Curto, Tacoma Rainiers

New Twist: Rainiers Games To Use Automated Ball-Strike Challenge System This Weekend

Just when you thought we were in the waning days of the season, quietly winding down another Triple-A campaign, Major League Baseball has implemented a new rule change that we are going to be trying out during the final three games of the Sacramento series starting tonight: the Automated Ball-Strike Challenge System.

As you know, all balls and strikes in Pacific Coast League games have been called by the ABS (Automatic Ball-Strike System), or robot umpire, since mid-May. It’s been a seamless transition, with the computer sending an automated voice that says “ball” or “strike” into the earpiece that the home plate umpire wears, and the umpire then makes the appropriate call. It’s had an incredible impact on the game, eliminating all of the complaining and arguments about balls and strikes – not that everyone is happy with it. Players still disagree with the perimeters of the automated zone, and what should and should not be a strike, but that’s another issue entirely.

Starting tonight, it’s going to be different for the next three games. Here’s what’s going to happen:

  1. The human umpire is going to call the balls and strikes himself, without the computer.
  2. Each team is going to get three challenges. Immediately after any pitch, the batter, pitcher, or catcher can ask for a challenge. The computer umpire is then consulted, and the computer’s call will be used.
  3. If a player’s challenge is successful, the team keeps the challenge. If the challenge is unsuccessful, and the human umpire’s call was correct, the team loses one of its three challenges.
  4. Challenges must be called for immediately, only by the three players noted above (batter, pitcher, catcher). No help from the dugout is allowed, and no technology can help the players determine if they should challenge or not. Managers can not challenge.

According to the memo sent out by MLB, a graphic of the challenge will be shown on the stadium scoreboard. I’m interested to see this!

There is going to be a strategic element in terms of when to use your challenges, and this will require the players to have a team-first mentality when making decisions. You don’t want to burn one of your team’s challenges on a borderline pitch in a meaningless situation early in the game.

How is it going to play out? Who knows! We’ll find out, starting tonight.


YESTERDAY: Tacoma lost to Sacramento for the second time in a row on Thursday night, this time by a score of 10-1. Kyle Lewis hit a solo homer for the Rainiers in the first inning, briefly giving Tacoma a 1-0 lead, but it was all River Cats from there, as Sacramento had 13 hits and drew ten walks. A fun highlight came late when outfielder Marcus Wilson pitched a scoreless ninth inning, in his first professional pitching performance. He even notched a strikeout, fanning Yermin Mercedes.

TODAY: Sacramento River Cats (57-69) at Tacoma Rainiers (58-68), 7:05.



SEASON SERIES: Tacoma leads, 12-9.

PITCHERS: RHP Ronnie Williams (1-0, 5.54) at LHP Roenis Elias (1-2, 5.74)

ROSTER MOVES: None today as of blog posting time.

HOT HITTERSErick Mejia was held hitless last night for just the second time in his last 19 games… Mason McCoy has reached base safely in nine straight games, and he has homered six times over his last 16 games… Kyle Lewis has a six-game hitting streak.

OPPONENT NEWS: Sacramento comes into the series hot, winning five of six in a home series against first place Reno, and they have now gone 7-2 over the last nine games… Sacramento pitched really well in that series, holding Reno to three runs or fewer in all five of the River Cats wins… Sacramento has one former Rainiers reliever in Aaron Fletcher, and former Rainiers infielder Donovan Walton is on the injured list…. Austin Dean has hit safely in nine of his last ten games.

BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.

Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.

PCL SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to broadcasts and Gameday screens right here.


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