The Tacoma Rainiers have hit the road, and tonight the team opens up a six-game series at Albuquerque. First pitch is set for 5:35 Pacific.
This is the Rainiers first visit to Isotopes Park this year, and the team’s first-ever series at this ballpark in which the field is flat.
A flat field? Doesn’t everyone have a flat field?
Well, for the first 19 years of Isotopes Park’s existence, there was a hill in center field. There was the expanse of outfield grass, then the warning track, and past that a grass-covered hill that rose up to the base of the outfield fence.
Even as a fairly infrequent visitor to Albuquerque, we saw some memorable plays out there. Rainiers center fielder Chad Meyers had one of the best catches I’ve ever seen anywhere on that hill back in 2003. The hill definitely led to an increase in triples, when a ball would go over the outfielder’s head and hit the slope.
When MLB took control of the minors in 2021 they started an initiative to improve minor league facilities nationwide, and it’s been mostly positive for players and fans. However, they did take a look at that hill and said “no more.” The Isotopes took it out this winter.
It makes sense, really. No major league teams have a hill in their ballparks any more, since the Houston Astros “Tal’s Hill” was bulldozed after the 2016 season. But the hill was fun, and it made the games in Albuquerque a little more endearing.
The Isotopes marketing team put together a great video with highlights as former center fielders say goodbye to the hill.
After 19 seasons, it's time to say goodbye to our center field hill.
You produced some of our fondest memories and the most spectacular catches.
After Wednesday's 6:35 pm game, fans are invited to take pictures in front of the hill to say goodbye.
Thanks for the fun times.✌️ pic.twitter.com/C6OK5VLtrC
— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) September 26, 2022
Hill or no hill, the Rainiers are looking to get right in Albuquerque. Tacoma just lost five of seven at home to Reno, and has fallen three games under .500 for the first time this season.
The offense wasn’t as potent during the homestand, but that will change this week just based on the hitting environment alone. Albuquerque is a mile-high city like Denver (which is why the Rockies have their affiliate here), and the ball carries far in the thin air. Expect high-scoring games.
YESTERDAY: The entire league was off Monday. On Sunday, the Rainiers wrapped up a seven-game homestand with a 5-3 loss to Reno. Tacoma had nine hits in the game, including three by Cade Marlowe and two by Zach DeLoach, but stranded eight baserunners. Tacoma went 2-5 on the homestand.
TODAY: Tacoma Rainiers (18-21) at Albuquerque Isotopes (16-23), 5:35 (Pacific).
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Colorado Rockies.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Pedro Lopez.
SEASON SERIES: 0-0.
PITCHERS: RHP Darren McCaughan (2-1, 6.82) at RHP Dinelson Lamet (0-0, 0.00)
Lamet is an injured Colorado Rockies reliever who is making a rehab appearance for Albuquerque tonight, he’ll probably only pitch one inning.
ROSTER MOVES: None today as of blog posting time. We haven’t had a roster move in ten days, but that may change today – or maybe not, I dunno.
HOT HITTERS: Jake Scheiner has hit safely in ten of his last 12 games. He ranks second in the PCL with 12 homers. Jo Adell of Salt Lake leads the league with 13… Kean Wong has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games… Mike Ford has 46 RBI, which leads all of professional baseball… Cesar Hernandez has hit safely in eight of his last nine games.
OPPONENT NEWS: Albuquerque just went 2-4 in a six-gamer at Las Vegas… after starting the season 10-6, and ‘Topes have lost 17 of 23… Nolan Jones has been one of the top hitters in the PCL this year, batting.344 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI… an Albuquerque returnee from 2022, Coco Montes is batting .340 with 36 RBI… Gig Harbor product Michael Toglia went and got himself called up to the big leagues the day before the series against his hometown team, so congrats to him… former Rainiers lefty Fernando Abad was also called up yesterday, but the Isotopes do still have ex-Rainiers from last season Matt Koch and Phillips Valdez.
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.
- The Albuquerque newspaper has a preview of the series that starts tonight.
- Cal Raleigh switch-hit home runs against the team he rooted for as a kid, and the Mariners beat the Red Sox last night.
- M’s manager Scott Servais continues to have faith in Matt Brash as a high-leverage reliever.
- The Mariners have a “Happy Jarred” chant?
- Reno starter Blake Walston‘s week at Cheney Stadium earned him a spot on Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet. No Mariners appear this week.