "He struggled to find rhythm early, and they were able to get a few soft hits."

Midland tacked on a run in the third inning before putting the game away for good in the fifth.

"The same thing happened last night, but we were able to fight back," said outfielder Jaime Bubela. "We were just a couple of big hits away all game."

Oldham allowed a single to Stavisky after inducing a pop fly out of Barton to lead off the fifth. Brown stepped up next, smacking Oldham's 1-2 pitch onto the berm in left field.

San Antonio attempted to make a game out of it in the third inning, with Brundage's squad still down by two.

With one out in the frame, three consecutive singles by Jesus Guzman, Jon Nelson and Brian Moon cut the deficit in half. But the Missions would not get any closer, as Ismael Castro flied out to left, followed by a Bubela grounder to shortstop.

Nate Espy led the Missions on offense, with three hits and a walk, but did not register a single RBI. It was that kind of night for San Antonio, who collected 10 hits but stranded nine runners and lost another, Gary Harris, to a base-running blunder.

"We definitely had chances early on," Brundage said. "Against this team, one or two runs won't get you a win. You have to take advantage of the opportunities that you get."

Espy tried to get a rally going by leading off the bottom of the fifth with his second double of the night. After a ground out from Jesse Hoorelbeke, Harris knocked in Espy with a sharp grounder that hopped over Ziegler's head. Just as soon as he put the air back into Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium, Harris took it right back out by freezing on the base path with Ziegler on the rubber. Harris was thrown out heading back to first, and Jesus Guzman struck out swinging to end any threat of a comeback.

"That just wasn't smart baseball," Brundage said. "He just broke for second early."

Guzman struck out three times for San Antonio, as did Adam Jones, in perhaps his second-to-last game at shortstop before heading to Arizona as a center fielder.

After the Rockhounds had cemented their lead, Evan Fahrner and Alex Santos combined to allow just two hits over the last four innings.

"With this team, you've got to get to their starter," Brundage said. "Their bullpen has been tough as nails all season."

In game four the Missions must face off against Steve Bondurant, who was 5-0 versus San Antonio over the regular season.

"Starting tomorrow we're playing a one-game series," Brundage said. "I'll be more than happy to visit Midland (for a possible game five)."

Bubela added that a game five would point in his team's favor.

"If it comes to a game five, I think we'll have the momentum to get it done," Bubela said. "We've got nothing to lose."

Friday night's home game is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start. Jon Huber (0-0) will start for the Missions.

T-Rats Route Snappers, Force Decisive Third Game
By Jeff Harrison

Looking to prove their one-hit loss to Beloit on Wednesday night was a fluke, the Rattlers used a balanced attack to beat the Snappers on Thursday, 9-1, and force a game three.

"The team played great, good defensive support everything you need, just a good clean game for us," said pitcher Aaron Jensen, the Timber Rattlers' starting pitcher, on the team's overall effort.

The Rattlers used clutch hitting and a solid outing from Jensen to overcome the pressure of going down 0-1 in the series.

"We're quietly an intense group," said Marshall Hubbard. "We go about our business and have a good time with it. We weren't going to press the panic button."

The Rattlers jumped ahead early with back-to-back doubles by Mike Wilson and Hubbard that put them up 1-0 in the second inning. Hubbard scored from third on a throwing error by Johnny Woodard to make it 2-0. And with runners on the corners and one out, Josh Womack hit a sacrifice fly to right field to put the Wisconsin up 3-0.

"We kind of talked a bit before the game saying we need to get on them early and score first and put the pressure on them," said Hubbard.

The Snappers fought back in the top of the fourth inning when David Winfree sent Jensen's 2-2 offering over the right field wall to cut the Rattlers lead to two. It was a rare mistake by Jensen, who was in command all night.
,br> The fourth inning proved to be the turning point for the Rattlers. Hubbard and Chris Colton had consecutive singles and Tuiasosopo reached on a fielder's choice. Brandon Green reached on a walk to load the bases for Womack, who grounded into a force out at second, scoring Hubbard from third to make it 4-1. After Waldrop hit Brent Johnson to load the bases, Oswaldo Navarro, who went 2-5 with four RBI, cleared the bases with a three -un double to left put the Rattlers ahead 7-1.

Kevin Culpepper came in for Beloit in the bottom of the fourth and got in trouble in the sixth inning. A walk to Johnson loaded the bases with no one out. Navarro punched a single to left scoring Green from third. And Womack scored from third on a wild pitch by Jose Cordero to make it a 9-1 game.

With a comfortable 9-1 lead in the sixth inning, Jensen continued a great outing by mowing down the Beloit batters before giving way to Jason Snyder in the eighth inning. Jensen finished the night with seven innings pitched, allowing one run on just two hits. He also struck out five.

"It's a lot easier to pitch with that, it takes a lot of pressure off," said Jensen of the run support he received.

Snyder came in and worked two innings for the Rattlers, allowing just one hit, to preserve the victory. The win ties the series at one apiece forcing a decisive game three. The Rattlers and Snappers have split all four of series this season.

"We can't split it with them," said Timber Rattlers' manager Scott Steinmann. "We've been splitting all year, so (Friday) will be the deciding factor of the big series all season."

Robert Rohrbaugh (5-2, 3.82 with Everett), the newest pitcher on Wisconsin, will take the hill in game three against Snappers' right-hander Kevin Slowey (3-2, 2.24). The game will be held at Fox Cities Stadium at 6:35 pm.

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