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Old 02-06-2019, 04:33 PM   #2721
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Back home again, and with just enough energy to angrily shake the fist and yell at the Critters if they continue to not being able to pull at least four runs out of their arse …!


Raccoons (52-40) @ Crusaders (51-42) – July 17-19, 2028

“Crucial” was maybe not strong enough as a word when it came to this series starting on Monday. The Crusaders were eighth in runs scored, third in runs allowed, but trended upwards, while the Coons… not so much. They were 8-5 in July, while we were 5-9 while playing mostly the Loggers. If there was something to cling onto, it was our 7-2 record against them this season…

Projected matchups:
Kyle Anderson (6-3, 4.30 ERA) vs. Carlos Marron (9-6, 3.56 ERA)
Rin Nomura (8-5, 3.02 ERA) vs. Mike Rutkowski (10-3, 2.17 ERA)
Rico Gutierrez (8-4, 2.43 ERA) vs. Doug Moffatt (10-8, 4.10 ERA)

All righties here as far as New York was concerned.

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – C Tovias – CF Allan – P K. Anderson
NYC: 1B Espinosa – 3B Schmit – CF Hatley – RF I. Vega – C F. Delgado – LF Olszewski – SS Cameron – 2B S. Valdez – P Marron

Neither pitcher looked sharp but the lineups looked worse in the first few innings in New York. The Crusaders poked Anderson for three singles, a walk, and a run in the bottom 1st, then consigned themselves to hitting further offerings into the teeth of the defense (albeit usually hard), while the Raccoons barely managed to scratch out the tying run in the third, Correa singling home Ramos. The sixth saw a 1-out walk offered to Rafael Gomez, who stole second, then made it to third on an infield single by Harenberg. Tovias did his best to hit into a double play, but the Crusaders couldn’t turn it further than a 4-6 play, allowing Gomez to score and Portland to take the lead.

Anderson made it six and two thirds, but could not extricate himself from nailing Felipe Delgado to begin the bottom 7th. With two outs, Delgado was on second and left-handed batter Nelson Ayala pinch-hit for Sergio Valdez. The Coons sent Kearney, who yielded an infield single before being removed for Ricky Ohl against PH Ryan Anderson. Ohl rung him up, and the Coons squeezed through into the eighth, where the battery of Billy Brotman and Elias Tovias stupidly blew the lead on catcher’s interference when Brotman appeared to have Andy Schmit rung up for the second out, then an Ivan Vega single and TWO 2-out walks… Joe Cameron grounded out to strand three in the 2-2 tie. For this “effort”, Brotman got the W in the nail-biter. The Coons got Tovias on with a leadoff single in the ninth, then ran Spencer in his place. Spencer made it to second as Ryan Allan grounded out, then scored on Danny Morales’ pinch-hit single, which ultimately proved enough of a difference in the game. 3-2 Coons. Harenberg 3-4, 2B; Morales (PH) 1-1, RBI; Anderson 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K;

Game 2
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – C Tovias – CF Allan – P Nomura
NYC: RF I. Vega – 3B Schmit – C F. Delgado – CF Hatley – SS Cameron – LF Olszewski – 1B Espinosa – 2B B. Torres – P Rutkowski

Bobby Torres lasted two batters before suffering some sort of core injury shagging a Tim Stalker liner and was replaced by Sergio Valdez. For consolation, the Crusaders got a leadoff jack from Ivan Vega in the bottom 1st before hitting into double plays in each of the first three innings. Hereford hit into a double play in the fourth as the Coons offense once more was missing in action. Nomura left the game after a leadoff single by Juan Espinosa in the bottom 5th owing to a tender hammy, and from there on the Coons hardly had hope to pull out a win anymore, having to go to Jonathan Fleischer, but the oft-beleaguered long man got a double play from Valdez and whiffed Rutkowski to keep the team just a tiny run away. The Critters failed to do anything with Ramos on to lead off the sixth, but then put Gomez and Harenberg on the corners with a pair of singles in the seventh, and nobody out. Tovias’ sac fly, sadly, was all we got, tying the game at one at least. Ramos didn’t reach to start the eighth, but Stalker was nailed by Rutkowski. Correa flew out, but Hereford singled, and then Gomez also put a ball through the left side. The Crusaders went on to fumble that one on the throw back in, the error belonging to everybody and nobody, but it did score Stalker from second to put Portland in front, 2-1. The runners advanced, prompting four wide ones to Harenberg, but Tovias struck out, Rutkowski’s seventh and final victim.

Boles was not available and no insurance run came about, which was something the Coons already anticipated. Kearney had gotten three outs in the seventh, got two more in the eighth, then was replaced with the rest of the battery in a double switch. Ohl got out of the eighth, and then had to face the top of the order in the ninth to nail down this game. He walked Vega before hanging a golden sombrero on Schmit. A Felipe Delgado single upped the pressure, but Ohl prevailed, whiffing up Nick Hatley and Joe Cameron on his way to an EXTREMELY important 4-out save. 2-1 Furballs! Gomez 2-4, RBI; Harenberg 2-3, BB, 2B; Fleischer 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K; Kearney 1.2 iP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, W (1-2); Ohl 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, SV (5);

This put the Elks in second place. They were three games back after having been idle on Monday.

Rin Nomura’s hamstring was not THAT bad. He *might* miss a start, but the Druid could not tell right now. The sky was cloudy and obscured the stars he needed for precise diagnostics.

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – C Leal – CF Magallanes – P Gutierrez
NYC: RF I. Vega – 3B Schmit – CF Hatley – 2B Jewell – SS Cameron – LF Olszewski – C R. Anderson – 1B N. Ayala – P Moffatt

Three singles to begin their game allowed only one run for the Crusaders in the first, but yet again Portland had to play this one from behind. They had once more nothing the first time through, then wasted Ramos on third base in the third inning. A throwing error by Tim Stalker also put two Crusaders into scoring position in the bottom 3rd, but Ryan Anderson popped out to strand them, too. Through six, Moffatt allowed only two hits and rung up six against a hopelessly clueless lineup that probably needed another hit batter and two or three errors to get going. Nothing happened in the seventh, Rico retired after six and two thirds on the hook, and I had accepted our fate when Juan Magallanes – out of the deepest blue – took Moffatt yard to lead off the eighth. But that one only tied the game… and they still couldn’t get any sort of offense together. Kevin Surginer pitched the eighth and ninth to extend the game to extras, where the middle of the order grounded out feebly three times. Billy Brotman took over, allowed a leadoff double to Schmit in the tenth, failed to ring up Hatley in an 0-2 count, the groundout advanced the runner, and then a Sergio Valdez fly to right ended the game, Gomez having to make the catch too deep to have a chance at the plate. 2-1 Crusaders. Gutierrez 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K; Surginer 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K;

I think I will have to go back and randomly threaten to kill certain players. Or random ones! That always puts them into third gear for a half-week or so…

Raccoons (54-41) @ Bayhawks (41-53) – July 21-23, 2028

The Coons had been swept in their first series with San Fran on the season, which was not entirely unfathomable despite them sitting 18 games out in the South. Their run differential was only -4 with an active offense and porous pitching, and they were several games under their deserved record. With the way things were going especially against “weak” teams, the Coons probably had to brace for impact, especially at the Bay, which had never been very fertile ground for the Critters.

Projected matchups:
Mark Roberts (10-3, 2.85 ERA) vs. Guillermo Regalado (7-5, 3.70 ERA)
Kyle Anderson (6-3, 3.99 ERA) vs. Sergio Arendondo (5-7, 4.34 ERA)
Rin Nomura (8-5, 3.00 ERA) vs. Gilberto Rendon (8-3, 4.89 ERA)

As threatened, the Coons skipped George James and went right to Mark Roberts, while the Bayhawks had nothing to send up but right-handers. At the same time, Rin Nomura (that ol’ hamstring) was questionable on Sunday, so it was not impossible that James would be reinserted into the series at that point…

San Francisco had also traded for Vegas’ corner infielder Eddie Moreno and cash during the week, parting with two second-rate prospects.

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – C Tovias – CF Allan – P Roberts
SFB: CF Hawthorne – SS M. Martin – 1B Caraballo – RF C. Martinez – LF Orozco – C J. Ramirez – 2B Pulido – 3B Hawkins – P Regalado

The Coons scored two in the opening frame, which Ramos inaugurated with a double into the corner, then came home on Jon Correa’s single. Regalado walked them full before giving up an RBI single to Harenberg, but after that Tovias hit reliably into a 6-4-3 double play. Correa popped Ramos from second base a second time in the second inning, then with two outs and as the last of three Critters at the top of the order to drop in a single, running the score to 3-0. Correa was back at the plate in the fourth inning, then with one out, but would not plate Ramos … who had struck out. Instead he plated Mark Roberts and his leadoff single with a groundout. Tim Stalker (double) was still on base and tripled home by Rich Hereford for a 5-0 edge.

At this point Roberts could coast, theoretically, but still needed 70 pitches through five innings of 3-hit ball. Wastefulness would not get better; the bottom 6th began with a Mike Martin single, then straight walks to Tomas Caraballo and Cesar Martinez to load the bases. Ruben Orozco poked at a 3-0 pitch and flew out to Gomez in shallow right, which under my regime would be reason enough for a court martial, and no bedtime story for a month. Roberts came as close to still imploding as possible, without actually doing so. Both Jose Ramirez and Jose Pulido would hit sharp liners. Both hit them at outfielders and made outs, and only Ramirez’ brought in a run on the sac fly, leaving Portland still up by a slam through six. Roberts only lasted one additional out before walking PH Eddie Moreno in the bottom 7th. Surginer bailed him out, throwing only three pitches to get a double play from George Hawthorne, then partook in offensive operations by bunting Ryan Allan to second base after Armando Pena’s leadoff walk in the top 8th. Ramos was walked intentionally, they pulled off a double steal, and the Baybirds sunk into the quagmire on a particularly bad throwing error by Tomas Caraballo that plated the runners and put Stalker on second base. Hereford would get him in. This put the Coons into an 8-1 game and cried out for getting outs from Nick Derks, which had worked not so well in the past. Within six pitches, Baybirds were on the corners with nobody out thanks to Martin and Caraballo singles, and just when an actual pitcher was about to get into the game in Derks’ stead, he spooled off three strikeouts. Further supported by a Ramos-provided RBI in the ninth, Derks ended the game without actually coming apart this time. 9-1 Coons! Ramos 3-4, 2 BB, 2B, RBI; Stalker 2-6, 2B; Correa 3-5, 3 RBI; Harenberg 3-5, 2B, RBI; Spencer 1-1; Derks 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K;

Game 2
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Anderson
SFB: CF Hawthorne – SS M. Martin – 1B Caraballo – RF C. Martinez – LF Orozco – 2B W. White – 3B Hawkins – C Jai. Jackson – P Aredondo

24 hours later, the Coons’ best scoring opportunity in the first five innings came when Aredondo threw away a Magallanes grounder to present Kyle Anderson with Tovias and the centerfielder in scoring position and two outs. Anderson struck out, ending the top 2nd, and that was largely it for Portland. The Bayhawks did no fare much better with their batters, but eventually got Jaiden Jackson to run into one in the fifth, a solo homer to right that put something, anything on the scoreboard. Anderson came apart in the sixth, loading the bases with nobody out before balking home a run. Wade White then singled to center, plating the team’s third run, while Orozco was thrown out at home plate. That would not be the last time that happened to Orozco in this game …! Kearney was pitching in the bottom 8th with Orozco on second, Pulido on first, and one out when Tom Hawkins singled to center. Magallanes fired home again, and killed Orozco AGAIN. Then Jaiden Jackson hit an RBI single to right… The Coons had scored on a solo shot by Tovias in the top 7th, but weren’t going to dig this one out anymore unless a major shift of the tectonic plates underneath the ballpark. In some way, this occurred in the ninth. Down 4-1 and facing righty Alex Ramos, Harenberg led off with a single before Tovias rolled a ball near the first base line. Caraballo hustled in, then searched for Ramos at first base, which ended no better than his terrible throw late on Friday. The 2-base error put Coons in scoring position and the tying run at the plate with nobody out. Morales hit for Magallanes, one run scored on a wild pitch, and the other on Morales’ groundout, but the tying run was still at the plate. Gerster struck out, and Ramos hit the other Ramos with an 0-2 pitch. As Spencer batted for Kearney in the #2 hole, Alberto Ramos swiped second base away from the Bayhawks and was a single away from tying it up, but Spencer flew out to Hawthorne on the next pitch. 4-3 Bayhawks. Harenberg 2-4; Tovias 2-4, HR, RBI; Gerster (PH) 1-2;

