Rainiers fall to Sacramento in season finale

// Second-half slump dooms promising start

A far cry from the first half of the season, the second half saw the Tacoma Rainiers’ offense slump – with many of the promising young stars being called up to the Mariners – and with it a once-promising start fell apart. The Sacramento River Cats ended the Rainiers’ season on a sour note on Sept. 2, topping Tacoma 9-6 on a pleasant Labor Day afternoon at Cheney Stadium.

“We’re sad in one sense not being in the playoffs, but we were pleased with the way the young kids produced,” said Tacoma skipper John Stearns.

The Rainiers got started early with three runs in the first inning, but ran themselves out of a bigger inning with Nate Tenbrink and Ji-Man Choi committing base-running mistakes. Sacramento would answer with four runs in the second inning and never looked back.

Shortstop Carlos Triunfel was 3-for-4 with two runs batted in for the Rainiers, while recent call-up James Jones was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a run batted in, and right fielder Joseph Dunigan cut the deficit to 8-6 with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

But Rainiers starter Andrew Carraway was roughed up, surrendering eight runs – five earned – on 10 hits in 4.2 innings, with two walks and five strikeouts.

But looking ahead to the future, Stearns noted that recent call-ups of Choi, Jones and the addition of Xavier Avery (acquired in a trade from Baltimore for Michael Morse) may provide similar optimism as Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, who both have become mainstays with the Mariners after dominating in Triple-A early in the year. “Choi should be a very good power-hitting first baseman for many years in the majors, and Avery and Jones showed some real ability and their future appears bright.”

Other players singled out by Stearns included Truinfel, Chance Ruffin, and Hector Noesi, who got the call to Seattle after the game for the month of September. “They have all earned the promotion and I hope they will take advantage of the opportunity to perform at the highest level and make an impression on the Mariners brass.”

The loss to Sacramento put Tacoma’s final record at 76-68, two games shy of a spot in the PCL playoffs. Despite the bitter end, the early success – in which the Rainiers held the best record in the PCL for a majority of the first half – was a great experience for Stearns in his first season as manager.

“It’s a pleasure to play in front of such a great group of fans every night here in Tacoma,” noted Stearns.

Looking far ahead, Tacoma will open the 2014 season on April 3 against Albuquerque at Cheney Stadium.

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