M's Minor League Playoff Roundup - 9/11

It was a big night on the farm for the two Mariners affiliates still in the playoffs. Tacoma, left for dead heading into Friday down 0-2 in its series with Sacramento, completed the improbable comeback with their third-straight win over the River Cats. Wisconsin was less dramatic, moving on to the Midwest League finals with a 16-0 drilling of Clinton.

Tacoma Advances to PCL Championship
By Jason A. Churchill

The Tacoma Rainiers completed the comeback on Sunday night, defeating the Sacramento River Cats 5-2 in 11 innings and advancing to the Pacific Coast League Championship Series.

After leading 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, Tacoma right-hander Emiliano Fruto, cruising until the two-out mark, made his only mistake of the night – but paid for it, dearly.

Jermaine Clark hit a game-tying two-run home run to send the game into extra innings. How fitting is this ending to a five-game series?

The two clubs split 16 games during the regular season and had split the first four games of the semi-finals.

Thanks to Ryan Christianson, the Rainiers will win the season series with the River Cats and play in the PCL's best-of-five title series starting on Tuesday in Nashville.

In extras, the 11th inning was paydirt for the Rainiers as Christiansons singled in Wiki Gonzalez to hand Tacoma the 3-2 lead – but the rookie had something to say about the final score.

Asdrubal Cabrera may have been Tacoma's MVP in this series and his two-run single in the 11th gave the Rainiers a much-needed cushion to play with in the bottom of the inning.

Manager Dan Rohn tried to steal a run in the top of the 10th when he sent T.J. Bohn home from second on a deep fly to left by Shin-soo Choo. Bohn was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning.

Right-hander Chris Buglovsky was huge for Tacoma in game five, shutting out the River Cats through seven innings. With the exception of Clark's long ball off Fruto, the Rainiers bullpen was nearly perfect for four innings.

Andrew Lorraine, Jeff Heaverlo and Sean Green followed Fruto with Green catching Cats cleanup hitter Jack Cust looking for strike three to end the game. The bases were loaded when Green entered the game to face Sacramento's best hitter.

Bobby Livingston will be the starter in game one for Tacoma against Nashville Sounds righty Ben Hendrickson.

Tacoma will host the final three games of the series at Cheney Stadium on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Wisconsin Moves On to Midwest League Championship
By Jeff Harrison

Unlike the last two nights, the Rattlers didn't want to take this one to extra innings. Sunday, in their second game of a best-of-three series against Clinton, Wisconsin took care of that with their very first base runner, Brent Johnson, who scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first inning on the way to a 16-0 route of the Lumber Kings.

The win ended the series with Clinton and gave the Rattlers the Western Division Championship. They will move on to face the South Bend Silver Hawks in the Midwest League Championship. The two teams will square off in South Bend on Tuesday night at 7pm. Rattlers' right-hander Mark Lowe will take the hill for the Rattlers.

Even though the one run was all they needed, the Rattlers were not satisfied with their first inning output. They used a huge third inning to put the pressure on the Lumber Kings. The scoring started when Josh Womack scored on a single to centerfield. Then, John Bannister walked Jeff Clement to load the bases for Mike Wilson, who made him pay by hitting a grand slam to left field.

Bannister got Clinton in trouble again in the fourth inning when he walked Johnson to load the bases. Daniel Touchet replaced Bannister but couldn't contain the Rattlers bats. Oswaldo Navarro, the first batter Touchet faced, hit a two-run double to left field make the score 7-0. Clement, the next batter, hit a single to short to score Johnson from third. And Wilson finished up the Rattlers scoring when he hit a double to left, scoring Navarro to make it a 9-0.

Navarro also added another run in the fifth inning when he hit a single to centerfield to score Tuiasosopo from second base.

In the sixth inning, Clinton brought in Roberto Perez to cool off the Rattlers batters, but he too had little luck. Tuiasosopo made Perez pay for a two-out walk to Chris Colton by blasting a two-run homer to left field, making it 13-0.

While it's pretty easy for a pitcher to win with support like the Rattlers gave Cibney Bello, the right-hander was solid all night. Bello pitched six shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out six.

The eighth inning was last chance for the Rattlers batters to beat up the Clinton pitching and they pounced on that opportunity. Josh Giles, who came in for Clinton in the eighth, made the same mistake as his fellow pitchers when he walked Brandon Green to load the bases for red-hot Navarro. Navarro, who finished the night 4-5 with five RBI and two doubles, again made Clinton pay by hitting a two-run double to left field to make it 15-0. Wilson was later hit by a pitch to score Green. It was Wilson's sixth RBI of the night, and rounded out the scoring.

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