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – C Leal – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – 2B Spencer – CF Allan – P Nomura
SFB: CF Hawthorne – SS M. Martin – 1B Caraballo – RF C. Martinez – LF Orozco – C J. Ramirez – 2B W. White – 3B Hawkins – P Rendon

Nomura stoically declared himself ready to pitch on Sunday. The Druid shrugged. Whatever was going to come out of that, Jon Correa continued to hurt his old team with a 2-run homer in the opening frame, cashing in on Ramos, who had drawn a 4-pitch walk from former Coons farmhand Gilberto Rendon at the top of the contest. His pitching sure didn’t look dominant in the early going. Orozco singled in the second, almost followed by a Jose Ramirez-authored score-knotter that a hustling Correa caught an arm’s length from the fence in deep left. Nomura would continue to flirt with disaster in the third (Hawkins leadoff single) and fourth (Martinez double), but was also helped out by strong defense, especially from Harenberg. Meanwhile, the Coons had disappeared into dreamy dreamland after the first-inning tally and were sitting on only two base hits through six innings, a total only abetted in the top of the seventh with Kevin Harenberg launched a 420-footer to right-center to up the score to 3-0, three hits a side. Nomura went on to yield sharp singles to the left-handed batters Orozco and White in the bottom 7th, but also got a double play in between to escape untouched once more. Things brightened up even more in the eighth, with Leal and Correa reaching base ahead of a Rendon-sinking gapper for a 2-out, 2-run triple by Rafael Gomez, who otherwise hadn’t been known for clutch RBI hits in a while… Right-hander Mike Bass got Harenberg to fly out, and while theoretically Rin Nomura now still had a shot at a shutout, entering the eighth on 89 pitches, Pulido’s pinch-hit leadoff single to left didn’t get him much closer. Getting a double play from Hawthorne hit right to Ramos did, though! Martin grounded out, and Nomura was at 100 pitches through eight and sent out for the ninth inning, although that entailed watching him bunt into a double play in the top 9th. The Coons still scratched out two add-on runs thanks to singles by Spencer, Morales, Ramos, and Leal, all off lefty Steve Schwellenbach, but the individual shutout never materialized. Nomura put two on and got only one out, leaving Ricky Ohl to wipe up Jose Ramirez (K) and Wade White (F5). 7-0 Coons. Leal 2-5, RBI; Correa 2-5, 2 RBI; Harenberg 2-4, HR, 2B, RBI; Morales (PH) 1-1; Nomura 8.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, W (9-5);

In other news

July 17 – CIN SP Josh Irwin (5-9, 4.99 ERA) might miss a month with a herniated disc.
July 19 – The Gold Sox send SP Ernesto Lujan (7-9 ,4.09 ERA) to the Buffaloes for two prospects.
July 20 – DEN CF/LF Abel Madsen (.298, 20 HR, 59 RBI) is out for a month with a knee sprain.
July 22 – Tijuana backstop Danny Zarate (.254, 2 HR, 34 RBI) will be out for a month after tearing his meniscus.
July 23 – MIL OF Willie Trevino (.227, 8 HR, 39 RBI) hits a maximum-effect walkoff grand slam off LVA CL Franklin Alvarado (4-8, 6.00 ERA, 19 SV), making up a three-run deficit with two outs to turn the Loggers into 5-4 winners.
July 23 – Six different Falcons hit six home runs against the Canadiens, yet Charlotte still goes down to defeat in Vancouver, 11-8, after a 5-run Canadiens rally in the eighth inning.

Complaints and stuff

As far as surprises go, Kevin Harenberg won CL Player of the Week honors. He went .542 (13-for-24) with 1 HR and 2 RBI this week. Bigger impacts have been made, but at least he got the average up to .257 and the OPS+ in the vague vicinity of 100. What a tall order for an adorned slugger…

Alberto Ramos sits fourth with 21 stolen bases, but the CL crown might be out of reach. While third place holds Elk Alex Torres with 22 bags, the leaders are quite far away. IND Mario Pizano took 35 bags, and TIJ Joel Denzler has 30. It is still far from shabby when you factor in that Ramos missed a staggering 61 of the team’s 98 games, when between themselves, the top 3 combined missed only *11* games.

We are the only division leader not at 60 wins and a .600 average.

Mark Roberts has a valid triple crown case to make. He leads the CL in strikeouts by 11 over Doug Moffatt. He ties with several pitchers (all in the South) for the lead in terms of wins. His ERA at 2.79 needs further work. He ranks only eighth amongst qualifying pitchers in the CL, trailing among others Rico Gutierrez, but the season is still long and terrible things can happen to multiple pitchers. On the other hand, Rico (0.99) still has a better WHIP than Roberts (1.01). Those two are the top two in the category in the CL. Only Jim Shannon is under 1.1, and he was traded to Cincy a while back…

As we are on the leaderboards… while he has slowed down, Rich Hereford still leads the ABL in RBI with 76. That is nine more than the next-closest CL chaser (Kevin McGrath of the Condors), but also six more than the FL leader, Warrior Jeff Wadley with 70.

Next week: Condors, Knights, the top 2 in the South. We are a combined 4-5 against them this season, just as we are a combined sub-.500 against teams not in our division this year. It is true; our +14 W-L record came wholly (+15) from games against teams in our division, and then primarily in games against the Crusaders (9-3) and the damn Elks (8-3). I have always preached that those games count double, and the 2028 Coons are the living embodiment of that truth …!

Fun Fact: The Falcons are the only CL South team the Raccoons have never met in the CLCS.

But we did play the Condors once, in 1993. We won the CLCS in six games before squeezing out our second set of rings against the Capitals in the full seven games in the World Series.

Back then we had no clue that it would be the last Raccoons championship for over three decades…
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Old 02-08-2019, 02:02 PM   #2722
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Raccoons (56-42) vs. Condors (62-37) – July 24-26, 2028

The Condors not only led the South, but also had a the best record in baseball, which was some stark contrast to 2027, which if you remember failed to see the CL South send out a single above-.500 team for the postseason. The Condors scored the most runs, 5.2 counters per game, and were also surrendering the fewest runs, making them a serious contender. Their run differential was +157, which dwarved the Raccoons’ own of +41. There was not really a comparison between those teams… Tijuana led the season series, 2-1.

Projected matchups:
Rico Gutierrez (8-4, 2.36 ERA) vs. George Griffin (7-6, 4.07 ERA)
George James (6-8, 4.89 ERA) vs. Joe Perry (11-3, 3.15 ERA)
Mark Roberts (11-3, 2.79 ERA) vs. Adam Potter (4-3, 3.55 ERA)

Teams would send out opposite-handed starters for every game in the series, with the Raccoons facing two right-handers sandwiching a lefty in the middle game on Tuesday.

Game 1
TIJ: CF Murphy – C Teague – SS Showalter – 3B Sanks – 1B McGrath – RF Braun – 2B Fitzsimmons – LF Denzler – P Griffin
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Gutierrez

Chris Murphy hit a jack to open the game, which was such a great way to start a fresh week, just when Maud had almost managed to make me drink a coffee without any sort of shot in it for the first time since the President Bush administration (the very first one, not his son or the other one). The Coons put Hereford and Gomez on base with singles in the second before Tovias and Magallanes sucked the air out of the inning with a foul pop and a roller to first, respectively, but we did manage to tie it up in the following frame on a pair of doubles by Ramos and Correa. Not that this would put Rico in a better place; he shed six hits through four innings, including three singles in the fourth to load the bases with one out. Luckily, just there he arrived at George Griffin, got a K, and then exited the inning when Murphy flew out easily to Jon Correa.

Rico Gutierrez lasted six and a third before leaving on 111 pitches and without getting a decision. Neither did Griffin, who also didn’t last a full seven innings, but still didn’t yield another inch to the Critters, for whom Ricky Ohl and Jeff Kearney continued to hold the fort in the seventh and eighth before the tie was broken in the Coons’ favor in the bottom 8th when Jon Correa hit a solo shot to leftfield off southpaw Lisuarte Paradela. A Danny Morales walk in the previous inning aside, that was also all the Critters could coax from the Condors pen. Josh Boles got the ninth, starting with Joel Denzler in the #8 hole. Denzler grounded out the 2-3 way, Eric Little flew out to Correa (by then in rightfield after some shifting), and Ramos handled Murphy’s grounder to have the game end with him. 2-1 Coons. Ramos 2-4, 2B; Correa 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; Gomez 2-3; Gutierrez 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K;

Yeah, it is really Rico’s fault. How dare he allow a run…? It was his third straight game in which he allowed but a single run, and still could not get his team to give him a win. He actually hadn’t won a game since June 29 against the Elks, and it really wasn’t his fault one teeny bit.

Game 2
TIJ: CF Murphy – LF Denzler – 3B Sanks – RF O. Larios – SS Showalter – C Teague – 1B Chaplin – 2B Bross – P Perry
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – 1B Correa – 3B Hereford – LF Morales – RF Gomez – C Leal – CF Magallanes – P James

Two quick runs put the Coons in a lead after the first inning. Ramos and Stalker hit singles, Ramos came home on a wild pitch, and Stalker was brought around eventually on a Danny Morales groundout. Unfortunately, right from the start, George James was being chased by a steamroller and hardly managed to gain any ground. Andrew Showalter hit a leadoff jack in the second to cut the lead in half, and he would also issue walks to Mike Chaplin, Dave Bross, and Chris Murphy in the same inning, escaping barely alive when Joel Denzler grounded out to Stalker to end the frame. That was already four walks after two innings, and he added two more to Shane Sanks and Omar Larios as the top 3rd began. Showalter ran a 3-1 count before singling, and now it was three on and nobody out. Jayden Teague emptied the bases with a double, putting the Condors up 4-2, and there was no real hope that George James would become a useful pitcher either right now or in the near future anymore. Somehow he would not allow another run in being dragged through five innings with five hits and seven walks charged against him eventually, but he was still on a 4-3 hook when he was pinch-hit for with Spencer to begin the bottom 5th. In between, Rich Hereford had singled home Ramos in the third inning. The lucky bastard got even taken off the hook in the inning when Spencer doubled to right, moved up on Ramos’ single, and ended up scoring on Jon Correa’s sac fly to center, with the game level at four after five innings.

