Hulett, Balentien, and Diaz Go Deep Again

July has been a huge month for three Tacoma hitters, and there's a new pitcher on the scene in Wisconsin who's worth keeping an eye on as the season wears on. Read on for the details as well as a look in on the AZL and VSL Mariners.

Tacoma returned from a long road trip last night and beat Round Rock 8-5 at Cheney Stadium. The Rainiers hit four home runs, with the blazing trio of Tug Hulett, Wladimir Balentien, and Victor Diaz accounting for three of the four. Shawn Garrett also homered. Ryan Rowland-Smith threw seven solid innings, allowing two runs on three hits. Speaking of the Tug-Wlad-Diaz trio, look at the huge numbers they've posted in July:

Hulett: .376 BA, 7 2B, 8 HR, 18 RBI, .452 OBP, .741 SLG, 1.193 OPS in 22 games
Balentien: .292 BA, 9 2B, 8 HR, 21 RBI, .386 OBP, .604 SLG, .990 OPS in 27 games
Diaz: .283 BA, 10 2B, 11 HR, 35 RBI, .361 OBP, .689 SLG, 1.050 OPS in 26 games

Mike Wilson hit a walk-off two-run shot for the Diamond Jaxx last night as they beat Birmingham 6-4. Shawn Kelley blew the save in the top half of the inning, but was bailed out by Wilson, who now has 22 homers on the season. Marshall Hubbard hit his 10th homer. Travis Chick allowed three runs on three hits in five solid innings. Two of the three hits he gave up with home runs. Travis is plugging along and putting up decent numbers. He has a 2.70 ERA in 5 July starts, with only 20 hits allowed in 30 innings.

High Desert got back-to-back homers from Ronnie Prettyman and Travis Scott in the eighth inning last night to pull into a 6-6 tie with Lake Elsinore, but couldn't get over the hump as the Storm went on to win 8-6 in 12 innings. Carlos Triunfel was 2-for-6 with a double and a homer for the Mavs, and James McOwen had two hits and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot. Aaron Cotter threw well out of the pen for the Mavs, with three perfect innings.

Brett Lorin had another decent outing for Wisconsin last night, striking out seven in four innings while allowing four hits and two runs. Lorin is looking like a nice acquisition for the M's system. Just 21, he has 48 strikeouts in 41 innings between Everett and Wisconsin. He's also getting ground balls at a 59% rate overall, so he's an ideal power pitcher who also keeps the ball down. His walk rate is pretty good too. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in AA next season. The Rattlers lost to Lansing last night, by the way, 4-2.

The offensive MVP down in Arizona for the M's this season has clearly been shortstop Jharmidy De Jesus. The 18-year-old Dominican has a line of .363/.424/.637 in 29 games, with 11 doubles and six homers. He's homered in three consecutive games. On the pitching side, things have been pretty inconsistent but 19-year-old Japanese righty Kenta Suda has thrown fairly well. The control isn't great (which is not unusual at this level), but he's managed to post a 2.41 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. That's not sustainable given his 1.46 WHIP, but in terms of results he's had the most success so far.

The VSL season is nearly over, and the M's have played well, posting a 40-25 record, which is good for second place in the eight-team league. On the offensive side, the team has hit just nine home runs total (but allowed only seven). Center fielder Mario Yepez has been the offensive MVP, playing in all 65 games and posting a .333/.395/.450 line. Yepez leads the team in hits, total bases, and stolen bases (10). In a pitching dominated league, it's tough to pick out a pitching MVP for the M's. All eight pitchers who have thrown more than 35 innings have an ERA of under three. Jessie Nava leads the way with a 1.60 ERA in a team-high 67 1/3 innings. He's allowed just 50 hits and 16 walks while striking out 44. Leonardo Rodriguez is 5-0 with a 1.41 ERA.


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