It didn’t stay tied for long. Jeff Kearney got picked apart for a run in the top of the sixth by the top of the order, and the Raccoons struggled to mount any sort of response. Fleischer struck out every batter he faced in a 4-man outing, but that didn’t generate offense either, and then the ninth saw Nick Derks cough up a leadoff single to Tom Fitzsimmons, after which Billy Brotman came on and allowed a single to Bobby Marshall before misfielding Adam Braun’s bunt to load them up with nobody out. Dave Bross hit a sac fly, 6-4, before Eric Little pinch-hit and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. But the Coons carted up the bottom of the order in the ninth against Pat Selby and his 2.45 ERA, although Armando Leal’s leadoff double to right gave them a fighting chance. Tovias batted for Magallanes and grounded out, Harenberg batted for Brotman and lined out to Fitzsimmons, and then Ramos went down on strikes altogether. 6-4 Condors. Ramos 3-5; Spencer (PH) 1-1, 2B; Fleischer 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K;

The owner was in for the rubber game, which could only mean good things…

Game 3
TIJ: CF Murphy – C Teague – SS Showalter – 3B Sanks – 1B McGrath – RF Braun – 2B Fitzsimmons – LF Denzler – P Potter
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Tovias – CF Allan – P Roberts

Hereford drove in Stalker for a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning, but Shane Sanks’ leadoff jack negated that early perk right away in the second inning. The Condors were making more contact off Roberts than I could find entertaining, but things could still get way worse. First it did for Fitzsimmons, who looked like a poor fielder twice to begin the bottom 2nd, having a wicked bouncer by Rafael Gomez go over his glove after it hit the edge of the infield dirt, and then he blatantly missed Tovias’ roller for another single. The Coons then sent up Ryan Allan, one of their two chronically inept centerfielders on employ. Since being called up again on July 13, Allan had batted 0-for-17. That he still got at-bats said something about Yeshiva Rambam alumnus Juan Magallanes and made us long for Abel Mora to heal speedily. The Coons, nothing if not shrewd, had ALLAN bunt to get Roberts to bat with runners in scoring position and one out. The bunt worked, but Roberts struck out and Ramos grounded out to Fitzsimmons, who finally handled a ball correctly to end the inning. The first two were on again in the bottom 3rd; Stalker singled, Correa walked, but we would not bunt with Rich Hereford, the ABL leader in RBI with 78. He struck out, Harenberg walked in a full count, and then took out Fitzsimmons to break up the double play Rafael Gomez was about to hit into, allowing Stalker to score and Portland to take a 2-1 lead. Tovias flew out to center to strand a pair here, and did the same to strand another pair in the fifth inning to continue his extended run of uselessness.

Roberts kept being held together by some slick defense in the infield and outfield. In fact, the defense was so notoriously mean to the Condors that Roberts did not pitch out of the stretch even ONCE through seven innings. The Condors had that Sanks homer … and NOTHING else. Meanwhile the Coons had Elias Tovias batting with two on (Hereford, Gomez) and two out for the third consecutive time in the bottom 7th. Hereford was Potter’s man, but Paradela had already walked Gomez. Tovias ame, saw, and walked, at which point Danny Morales OBVIOUSLY batted for Allan. 0-1 pitch, grounder to left, PAST Showalter – and two runs scored! Roberts batted and flew out to center, then conceded a run in the eighth after Adam Braun’s leadoff double finally got him out of the windup. Bobby Marshall pinch-hit and singled with two outs to get the run across, but the Coons still had a 2-run edge and Murphy struck out to end the top 8th, and entered the ninth with a 3-run edge after Alberto Ramos slapped Bobby Thompson for a leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth inning! Josh Boles was a strike away from whiffing the side when Shane Sanks hit a 2-strike, 2-out single to right. McGrath singled to left, but Adam Braun popped out to end the game just before it could get truly ugly. 5-2 Coons! Ramos 1-3, 2 BB, HR, RBI; Stalker 2-5; Hereford 3-5, RBI; Gomez 1-2, 2 BB, RBI; Morales (PH) 1-1, 2 RBI; Roberts 8.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, W (12-3);

The series win saw the Coons maintain a 4-game gap over the Crusaders, while the Elks stumbled over the Knights, got swept, and fell to 5 1/2 out.

Raccoons (58-43) vs. Knights (62-37) – July 24-26, 2028

The Knights, fresh off their sweep of the Elks, tried to get a last scratch at the eloping Condors, whom they trailed by 8 1/2 games at this point. The week had started well for them with their three wins and the Coons holding Tijuana to one, but now they had to come through against the same Coons, against whom they had so far tied the season series, 3-3. Atlanta sat third in runs scored and runs allowed, but even then their +70 run differential significantly outpaced the North-leading Raccoons.

Projected matchups:
Kyle Anderson (6-4, 4.04 ERA) vs. Tim Wells (11-6, 2.86 ERA)
Rin Nomura (9-5, 2.82 ERA) vs. Mario Rosas (6-12, 3.58 ERA)
Rico Gutierrez (8-4, 2.31 ERA) vs. Mike Cockcroft (4-9, 5.01 ERA)

Probably two lefties to begin this weekend set, although it is hard to tell without actually listening in on the Knights’ clubhouse conversations. The Knights’ rotation was a bit in a state of flux right now because of a trade this week that had send SP Estevan Delgado (7-7, 3.23 ERA) to the Elks for a prospect, #68 SP Jon Bleich, and a season-ending injury befalling his ostensible replacement Yoo-chul Kim (0-0, 3.60 ERA) who you may remember as being still on the Coons’ books in the aftermath of the Billy Ramm trade with the Loggers. We had released him after he passed waivers on Opening Day, and he had not signed with the Knights until earlier in the month and had only pitched five innings before going down.

By Friday, the Raccoons made two roster changes. George James (6-8, 4.99 ERA) and Butch Gerster (.325, 2 HR, 10 RBI) were sent to St. Petersburg, while we recalled Dan Delgadillo (2-4, 6.30 ERA) and Matt Nunley. The latter had amounted to only a single at-bat, an out, before breaking his leg on Opening Day, but had terrorized AAA pitching as a 37-year-old on rehab and we were keen to see whether any flame remained at the major league level.

Game 1
ATL: LF W. Lopez – 3B R. Miller – 1B Tadlock – 2B J. Johnson – CF Jennings – C T. Perez – RF Kym – SS Greene – P Wells
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – 1B Correa – 3B Hereford – LF Morales – RF Gomez – C Leal – CF Magallanes – P Anderson

While Anderson out of the gate struggled with command, the Coons still made it to the scoreboard first in the second inning. Morales led off with a single, Gomez doubled, and Leal singled over the head of Rich Miller for the first marker on the board. Magallanes also hit an RBI single (!), and Anderson moved over the runners, albeit with a groundout after falling to two strikes bunting in vein. Ramos hit a sac fly, 3-0, but Magallanes was thrown out at home to end the inning on Tim Stalker’s bloop single. The Knights went to work on Anderson right away; Tim Wells hit a leadoff single in the third, Willie Lopez doubled, and then a foul pop by Miller and Ron Tadlock whiffing out but a bit of a wrench into the gears, but Anderson still lost John Johnson on balls, his third walk in the game. Bases loaded, two outs for left-handed batter Billy Jennings, batting .375 in limited action (48 AB) – he flew out to Magallanes. He would fly out to Magallanes again in the fifth inning, stranding Tadlock and Johnson in scoring position, but by then the Knights were actually on the board, Johnson having dropped in an RBI single to score Rich Miller in a mild 2-out rally that shortened the lead to 3-1.

Anderson would not get old in this game, but was allowed to bat and ground out to short in the bottom 5th, then got through the sixth despite a Chun-yeong Kym single when Wells came up with two outs and popped out over the infield. He struck out Lopez to begin the seventh, but then lost Miller for his fifth walk and was removed in favor of Kevin Surginer, who secured outs from Tadlock and Johnson to end the inning with the 3-1 lead still intact. The Coons then went on to run Wells from the game in the bottom 7th. Magallanes opened with a single, Spencer singled for Surginer, Ramos hit an RBI double and just when Wells finally seemed ready for a break, Willie Lopez dropped a fly ball and the Coons started to run away. And just when they seemed to run away, Levi Snoeij entered, got a double play from Rich Hereford and got Morales to ground out, and the inning came to an end, now in a 6-1 game. But even Snoeij gave up a run in the seventh on a hit and a walk, but struck out Matt Nunley when the returnee pinch-hit for Kearney with two outs. Nunley then sat up camp at the hot corner for the ninth inning, Hereford taking a seat, but didn’t get a chance while Nick Derks turned away the Knights. 7-1 Furballs. Stalker 2-4, RBI; Gomez 1-2, 2 BB, 2B; Magallanes 3-4, RBI; Spencer (PH) 1-2, RBI;

Matt Nunley would then make a start the following day when the Knights decided to have righty Andy Jimenes (2-2, 4.47 ERA) take the ball. The 23-year-old “Dude” Jimenes had 13 appearances this season, six of them starts. He had not yet faced the Coons this season. And that U is as long as you can hold it.

Game 2
ATL: CF Collado – RF Jennings – 1B Tadlock – 2B J. Johnson – SS Greene – C T. Perez – 3B Moroyoqui – LF C. Mendoza – P Jimenes
POR: SS Ramos – C Leal – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – 3B Nunley – RF Gomez – CF Magallanes – P Nomura

Duuuude got shackled for three runs in the third inning when he walked Ramos, allowed a single to Leal that sent Ramos to third base, and then yielded deep flies to Stalker for a sac fly, and then Hereford for a 2-piece that put Rich at 80 RBI on the year. Portland added a run in the following inning that was part leadoff walk to Matt Nunley, who was forced on Gomez’ grounder, but mostly Billy Jennings throwing away a challenge when Gomez made for third base on Magallanes’ single to right. The throw would have been late, and also went past Jesus Moroyoqui into foul ground for an error, but when Jimenes didn’t get Nomura out cleanly (Rin grounded out), the run was earned. Nomura in the meantime went about his craft with skill and precision. Through five, he had shed two singles to Jennings, a walk to Drew Greene, but had logged nothing but (mostly soft) outs otherwise. That changed in the sixth; Ray Collado hit a leadoff triple, and then Nomura threw a fastball into Jennings’ rips to put runners on the corners with nobody out. The bases somehow emptied on Ron Tadlock’s run-scoring groundout, but then Johnson hit a double to left. Greene lined out softly to Matt Nunley to end the inning, but what looked like a sure shutout at first was now a real ballgame again, and definitely no shutout anymore. Top 7th, Moroyoqui singled, Chris Mendoza got nailed, but Trent Herlihy hit into a double play. So far, all still well…! … I proclaimed as I clutched Honeypaws against my chest.

The Coons added a run in times of panic; Ramos singled off Snoeij to begin the bottom 7th, advanced on Leal’s groundout, then stole third base and eventually scored on Hereford’s double to make it 5-1. Not that it helped Nomura – Collado led off the eighth with a single, and then Jennings got drilled again. Both teams had enough of this; the Knights of getting nailed three innings in a row, and the Coons of all the runners…! Ricky Ohl came on with two on and nobody out, whiffed Tadlock, then got a grounder to second from Johnson that Stalker inexplicably fudged, wholly and completely. The error loaded the bases for Drew Greene, who had no homers in 122 attempts this year, struck out, but Tony Perez dropped a single into shallow center that counted for two. When Kym, a lefty swinger, pinch-hit at that point, the Coons sent Brotman, who got him on a grounder to end the miserable inning. No insurance came forth, and once again Boles was one whiff away from striking out the side in the ninth, but then lost Collado in a full count. That brought up Jennings, who had reached base four times, twice on singles, and twice on bruises. Boles ended his streak here, striking him out to secure this game. 5-3 Raccoons. Leal 2-4; Hereford 2-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Magallanes 2-3, BB; Nomura 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, W (10-5);

Matt Nunley got his first hit of the season, a double that led nowhere nice in the middle innings. Meanwhile Hereford got to 81 RBI in the game, now nine ahead of *anybody* in the ABL. Jeff Wadley with 72 RBI was the closest opponent, and they were not really on our radar right now. If we faced the Warriors this season, it would be after the CLCS.

Our wins notwithstanding, the Crusaders kept hanging in there, while the Elks kept sliding towards .500;

Game 3
ATL: CF Collado – 3B R. Miller – 1B Tadlock – 2B J. Johnson – SS Greene – C T. Perez – RF G. Ramirez – LF W. Lopez – P Rosas
POR: SS Stalker – 2B Spencer – 1B Correa – 3B Hereford – LF Morales – RF Gomez – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Gutierrez

Even when Elias Tovias finally made fat contact, evil Willie Lopez robbed him to end the second inning. That stranded Rich Hereford at third base after he had hit a leadoff single and had stolen second base earlier in the inning and kept the game scoreless into the fourth inning when Rico yielded a pair of singles to Miller and Tadlock to begin the inning, then a sac fly to John Johnson. There it was – the run that would again deny him. The Coons could not get in Rafael Gomez from third base with nobody out, courtesy of a throwing error by Tony Perez on Gomez’ stolen base attempt, when Tovias struck out, Magallanes popped out, and Gutierrez struck out to run out the fifth inning. The Coons got nothing together at all and Rosas carried a 2-hitter through seven while Rico still hoped to somehow live long enough to still witness the coin flip to the other side, but Ron Tadlock’s 2-out, 2-run homer in the eighth, cashing Miller, pretty much put this one in the loss column with a 3-0 tally and Rosas still looking rather unimpressed by the Critters’ offerings. He retired them in order in the eighth, then came back out for the bottom 9th with the 3-0 lead and on 90 pitches. This time, the top of the order would have to answer. Stalker struck out. Spencer singled. Ramos batted for Correa and doubled up the leftfield line, which brought up Hereford with the tying run, but the Knights still stuck to Rosas, or had their manager just fallen asleep? In one of those major upsets that baseball would throw at you from time to time, Rosas ran a full count on Rich Hereford, who finally hit a pop right over home plate. Backup backstop Victor Ayala tossed the mask, planted himself, and the infielders watched intently as Ayala suddenly panicked, had the eventually returning ball glance off his glove, and chased it into the infield. Spencer scurried home, Ramos advanced, and Hereford had made for first base all the time on what became a run-scoring error. Now Rosas was yanked for righty Ed Blair. Wishing to counter, the Coons sent Nunley for Morales, but Matt couldn’t to better than a sac fly. Gomez struck out to end the game. 3-2 Knights. Ramos (PH) 1-1, 2B;

In other news

July 24 – IND SP Mo Robinson (5-5, 3.25 ERA) potentially faces Tommy John surgery after partially tearing his UCL. In any case he is lost for the season.
July 24 – VAN INF/LF Ted Gura (.293, 4 HR, 52 RBI) is also lost for the season with a torn posterior cruciate ligament.
July 25 – The Aces pick up super utility Brody Folk (.304, 4 HR, 35 RBI) from the Falcons, who receive a promising but unranked prospect.
July 26 – LAP 3B Jason LaCombe (.341, 0 HR, 30 RBI) will miss a month with a sprained knee.
July 26 – The Scorpions walk off on the Miners for a 10-inning, 7-6 win when PIT MR David Gerow (3-2, 4.09 ERA) nails rookie OF/1B John Blossom (.059, 0 HR, 1 RBI) with the bases loaded in the bottom 10th.
July 27 – The Bayhawks get SP Alex Lopez (6-7, 4.14 ERA) from the Falcons for 3B Greg Ortíz (.302, 4 HR, 30 RBI).
July 28 – The Thunder pick up the tab on NYC swingman Chris Klein (4-1, 2.31 ERA, 1 SV) in an exchange for LF/RF Carlos de Santiago (.283, 6 HR, 40 RBI). Klein was used in both start and relief roles by the Crusaders, but was put back into the rotation by the Thunder.
July 28 – LAP SP Dave Chrisitansen (15-3, 2.73 ERA) and LAP CL Joe Moore (3-2, 1.58 ERA, 32 SV) combine for a 1-hitter in a 2-1 win over the Cyclones. A fifth-inning single by LF/RF Manny Ramirez (.353, 0 HR, 6 RBI) is the Cylcones’ only entry into the H column.
July 29 – LVA OF David Allard (.245, 1 HR, 13 RBI) goes 4-for-5 with 3 RBI in a 13-3 drubbing of the Indians, in which the Aces score nine times in the fifth inning.
July 30 – The Indians give up and arrange for two deals. They send SP Chris Sinkhorn (10-6, 3.29 ERA) to the Canadiens for C Manny Sanchez (.217, 4 HR, 26 RBI) and a pitching prospect, then trade OF Matt Jamieson (.238, 3 HR, 12 RBI) to the Wolves for a low-key prospect.

Complaints and stuff

Oh look, Matt Jamieson is back in Oregon. – Yeah, don’t get me started. I also can’t say I dig Sinkhorn on the Elks. Guy knows how to win – he led the league in wins three times in his career, and remember he got his first scars on the Loggers, then went to the Gold Sox, who haven’t won as much as a coupon for decades.

A 4-2 week against the 1-2 punch in the South … that could have been much worse. Next week? The last-place Falcons and the Indians, who could theoretically get into last place by the weekend. That’s gonna be fun …?

After four months we finally found out that Juan Magallanes still had a pulse. That decided the centerfield conundrum for Abel Mora’s eventual return (late next week probably) in his favor. Unless more broken legs intervene with plans.

The international free agent hunt is over. The Raccoons ended up signing four players; two six-figure pitchers and two cheap position players. In total we spent $262k, so we will again be able to roll high with no restrictions next season.

Fun Fact: The Denver Gold Sox have finished second in the FL West nine times since their last playoff appearance in 2003.

That includes six straight runner-up finishes to the Scorpions from 2019 through 2024. However, on average in those six years they got beaten by a whopping 12.83 games, and they were never closer than eight games.
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Raccoons (60-44) @ Falcons (44-62) – July 31-August 2, 2028

Charlotte was home to the CL team with the worst pitching, with 5.3 runs falling out of the Falcons per game. Their offense ranked them eighth in the CL, which wasn’t going to help them a whole lot as they sat in last place in the South, 20 1/2 games out of the leading Condors. Of course, their season had long been written off as a loss, but at the same time the Coons had so far had a hard time with them, splitting the first six games of the season evenly with them.

Projected matchups:
Dan Delgadillo (2-4, 6.30 ERA) vs. Chris Rountree (3-12, 5.02 ERA)
Mark Roberts (12-3, 2.76 ERA) vs. Jesse Schiebout (5-7, 4.98 ERA)
Kyle Anderson (7-4, 3.82 ERA) vs. Joel O’Brien (3-2, 6.19 ERA)

Some grim ERA’s there; their “ace” was Mike Fernandez with a 4.04 ERA and a pale 5-12 record. Rountree was the only southpaw in the bunch.

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – LF Morales – 1B Correa – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 2B Spencer – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Delgadillo
CHA: 1B Fowlkes – 3B G. Ortíz – LF Salto – CF N. Nelson – C Sigala – RF Camps – SS Webb – 2B Rolland – P Rountree

Two shackled pitchers turned up and a pitcher’s duel broke out, at least for the first four innings. The Coons had nothing against Rountree, and Delgadillo looked vaguely competent, at least until the fifth inning when he bunted into a force at third base to ruin the top of the inning, then got roughed up in the bottom half, too. Jaylen Rolland hit a 1-out double, then scored on Rountree’s single to center, swiftly followed by a long ball over the leftfield fence hit by Pat Fowlkes. In a hurry, the Coons were down 3-0 before hitting a bushel of singles in the top 6th. Morales led off with one, Correa whiffed, Hereford singled, Gomez whiffed, Spencer singled, and with three on and two outs Elias Tovias broke up the procession with a ball over the head of Graciano Salto for a bases-clearing double that put the Coons even again. Magallanes was walked intentionally, Delgadillo was not hit for and struck out, and the inning ended in a 3-3 tie. Fascinatingly, the offenses then stopped again; both pitchers went through seven innings without further harm, but the Coons got a good chance in the top of the eighth against Rountree. Rich Hereford singled to left to begin the inning, Salto overran the ball, and the error put the go-ahead run on second base with nobody out. Rafael Gomez got four wide ones to get to Spencer, which was a strange choice one way or another, and Jarod singled to left to load the bags again for Tovias, but this time it was a double play scenario. He executed masterfully, bouncing fast to Fowlkes, who fired home to get Hereford, and they even got the lumbering Tovias at first base. Stalker batted for Magallanes, but flew out to Juan Camps in right, stranding runners in scoring position.

But the Falcons would try again – top 9th, righty Jimmy Shearer pitching to Ryan Allan, now in center and batting ninth. Allan hit a ****ty grounder that Jairo Sigala couldn’t dig out in time and that resulted in an infield single. Ramos whiffed on a hit-and-run, but Sigala threw the ball into centerfield to allow the go-ahead run to third base with nobody out. Ramos turned the first-pitch strike into a walk, but Danny Morales flew out to shallow center, keeping the runner on, and Allan also wasn’t going to score on Jon Correa’s soft fly to Sal- oops, no, he dropped it. The third critical error by the Falcons was the one that finally allowed the Coons to score. Hereford singled to load them up, but we only got a pinch-hit sac fly from Harenberg under our own power before sending in Josh Boles for the 4-5-6 batters. For the third time in a week, Boles was one strike away from ringing up the side when Juan Camps hit a double on a 1-2 pitch. Jason Carmichael pinch-hit after that one, and the Falcons would lose on another grievous error when Carmichael singled to center. Camps went around and scored, but Carmichael had not stopped at first base and was caught up in a rundown by Ryan Allan from which he emerged thoroughly pelted for the final out in the contest. 5-4 Coons. Hereford 3-5; Spencer 3-5; Tovias 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI; Magallanes 0-1, 2 BB; Allan 1-1;

Despite my best efforts, the Raccoons failed to land another reinforcement at the trade deadline, which silently passed.

Game 2
POR: SS Ramos – C Leal – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – 3B Nunley – RF Gomez – CF Allan – P Roberts
CHA: SS Hobbs – CF N. Nelson – 1B Fowlkes – RF Kok – LF Salto – C Sigala – 3B Webb – 2B Rolland – P Schiebout

In a weird-ass game, there was a Falcons error on Fowlkes right at the start of the game, but the Coons couldn’t get Ramos around… or anybody else, in fact. They loaded the bases on three singles in the second inning, but when Roberts lifted a ball out to Salto and the Coons sent Nunley from third he was thrown out at the plate and the inning was over. The Coons didn’t do anything else through five innings, while Salto walked, stole second, and scored on Ernie Webb’s single in the bottom 2nd. Mark Roberts also had to fight off rain and a brief rain relay, and struck out nobody until the fifth inning, then still in a 1-0 deficit. He also walked the pitcher Schiebout once, and fell behind 2-0 on Fowlkes’ homer in the bottom 6th, but that was after Tim Stalker had drawn a leadoff walk, stolen second, and had still been stranded when Nunley hit into a double play to erase Kevin Harenberg and the second walk of the inning. At some point, we realized that the loss in this game was divined to fall onto the Coons… Ramos was on base to start the eighth, but was caught stealing, even though Armando Leal then singled. Nothing worked … until Rich Hereford ran into a hanger thrown by righty Brian Bowsman and powdered it some 410 feet outta right center. That one tied the game with two outs in the eighth and left Mark Roberts with a no-decision in a crummy start. Bottom 9th, Fleischer walked Barend Kok on four pitches to get going, then allowed a double to Salto, putting the winning run on third base with no outs. Hugo Ochoa grounded to Ramos, who fired home – out! But when Ernie Webb also grounded to short, Ramos didn’t get Salto as well… that throw was late and the Falcons walked off. 3-2 Falcons. Ramos 2-4;

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – RF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Anderson
CHA: 1B Fowlkes – SS Hobbs – RF Kok – LF Salto – CF N. Nelson – C Sigala – 3B Webb – 2B Rolland – P O’Brien

The Coons walked three times the first time through the lineup, but had no hits and the Falcons chipped in no errors, so there was no early scoring, at least not for the visiting team. The home team went up 1-0 in the second in the rubber game for both this series and the season series when Nate Nelson doubled and scored on Jairo Sigala’s single, and then 2-0 in the third on Michael Hobbs’ solo shot. The Coons only became active in the fourth. Harenberg drew a leadoff walk, Tovias doubled, and Magallanes was put on intentionally. Anderson struck out, but that was only the second out; Ramos singled hard past Ernie Webb, who had robbed him three of four times in this series, but couldn’t catch up with this ball as it escaped into the outfield and tied the game as two runs scored. Tim Stalker put the Coons in front with an RBI single to left before the inning fizzled out.

O’Brien walked six in this start and was done before completing six innings, but the Coons failed to pummel him like they had failed to pummel any of the Falcons’ horrendous starters in this series. This had to come back to bite them in the furry bum; Sigala came through again in the bottom 6th, finding runners on the corners with two outs and doubling off the fence to flip the score in the Falcons’ favor, 4-3. Anderson lasted seven but was still on the hook when the Falcons cycled through their entire pen in the Coons’ half of the eighth. Tovias led off with a shy single. Magallanes failed to bunt him over, poking into a force at second base. Morales flew out to Salto. Ramos hit an infield single. By the time Stalker stepped into the box, the Falcons were on their fourth reliever of the inning, righty Josh Pillsbury, who got Stalker to ground back to the mound to suffocate the wannabe rally. Pillsbury went on to retire the middle of the order 1-2-3 in the ninth, including K’s to Hereford and Harenberg. 4-3 Falcons. Ramos 2-4, BB, 2 RBI; Tovias 2-3, BB, 2B;

Well… at least the Crusaders didn’t do much either… we are still up by 4 1/2…

Raccoons (61-46) vs. Indians (48-59) – August 3-6, 2028

Next stab at a foundering team. The Indians had a 9-game losing streak going and were last in batting average and runs scored in the Continental League. Their pitching was solid, allowing the fifth-fewest runs, but when you were only scratching out 3.6 runs a game, any sort of momentum was hard to get. Or so I hear. The Coons led the season series, narrowly, 4-3.

Projected matchups:
Rin Nomura (10-5, 2.87 ERA) vs. Jim Kretzmann (0-1, 15.43 ERA)
Rico Gutierrez (8-5, 2.38 ERA) vs. Frank Kelly (0-0, 9.39 ERA)
Dan Delgadillo (2-4, 6.00 ERA) vs. David Saccoccio (8-9, 3.09 ERA)
Mark Roberts (12-3, 2.74 ERA) vs. Mark Matthews (2-2, 4.22 ERA)

All right-handers, if they really go in that order. Injuries had ravaged the Indians’ rotation and anything was possible. Frank Kelly was the ex-Coon continuously trying to come back from some sort of injury. He had been blown up over nine relief appearances so far this season. Kretzmann was a rookie that had been strafed in his first career start. He had made three relief appearances last year… and had been strafed.

Can we get any sort of offense … at all?

And, oh, what nice surprise… the dear owner decided to fly by for the first two games and already brought some helpful advice, like, adding a hometown player to get more people to the park.

Game 1
IND: SS Pizano – 2B T. Johnson – CF Suhay – C Kennett – RF Ryder – LF M. Cowan – 1B Aleman – 3B Roesler – P Kretzmann
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – RF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Nomura

Much to the pleasure of my peptic ulcer, the Coons were hellbound to not score Rich Hereford after his leadoff triple in the second inning, but their evil plans were foiled when Kretzmann uncorked a wild pitch to Tovias, and that one got Hereford home with two down for the first marker on the board. Tovias (and Magallanes) actually went on to single, but that was with the pressure and the RISP off, so he wasn’t fooling me with no “oh I woulda…!” – but the Coons turned over the lineup for the third, which would surely not be all bad. Stalker doubled, Correa singled, Hereford hit a boomer for three, his 20th homer on the season, and he was now also at 87 RBI and had had his paws in all the Coons runs in the 4-0 game.

While Nomura was very good, he was not all dominant. In fact, the Indians had a man in scoring position in three of the first four innings, twice on a double; Ben Suhay hit one into the leftfield corner in the first, and Mario Pizano doubled off the fence and the tip of Hereford’s glove in the third, but neither got around to score. Kretzmann in turn was sent to bed by the fourth, in which Nomura singled, Stalker doubled, and Jon Correa brought in a run with a well-placed groundout, 5-0. The sixth inning was unremarkable in that Nomura retired the top of the Indians’ lineup in order, except that Suhay was thrown out by Nunley on a grounder that was rather near the mound, but he still raced in and made a bare-hand play to beat the centerfielder on a bang-bang play – 37 years old and still got the guts! …including those of some poor animal no the sandwiches he had brought in his lunchbox and that were stinking up the dugout.

The Furballs went up 6-0 in the bottom 6th on doubles by Stalker and Hereford, which was remarkable in that Rich was now a single short of the cycle, but was not guaranteed another at-bat at this point. At the same time, Nomura got stuck in the seventh, bleeding three singles for a run before hitting Jon Gonzalez with his 100th pitch of the game. That loaded the bases with two outs, the Coons went to Surginer to face Pizano, but the opposing shortstop ripped a 2-run single on Surginer’s first pitch. Todd Johnson struck out to end the inning, now in a 6-3 score. Nunley walked and Morales had a pinch-hit single in the bottom 7th, which was not enough for a run, but enough to bring up Hereford in the eighth, which the Coons entered facing southpaw Ben Knox after a perfect eighth from Jonathan Fleischer. Knox retired Stalker and Correa before facing Hereford with two outs and nobody on. Hereford spanked the first pitch right at third baseman Mike Roesler… but it was hit so hard that Roesler couldn’t play it cleanly as the ball bounced just in front of him and hit off his glove before striking him in the stomach. Roesler moaned, recovered, but got nothing on the throw to first and Hereford legged it out – RICH HEREFORD HAS HIT FOR THE CYCLE!!!

That was not the last straw in the game, either. After the videoboard flashed up with congratulations and the home crowd was done snickering in appreciation – and even some of the Indians players applauded Hereford for undoing them in probably their 10th straight loss – Rafael Gomez batted for Harenberg and hit a 2-piece over the fence to give Portland a 5-run edge. Nick Derks put two on, but eventually nailed down the ninth in his memorable win. 8-3 Furballs! Stalker 3-5, 3 2B; Hereford 4-5, HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI; Gomez (PH) 1-1, HR, 2 RBI; Nunley 2-4, BB; Morales (PH) 1-1; Nomura 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, W (11-5);

Guess what – Nick Valdes basically told me “well done” on the trade that got us Rich Hereford last season. In fact it has been a year and four days since the deal with the Gold Sox that sent him over.

Game 2
IND: SS Pizano – LF Plunkett – 1B Jon Gonzalez – CF Suhay – C Kennett – 2B T. Johnson – RF M. Cowan – 3B Dichio – P Saccoccio
POR: SS Ramos – C Leal – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – 3B Nunley – CF Magallanes – P Gutierrez

A day after once-in-a-decade heroics, Rich Hereford was involved in double plays in his first two trips to the plate and beyond and it was never really his fault. He lined into an inning-ending double play in the first inning that I tended to blame on Armando Leal’s lack of awareness for his surroundings that allowed the Indians do double him off second base, then was the first out on Rafael Gomez’ ball into a 6-4-3 double play that ended the fourth inning. In between, three players had gone yard, all with solo shots, but the Indians were up 2-1 on homers by Pizano and Suhay. Leal had gone deep for the Coons in the bottom 4th. Portland knotted the score against Saccoccio in the bottom 5th when both Nunley and Magallanes hit doubles to right to begin the frame, and the Indians added more runners with an intentional walk to Ramos after Gutierrez had gone down whiffing. Leal singled past Jon Gonzalez into right for an RBI single, putting Portland up 3-2, and when Stalker walked in a full count, the bags were full for Hereford, who ripped away at the first pitch he got, which turned out the last pitch from Saccoccio, and was also never found again after clearing the batter’s eye – GRAAAAAAAAAAAAND SLAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMM!!!!

Staked to a 7-2 lead after the 6-run fifth, Rico basically only had to keep working well. Don’t spark a meltdown! And he didn’t; Rico retired the Indians in order all the way to the ninth inning, where the annoying all-or-nothing hitter Ben Suhay hit a 1-out triple into the rightfield corner. That was a bit of a problem; we would have liked for Rico to finish the game, but again… don’t spark a meltdown. He would get one more batter, Elliott Kennett, but we got Ricky Ohl up just in case. Kennett struck out, Rico’s 10th victim in the game… and he made it 11 on Todd Johnson to end the game…! 7-2 Furballs! Ramos 1-2, 3 BB; Leal 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Hereford 2-4, HR, 4 RBI; Gutierrez 9.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, W (9-5);

As Valdes left he told me to keep up the good work.

What the heck does that mean? – Maud? – Maud? – What did he say?

For now, we’d shuffle in some off days for the everyday guys. Including Hereford! We will not have an off day next week either, and I don’t want to run everybody into the ground while we are up by more than a handful.

Game 3
IND: SS Pizano – 3B Roesler – 1B Jon Gonzalez – CF Suhay – LF Plunkett – RF Ryder – C M. Sanchez – 2B T. Johnson – P F. Kelly
POR: SS Stalker – 2B Spencer – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – LF Morales – C Tovias – 3B Nunley – CF Magallanes – P Delgadillo

There was a rain delay as early as the second inning, by which time the Indians led 1-0 on account of Roesler’s first-inning triple and Jon Gonzalez’ run-scoring groundout. The Coons tried to strand as many runners as possible early on, or like Harenberg in the bottom 1st just simply hit into a double play. Harenberg drew a leadoff walk in the bottom 4th, moved to second on Morales’ single, to third on Tovias’ fly to center, then froze when Nunley flew out to Zachary Ryder in right. Magallanes walked against the drifting Kelly, whose state made me sad and had done so for years, but all that did was bring up the pitcher with three on and two down. Lo and behold, Delgadillo singled over the second-base bag, two runs scored, and the score was flipped in favor of the home team!

Stalker flew out to strand another pair and the tender 2-1 lead was always in danger of going extinct with 2028 Dan Delgadillo on the mound. Yusneldan gave up a leadoff double to Suhay in the sixth, and also walked Ryder with two outs. Suhay had moved up on Mike Plunkett’s fly to center, and Ryder took second base via steal, but when Manny Sanchez lined to the left side, Stalker jumped and made the catch, just barely. Now, would the Indians bat for Frank Kelly with three on and two outs? Probably! But it wouldn’t hurt to feel their pulse. Todd Johnson got directions to first base to load them up for the #9 hole, the Indians did not bat for Kelly, the count ran full, and then Kelly flew to center. Magallanes was there and - … dropped the ball. Two runs scored as the entire ballpark gasped at once. That one had the potential to unspool the entire team… I could feel it in my guts. Pizano fouled out on a 3-0 pitch, but we really needed to get some runs right now, down 3-2. Nothing happened in the bottom 6th, but Kelly walked Magallanes to begin the bottom 7th. Ramos batted for Delgadillo, struck out (!), but Kelly disappeared after walking Tim Stalker. Right-hander David Wayne with his 6.53 ERA threatened to snuff out the Coons once and for all, the weirdly cursed Jarod Spencer popped out, but Rafael Gomez singled to left and Magallanes was waved around to score and tie the game. But that noise you heard was Wayne coming apart – he surrendered an RBI single to Harenberg, putting Portland up 4-3, and then a gasp that threatened to fall into Plunkett’s mitten at the fence before coughing over said fence for a 3-piece to Danny Morales. Spencer did manage a 2-out RBI single in the eighth, though. 8-3 Furballs! Spencer 2-5, RBI; Gomez 2-5, RBI; Morales 2-4, HR, 3 RBI; Magallanes 0-1, 2 BB; Delgadillo 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, W (3-4) and 1-1, 2 RBI;

This was the first game all season in which Rich Hereford did not appear. He was the last Critter to show his whiskers in all contests of the year.

Game 4
IND: SS Pizano – 2B T. Johnson – 1B Jon Gonzalez – C Kennett – RF Ryder – LF Aleman – CF M. Cowan – 3B Roesler – P Matthews
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Spencer – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Tovias – CF Allan – P Roberts

While Portland scored first on Sunday thanks to Ramos’ leadoff triple and Spencer’s sac fly in the first, the Indians were on the brink of doing some major damage in the third inning, in which they hit three singles through the same seam between Ramos and Hereford. No fault on the defense, just three perfectly placed grounders in the inning. That loaded the bases with one out for Gonzalez, who struck out, and then Kennett, who … struck out. PHEW. Oh, never mind – the Indians just kept singling Roberts every which way they liked. They had three more singles in the fourth inning, two through the left side, with Roesler driving in Alex Aleman to tie the game at one. Roberts sat on seven base hits through four innings. Bottom 4th, leadoff walk drawn by Jon Correa, then a single over Johnson hit by Hereford. That one came AFTER Zachary Ryder dropped a foul pop near the sidewall, which gave Hereford a second shot. When Matthews lost Harenberg in a full count, the Coons had three on and nobody out, a.k.a. The Danger Zone. Gomez’ run-scoring groundout was all they got. Tovias was walked intentionally, Allan struck out, and Roberts flew out to Mike Cowan.

Then came the fifth and more boundless horrors. Todd Johnson hit a leadoff single that Allan overran to put the tying run on second base. It did not matter much for Roberts drilled the next TWO batters to load the bases with no outs… Weirdly enough, once **** was steaming, he seemed to get it back together… He rung up Ryder, surrendered the tying run on Aleman’s sac fly, but then also got Cowan to pop out and strand them on the corners in the 2-2 game. At this point, his pitch count was completely shot, but he would hang around long enough to surrender a go-ahead home run to Pizano in the top 6th… The Raccoons picked two innings from Nick Derks while their lineup continued to be no real help for the cause of a 4-game sweep, but the Indians’ pen crumbled ever so slightly in the eighth. Knox walked Hereford, who advanced on Harenberg’s groundout, then scored when Gomez singled off Wayne. That tied the game, but not more. Kevin Surginer held the Indians in place in the top 9th, bringing up the 8-9-1 part of the lineup against righty Brandon Smith and his 6.27 ERA in the bottom 9th. Nunley led off after entering in the second double switch of the game, grounded out, and the Coons didn’t get somebody on until Ramos singled with two down. When he was caught stealing, the game went to extras. There the Arrowheads continued to hit them through the seams; Kennett and Ryder went to the corners after both rolled a ball through between Spencer and Harenberg to begin the inning. Dominique Dichio lined hard to left, but Nunley made a marvelous play AND doubled off the confused catcher! …and then the Indians still scored on Bill Boggus’ double to left… Spencer hit a leadoff single in the bottom 10th, was doubled off by Correa, and then Johnson handled Hereford’s grounder to salvage a game for the Indians on the way out. 4-3 Indians. Ramos 2-5, 3B; Derks 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K;

In other news

July 31 – BOS 1B/RF/LF/2B Matt Good (.281, 8 HR, 36 RBI) lands his 2,000th base hit in the Titans’ 7-3 loss to the Aces. Good reaches the milestone on a first-inning RBI double off LVA SP Ed Hague (9-9, 5.04 ERA).
July 31 – The Thunder feverishly rally past the Crusaders in the eighth inning, scoring nine times to turn a 6-2 deficit into an eventual 11-6 win.
August 1 – BOS 3B/2B Rhett West (.250, 4 HR, 40 RBI) figures to miss the entire month of August with a strained triceps.
August 2 – OCT CF Dave Garcia (.290, 10 HR, 49 RBI) will probably miss a month once again with a sprained thumb.
August 5 – SFB 1B/3B Eddie Moreno (..270, 7 HR, 24 RBI) lands his fourth hit for the Bayhawks after a July trade, which is also the 2,000th of his career, in a 5-3 loss to the Thunder. The marquee hit is a pinch-hit RBI single off OCT MR Max Nelson (6-6, 5.42 ERA) in the eighth inning.

Complaints and stuff

Mark Dawson – Vic Flores – Adrian Quebell – Rich Hereford

…those are the Raccoons that have hit for the cycle. We had actually not been involved in a cycle for 19 1/2 seasons, ever since Quebell’s in May of 2009. The Indians had not been in a cycle for 16 years, having fallen victim to Hall of Famer Martin Ortíz of the Crusaders in 2012.

Not entirely by surprise came Rich Hereford’d dedication as Player of the Week in the Continental League, torturing opposing teams with a .423 clip (11-26), 3 HR, and 10 RBI.

Pitcher of the Month in the Continental League? Mark Roberts of your dear Raccoons. He made five starts, won them all, and posted a 2.04 ERA in 35.1 innings with 40 K while yielding only 24 hits and seven walks.

As expected (…), the Coons went worse against the bottom feeders (4-3) as they had against the top teams in the South (4-2) the week before. And up next? The Loggers that almost unwound us completely in July, when we went 4-5 against them in some extended home-and-away action in the pair of 4-game sets around the All Star Game. After that: the Gold Sox, deeply regretting the Rich Hereford deal I assume.

Abel Mora started a brief rehab assignment in the middle of the week. He should be back in Portland to start the next week!

Fun Fact: The Indians have two cycles to their credit. Both came in the 2000s with Jose Paraz (2004) and Angel Solís (2007).

Solís’ cycle is one of six natural cycle in league history. Overall the ABL has seen 76 cycles. Hereford’s was the first this season.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:05 PM   #2724
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Raccoons (64-47) vs. Loggers (46-64) – August 7-10, 2028

The Raccoons were only 6-5 on the Loggers this season after some pretty stale performances in the nine games the teams played in July. The Loggers were getting bopped by pretty much everybody else, so this remained a bit of a mystery to me. They were in the bottom three in both runs scored and runs allowed, and their rotation as near the worst in baseball. So, I don’t know, sometimes things don’t quite work out…?

Projected matchups:
Kyle Anderson (7-5, 3.93 ERA) vs. Francisco Colmenarez (6-10, 4.49 ERA)
Rin Nomura (11-5, 2.92 ERA) vs. Philip Rogers (6-3, 2.98 ERA)
Rico Gutierrez (9-5, 2.35 ERA) vs. Alex Contreras (7-9, 4.22 ERA)
Dan Delgadillo (3-4, 5.48 ERA) vs. Morgan Shepherd (5-9, 3.95 ERA)

The Loggers would get going with the southpaw, then send three right-handers after that. They also had a few guys on the DL, most notably Firmino Cambra. Meanwhile, the Coons made a roster move as indicated and brought back Abel Mora from rehab, sending Ryan Allan to St. Petersburg.

Game 1
MIL: 3B V. Diaz – CF Hollingsworth – LF W. Trevino – RF Schorsch – C Canody – SS Becker – 1B R. Amador – 2B Rauser – P Colmenarez
POR: SS Ramos – LF Morales – 2B Stalker – 3B Hereford – 1B Correa – RF Gomez – CF Mora – C Tovias – P Anderson

Kyle Anderson did not pitch very economically and despite allowing only one run was out of the game in five innings. That one run was a first-inning homer by Willie Trevino, a batter Anderson never retired in this outing, leaving Trevino 3-for-3, while Jason Rauser was 0-for-0 with two walks, one intentional, one not so much, by the time Anderson retired to the showers. The Coons had tied the score right in the bottom 1st, Ramos, Stalker, and Hereford all hitting singles, but since then had gotten only one other hit out of Colmenarez. Hereford grounded out to begin the bottom 6th, but then full counts yielded a walk to Jon Correa, a single by Rafael Gomez, and with two outs Elias Tovias squeezed a grounder past Jeff Becker for an RBI single, putting the Coons in general and Jeff Kearney in particular into the lead. Harenberg would hit for Kearney, but flew out to Steve Hollingsworth to end the inning. Fleischer had a scoreless seventh, but allowed a leadoff single to Trevino (4-for-4) to begin the eighth. Billy Brotman came on, got around a pinch-hit single by Steve Garcia, and exited the inning on two whiffs and a pop. The Raccoons would not get noticeably near an insurance run, leaving Josh Boles to figure out the ninth on his own, starting with Jason Rauser, who singled on 0-2. Alexis Rueda grounded to first in a way that allowed the Coons to kill the lead runner, and then Vinny Diaz popped out foul, leaving things to Hollingsworth, who you may remember was no gem as a Raccoon in any situation (.193, 0 HR, 2 RBI). He put the 2-2 in play, softly, but Tim Stalker made a hustling play and threw him out, narrowly, to end the game. 2-1 Coons. Tovias 1-2, BB, RBI;

Game 2
MIL: 3B V. Diaz – SS Becker – LF W. Trevino – RF Schorsch – CF Hollingsworth – C S. Garcia – 1B W. Aquino – 2B Rauser – P Rogers
POR: SS Ramos – 2B Stalker – LF Correa – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – CF Mora – C Leal – RF Gomez – P Nomura

Rich Hereford continued to make the mothers of opposing pitchers weep with a 2-run homer in the first inning. Tim Stalker had hit a double to bring him to the plate in the opening frame. Kevin Harenberg would up the tally to 3-0 with a solo shot in the fourth while Rin Nomura was holding the Loggers as short as the grass on the field. He needed 51 pitches through five innings, yielding two hits and whiffing five. Vinny Diaz hit a bloop into no man’s land for a single in the sixth, but was doubled off by Jeff Becker, and while Willie Trevino led off the seventh with a double down the leftfield line, soft contact kept him on the bases with no chance to go home at any point. The Critters one-upped the Loggers, though, when Ramos hit a leadoff triple in the bottom 7th… and was also left stranded. Stalker grounded out to Rogers, Correa fouled out behind home plate, and Hereford hit a deep fly, but it had enough hang time for Hollingsworth to amble under it. Nomura shed singles up the middle against Jason Parten and Diaz in the eighth, yet still pulled through when Becker popped out, and he was still only on 82 pitches and I still saw no reason not to keep him out there… even though the Coons loaded them up against righty Joe West in the bottom 8th. Harenberg singled, Mora singled, and Nunley singled in Gomez’ place. Three on, one out, pitcher at the plate. No, really, it’s fine. Nomura grounded out to bring in the run that took off the save anyway for the time being, with Ramos then striking out in a full count. Top 9th: K to Trevino, then Schorsch grounded out. There was Hollingsworth again… and he flew out easily to Mora. 4-0 Furballs! Ramos 2-5, 3B; Stalker 2-4, 2B; Mora 3-4; Nunley (PH) 1-1; Nomura 9.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, W (12-5);

This was Rin Nomura’s first-ever career shutout, and his fourth complete game. Three of those CG’s have come this season. This includes another complete-game win over the Loggers in May, as well as a loss in a rain-shortened April contest with the Knights in which he actually only pitched six innings, but the box score never made it to the seventh column…

Game 3
MIL: 3B V. Diaz – SS Becker – LF W. Trevino – RF Schorsch – CF Hollingsworth – C S. Garcia – 1B W. Aquino – 2B Rauser – P Contreras
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – LF Correa – 2B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – C Leal – 3B Nunley – RF Gomez – P Gutierrez

Rico had made a habit of shutting out the Loggers a few years back, but hadn’t managed the feat in a while, and wouldn’t in this game, thanks to Tom Schorsch’s leadoff jack in the second inning. That erased the 1-0 lead from Jon Correa’s run-scoring double play grounder in the bottom 1st (and that came after Steve Garcia dropped his previous foul pop for an error), but the Coons put provide a new lead in due time. A Wilson Aquino error put Harenberg on base to start the bottom 2nd. Leal forced him on a grounder, but Nunley walked and then Rafael Gomez walloped a fastball over the leftfield fence to stake Gutierrez to a 4-1 lead, and the third saw the lead grow to 6-1. Correa opened with a single, Hereford walked, there was a groundout, a balk, and a sac fly as Contreras kept visibly disintegrating.

Then the weather came apart, too, and it started to rain just as the third inning ended. Quite badly, actually, and the game went into a 40-minute delay as soon as Willie Trevino hit a leadoff single in the top 4th. Rico came back a different pitcher, yielded two more singles and a run, and then was kinda lucky to exit the inning on consecutive pops to Ramos off the bats of Garcia and Aquino. Contreras also struggled (but that was not due to the rain), as did the Loggers defense. A Jason Rauser error put Rico on base in the bottom 4th, and they gradually filled the bases until Hereford knocked out Contreras with a 2-out, 2-run single into shallow center. Cory Dew replaced him, but gave up an RBI single to Harenberg before Leal popped out. Would Rico get through five innings? Yes, but barely. This included the Loggers, down by seven, sending Dew to the plate to strike out. Diaz hit a 2-out single, stole second, but was stranded when Becker grounded out, and we decided to call it a day with Gutierrez after that. So did the offense – they never came close to scoring again, but they did not have to. Nick Derks was nearly perfect for three innings (he hit Trevino, who was then doubled up by Schorsch), and Kevin Surginer retired the Loggers in order in the ninth to go up 3-0 in the series and 9-5 on the season. 9-2 Raccoons! Correa 2-4; Harenberg 2-4, RBI; Spencer (PH) 1-1; Gutierrez 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, W (10-5); Derks 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K;

Game 4
MIL: SS Becker – CF Hollingsworth – LF W. Trevino – 1B W. Aquino – C Canody – 3B Parten – RF Rueda – 2B Rauser – P Shepherd
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – RF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – LF Correa – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Delgadillo

The sweep was tall task though, with Dan Delgadillo getting murdered as soon as he finished his warm-up tosses. Hollingsworth singled and Trevino went yard in the first, and he surrendered another run on three line drive base hits in the second inning. Well, Elias Tovias kept the Coons at least close with a 2-run double in the bottom of the second inning, but then the Critters got bogged down in their usual “oh look, a double play – mine!” mentality and few good things happened. Delgadillo at least threw a few zeroes onto the board going into the middle innings, but surrendered a leadoff jack to Alexis Rueda in the sixth. Rauser singled, and here were the Loggers, in last place, but showing the utmost disrespect for Yusneldan when they had Shepherd swing away with a runner on first and nobody out. He hit a hard grounder, right at Tim Stalker, and the Coons turned two. Now I REALLY hoped that we could come back and beat them by a single run. Or a million!

That comeback was hard to come by, though. The Coons put them on the corners, but left them there in the sixth when Nunley struck out. We’d be back on the corners the following inning, which started with Tovias flying out to center, but Hollingsworth could not contain the drive of Rafael Gomez, who came up with a double after entering the game in a double switch the previous half-inning, Nunley being gone and Hereford back at third base. Ramos singled softly to right, setting up Mora as the go-ahead run, but he struck out in a full count. Stalker ran to 2-2, then hit a drive to deep right. Rueda didn’t get it, and Stalker was flinging them hindpaws, reaching third base standing up on a score-knotting triple! Hereford stranded him, grounding out to Rauser. That was Stalker’s last act in the game, him being removed in the next double switch after Kearney issued a 2-out walk to Rauser in the top 8th. Vinny Diaz would face Ricky Ohl, and powdered a fastball over the centerfield fence to put the Loggers back on top, 6-4.

Bottom 8th, the Loggers tried to salvage at least this one game. Zach Weaver allowed a single to Harenberg to begin the inning. Correa flew out against Joe West, who then allowed a single to Spencer, who had come into the game in the second double switch. That brought up Tovias, who would face lefty Travis Feider, ran a 3-1 count, and then mauled a baseball for a real rocket over the leftfield fence – it was a score-flipper!! Ramos would get on, but was caught stealing to send the game to the ninth, where Boles allowed a leadoff single to PH Tom Schorsch. Trevino flew out to center, Aquino popped out harmlessly. Taylor Canody sent a drive to left with two outs. Correa back, back… back… further back… and he caught it on the warning track …! 7-6 Furballs!! Ramos 2-5; Stalker 2-3, BB, 3B, 2 RBI; Correa 3-4; Spencer 1-1; Tovias 2-4, HR, 2B, 5 RBI; Gomez 1-2, 2B;

A sweep! So sweet!

Raccoons (68-47) @ Gold Sox (54-59) – August 11-13, 2028

20 games out in the West, the Gold Sox were also playing out the string on the season. They sat second from the bottom in runs scored in the Federal League, as well as seventh in runs allowed. They (not unexpectedly) were good in mashing homers, but little else, really, and the pitching staff was a whole lot of “hum!”. The Coons had their worst record against any team against the Gold Sox, .462 all time, and had not won a series from them since 2021.

Projected matchups:
Mark Roberts (12-3, 2.75 ERA) vs. Jeff Horton (2-3, 3.90 ERA)
Kyle Anderson (7-5, 3.81 ERA) vs. Allen Reed (3-4, 4.66 ERA)
Rin Nomura (12-5, 2.76 ERA) vs. Brendon Coles (4-2, 5.50 ERA)

Here was a rotation decimated by injuries. None of these three had been in the Gold Sox rotation at the start of the season, and had either been brought up from the minors or over from the pen. Their only surviving starter was Tommy Weintraub (8-13, 3.81 ERA), but he had pitched on Wednesday and was unlikely to make an appearance. As things stood, we would likely see a southpaw on Saturday with Reed who had made only one start on the season and had been in relief as late as Tuesday, but was now taking the spot of Chad Allen (6-5, 5.22 ERA), who had been moved to the DL on account of rotator cuff inflammation. Other notable starting pitchers on the DL included Ian Prevost and Jose Menendez. All of them were likely out for the season.

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – RF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – LF Correa – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Roberts
DEN: SS Schlegelmilch – 2B Herman – RF Chavira – 1B Gore – C F. Garcia – 3B T. Fuentes – LF Vasquez – CF Colston – P Horton

Mark Roberts came apart for a first-inning 3-spot, allowing singles to Nick Herman and Vinny Chavira, then walks to Brad Gore and Fernando Garcia, which already forced in a run. Tony Fuentes hit a sac fly, Rodolfo Vasquez hit an RBI single, and somehow Eric Colston struck out trying to move the ball along, finally ending a tedious first. Also not helping was the fact that Roberts was the only Furball to land a base hit the first time through the order. They did mount a few hits in the fourth, Stalker and Harenberg getting on, and Nunley hitting a 2-out RBI double to left, but that opened first base to park Tovias, and Roberts grounded out to Herman to strand a full set. Mark Roberts amped up the stuff in the middle innings and allowed next to nothing, but unfortunately it looked like the damage had already been done. Jeff Horton held up to allow only four hits and that one run through seven innings, but was pinch-hit for with ex-Critter Terry Kopp, who popped out, in the bottom 7th. The Coons would have to try their paw on righty Troy McCaskill at that point, bringing up the top of the order in the eighth inning. Ramos struck out, but Mora singled to left. The Gold Sox went to Tobias Amaya, who yielded a double to Stalker, then on to southpaw Keegan Dean with the tying runs in scoring position and the league’s leading RBI man at the plate. Rich Hereford had greeted old buddies in the home team’s clubhouse before the game, but so far had been too polite at the plate for my taste, 0-for-3. That changed here. Dean didn’t fool him one hit and Hereford slapped a liner over Nick Herman for a 2-run single, putting himself at 99 RBI and also knotting the score. Gomez batted for Harenberg, grounded out, but the Sox stuck to Dean against Jon Correa, who hit a blast to left that put Portland up, 5-3!

Roberts, on 99 pitches, did not come back out for the eighth, but hoped the pen would nail down the W for him. The bottom 8th was dicey to say the least. Ricky Ohl faced Herman and rung him up, after which we went to Brotman with three of the next four batters swinging it from the left. He walked Chavira, then allowed a hard drive to right to Brad Gore, which was shagged by Hereford, somehow. Fernando Garcia was the righty batter, but we stuck to Brotman against the all-or-nothing hitter, who hit it all hard to deep left … yet got nothing, Correa catching up with the rocket at the track. Compared to that, the ninth was a piece of cake – Josh Boles faced the minimum and struck out two to do away with Denver. 5-3 Raccoons. Stalker 2-3; Roberts 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, W (13-3) and 1-3;

Game 2
POR: SS Stalker – LF Morales – 2B Spencer – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Correa – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Anderson
DEN: SS Schlegelmilch – 1B Gore – RF Chavira – LF Kopp – C Brooks – 2B Herman – 3B T. Fuentes – CF Colston – P A. Reed

The Gold Sox opened the game with a pair of singles and brought in Ted Schlegelmilch on Terry Kopp’s sac fly. Schegel- … Schleegel- … Maud, how do you pronounce that? Maud? Maud? Oh, Maud is back in Portland. Oh well. … Portland would get a leadoff single from Juan Magallanes in the third, which was swiftly followed by Anderson bunting. Allen Reed pounced, but threw the ball through Brad Gore’s legs for a 2-base error that gave the Critters a stellar opportunity. Stalker cracked an RBI single to tie the game, and Danny Morales put Portland ahead… with a double play. Ah, the thought counts…

Reed tickled Hereford with a pitch to begin the fourth, and before long Rafael Gomez doubled to put again two in scoring position with nobody out. Jon Correa rammed a single through Tony Fuentes to plate them both, 4-1, moved up on a grounder, then came home when Magallanes singled into right-center. There was another bunt, a wild pitch, then a Tim Stalker double to up the tally to 6-1. Reed kept wobbling, allowed a walk to Morales, but got out against Spencer, who grounded out to third base. That still wouldn’t make for a happy end – Rich Hereford rocked a leadoff jack in the fifth to put the Critters up by six, himself at 100 RBI, and brought on a new pitcher in Amaya.

But, surprise – Kyle Anderson would not get the win. The Gold Sox rallied in the fifth, came apart for five hits, a walk, and three runs before the Coons pulled the plug with two outs. Schlegelmilch, Kopp, and Jeremiah Brooks had hit RBI singles, the latter pair with two outs. Surginer replaced him in hopes for a K from Herman, who hit a laser to deep center. Magallanes endeared himself by shagging that one on the run, stranding the tying runs in a 7-4 game. The Raccoons got five outs from Surginer, then – somehow – two from Kearney, who walked Gore and had Chavira single against him, and then somehow still got out of the bottom of the seventh. The Raccoons could not move another runner across home plate for the rest of regulation, while the bottom 9th saw the top of the Sox’ order up against… well, Boles had pitched a lot this week. The Coons had gotten through the eighth cleanly with Jonathan Fleischer, who remained in to face Schlegelmilch, while Brotman was getting ready for the remaining batters. Fleischer got a K, Brotman got two… after Gore singled. 7-4 Critters! Stalker 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Morales 2-3, 2 BB; Magallanes 3-4, RBI; Surginer 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, W (3-3);

Whoop-whoop! Can we get a 7-0 week? Rin Nomura will answer to that one.

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Nomura
DEN: SS Schlegelmilch – 2B herman – RF Chavira – LF Kopp – C F. Garcia – 3B T. Fuentes – 1B Vasquez – CF Colston – P Coles

With rain in the forecast, the Raccoons scored first, getting Ramos on base with a single, to third after a Mora single, and finally across with Stalker’s sac fly. After this, both teams kept putting runners on, but couldn’t get them across. Through five, Coles shed three hits and four walks, but the Coons couldn’t put anything major together. Nomura issued his third walk to begin the bottom 5th, putting Eric Colston on base, who was soon bunted to second by Coles. Schlegelmilch hit a soft roller on the infield that Nomura could not play in satisfying fashion, giving the Gold Sox runners on the corners. That was actually their second infield single of the game, and both balls hadn’t been handled by Nomura, who nevertheless prevailed. He rung up Herman, then got Chavira to ground out to Stalker. Both teams got a runner on with a single in the sixth, Hereford here, Fuentes there, but still couldn’t push through, and nobody reached in the seventh, while Brian Tyer batted for Coles in the bottom 7th, flying out to Gomez. Nomura was at 99 pitches through seven, so no shutout this time, but he was still up 1-0. Ramos singled off McCaskill to begin the eighth inning, stole second, but was still stranded. Nomura came out for the eighth, but allowed a single to Herman. That moved the Coons to the pen and Kevin Surginer, who got a fly to Mora from PH Jeremiah Brooks, a grounder to first from Kopp, and a grounder to third from Garcia.

On to the ninth. Desi Bowles struggled with control, walked Nunley with one out, then allowed a single to Tovias in a 3-1 count. Jon Correa batted for Surginer, struck out, and Ramos grounded out to Herman after so far being unretired in the game. So it was still a 1-0 game in the bottom of the ninth. Boles would face the 6-7-8 batters here, allowed a leadoff single on a 1-2 pitch to Fuentes, who was then bunted over by Rodolfo Vasquez before Colston struck out. Brad Gore, a left-handed batter, would pinch-hit in the #9 hole against Boles. The two ran a full count before Gore hit a fly to center. No trouble for Mora – the Coons had their second sweep of the week! 1-0 Furballs! Ramos 2-3, 2 BB; Mora 1-2, 2 BB; Tovias 2-4; Nomura 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K, W (13-5);

In other news

August 7 – NAS SP Jose Vigil (8-8, 3.60 ERA) is out for the season with a torn labrum.
August 8 – All guns blazing, NYC SP Mike Rutkowski (11-6, 2.59 ERA) strikes out 15 Indians in a 7-1 Crusaders win. He is the first Continental League pitcher in eight years to strike out at least 15 batters in a game.
August 8 – A torn labrum also knocks out ATL SP Mike Cockcroft (5-9, 4.76 ERA) for the rest of the season.
August 8 – DAL 1B Jesus Figueroa (.284, 7 HR, 64 RBI) is also done for the year after breaking his elbow.
August 11 – Starting pitchers keep falling like flies, with the next victim being TIJ SP George Griffin (7-8, 3.79 ERA), who is out for the season with a ruptured finger tendon.
August 13 – SFW SP Scott Soviero (11-7, 3.12 ERA) throws a 3-hit shutout against the Indians in an 8-0 win.
August 13 – DAL RF/1B Chris Hollar (.233, 6 HR, 37 RBI) drives in four runs in the Stars’ 10-8 win over the Loggers, which sees them plate seven runs in a wild sixth inning that includes a 3-run homer by Hollar.

Complaints and stuff

BAM!! SEVEN-OH!! Who’s 7-0? Why, we are 7-0!

The teams behind us were only lukewarm this week; the Elks and Crusaders went 3-3, the Titans even 2-4, which really helped us increase the lead dramatically. The Coons have blown 10-game leads before, but not when they held them in August.

With the Loggers series in the books as a sweep for the Critters (although Willie Trevino was Player of the Week, so there was that), the Loggers’ run of futility against us has stretched to 15 years without ever taking the season series. They last won it in 2013.

Also, the third win in the series was our 500th ever win over the Loggers, the first team against who we have reached that mark. It is not quite close – next up are the Indians with 480 Coons wins. Meanwhile, after the sweep in Denver our all-time-worst-against team is now the Warriors, with a .470 win ratio.

What else? Rich Hereford owns the league with 100 RBI. The next-closest batter? Tijuana’s Shane Sanks, who has 79 ribbies.

Mark Roberts’ triple crown case is not getting better, nor getting worse right now. He ties with three other pitchers (including Nomura) with 13 wins, leads the league in K (8 ahead of Doug Moffatt), but is still only sixth in ERA, nearly half a run behind “Graveyard” Gill of the Thunder. Rico (2nd) and Nomura (4th) are also ahead of him, as well as two Crusaders, Mike Rutkowski and Eddie Cannon.

Next week: Miners at home, then the start of a 2-week road trip that will begin north of the border in Elkland before turning into a round trip to the East Coast and back. We won’t have another home game after the Miners series until September 1.

We will also have a ceremony on September 2, a Saturday home game against Indy, to retire #28 for Angel Casas!

Fun Fact: Prior to Tuesday, the most recent Continental League pitcher to strike out at least 15 batters was Mark Roberts, who struck out 16 Crusaders on September 2, 2020.

Then of course, Roberts was a sophomore with the Bayhawks. But Jonny Toner actually had two high-K games that July. He rung up 16 on July 12, then 17 on July 23.

(sigh) Jonny Toner…
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:16 AM   #2725
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Raccoons (71-47) vs. Miners (62-55) – August 14-16, 2028

Last stabs at home field experience for this month, which also meant that dear owner Nick Valdes would be in town for the last two games of the set and would inquire again intensely why we had not yet signed a hometown player to boost attendance, and also, return on investment yada yada… I tried to enlist Steve from Accounting to help me out here, but he called in sick, knowing what to expect. There’s no calling in sick for the GM, though…

But back to the Miners, who at 8 1/2 games out still maintained plausible playoff ambitions in the FL East, but had to end the Critters’ 7-game winning streak right here and now. Portland, 10 games up on the damn Elks, was supposed to continue grooving though against the Miners, who were more or less around the average in runs scored and runs allowed in the Federal League, with a mild +34 run differential (Raccoons: +82). They did have the best bullpen in the FL though. The Coons had won two of three from them in our last meeting in 2027.

Projected matchups:
Rico Gutierrez (10-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. Mel Lira (7-13, 3.12 ERA)
Dan Delgadillo (3-4, 5.53 ERA) vs. Erik David (4-2, 2.52 ERA)
Mark Roberts (13-3, 2.80 ERA) vs. Bobby Morris (8-8, 4.03 ERA)

Only righties on offer for this 3-game set.

Game 1
PIT: RF J. Stephenson – CF de la Riva – 1B Santillano – C Henley – 2B Lastrade – 3B Czachor – LF O. Alfaro – SS Zeltser – P Lira
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Correa – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Gutierrez

Rico was nearly getting shackled right in the first inning. Carlos de la Riva homered, he nailed Danny Santillano, then allowed singles with two out to Omar Lastrade and Ryan Czachor to extend the Miners’ lead to 2-0. Up came Omar Alfaro, fomer Raccoon batting .258 with eight dingers on the season, and struck out. Just like I remembered the Age of Omar that never was. The Raccoons pulled even in the bottom 1st in pretty much the same manner; Abel Mora homered, and then Stalker, Harenberg, and Correa rapped off singles to tie the score. That was not all – Matt Nunley turned a 1-2 pitch into another RBI single to left, putting the Critters on top for now, 3-2. “For now” lasted barely five minutes before the Miners ripped Rico for two more runs in the second inning. Bob Zeltser and Carlos de la Riva hit doubles to tie, and Santillano got a single through between Nunley and Ramos to go ahead. J.J. Henley also singled, but Mora caught Lastrade’s fly to end the inning.

And at this point, all offense died. The Raccoons would not get another base hit until Stalker singled in the sixth, while the Miners poked Rico for three more hits, but couldn’t score again and didn’t get him out of the game until the seventh inning stretch. This however still left the Raccoons trailing against Lira, who was silently effective, striking out only two batters through six innings and clinged onto that W that usually eluded him despite his fine pitching throughout the year. The Coons did not get another serious chance (runner in scoring position) until the bottom 7th, and then it was on Lira’s throwing error. The Critters had Rafael Gomez on first (after he forced Tovias), two down and Ramos batting. Alberto hit a shy roller near the mound, Lira threw it away, badly, and the Coons had runners on second and third for Abel Mora, who grounded out pathetically on the first pitch he saw. After this, the Raccoons’ pen came apart in spectacular fashion once again. Nick Derks gave up a 2-run homer to Omar Alfaro (…!) in the eighth, then put de la Riva on base in the ninth. Jeff Kearney was brought in to face Santillano and stop the bleeding, but surrendered another 2-run homer to blow the Raccoons completely out of the contest. 8-3 Miners. Stalker 2-4; Nunley 2-4, RBI; Tovias 2-4;

Game 2
PIT: 3B Czachor – 2B Lastrade – 1B Santillano – RF O. Alfaro – CF de la Riva – C Ross – LF J. Stephenson – SS Zeltser – P David
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – LF Morales – C Leal – P Delgadillo

Yusneldan did not allow a hit the first time through, although Ryan Czachor’s 2-out single in the third ended the Miners’ hitlessness. Czachor, the former Falcon, then ended his on-base presence himself by being caught stealing to end the inning. The Coons had a base hit in every early inning, but it was always a single and never got them close, except to the occasional double play (Morales, bottom 2nd). The game was still scoreless when Danny Santillano bettered his average to .361 with a soft single to right with one out in the fourth and Omar Alfaro continued to try to pay back his old team with a double to center. Runners in scoring position, one out, de la Riva grounded poorly back to the mound for the second out, bringing up sophomore backup catcher Toby Ross, who popped out to Stalker to waste the opportunity. Zeltser doubled in the fifth, but was stranded on a strong play by Rich Hereford at the hot corner, handling a spiked Czachor bouncer for the third out. Bottom 5th, Danny Morales reached on a walk, then stole second almost by accident when Armando Leal fell asleep at the wheel, but Ross did not perform much better. It was Morales’ first bag of the year. He had not topped two stolen bases in a season since 2021… Leal grounded out to Lastrade, allowing the runner to third with one out, but with Delgadillo up. Well, he was pitching a shutout and it was still only the fifth. No need to panic. Nick Valdes, who watched from my office to my dismay because it kept me away from the liqu- … the cookies, eyed me with suspicion at least until Delgadillo dropped a looper behind Zeltser for a single and the first ribbie in the contest. After Ramos whiffed, the Coons loaded them up on Mora’s single to right and full-count walk to Tim Stalker, bringing up Hereford, who had yet to work the magic in this series, but grounded out to Santillano to strand all the precious runners.

Delgadillo maintained a 4-hitter through seven, but was then batted for leading off the bottom 7th. His ERA was still over five, and I didn’t trust him further than he could sneeze a baseball after all. Spencer hit a leadoff double in his place and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch while the top of the order more or less kept failing. It was an insurance run alright, even though we had required Erik David to get there… The Raccoons would turn to Billy Brotman to begin the eighth. He got Zeltser to ground out, and then the Miners sent right-handed former Raccoon Josh Stevenson (not to be confused with Josh Stephenson, both right-handed batting outfielders). The Coons turned around and sent Ricky Ohl for two strikeouts to end the inning. Bottom 8th, Portland loaded the bases with one out on singles by Gomez, defensive replacement Juan Magallanes, and a walk Julio San Pedro issued to Armando Leal. Spencer had remained in the game earlier and was at the plate with three on and one out (but Ramos had been taken off his legs, so Ohl was in the #1 hole). In an ugly play, Spencer lined out to Zeltser on a 1-1 pitch, with Magallanes having made for it, then had to hit the brakes and scramble back. Both Magallanes and Zeltser fell on second base. Magallanes fell on top, so was out, but also fell on Zeltser’s hand, which required repairs. The Miners were out of infielders and had to put primary catcher J.J. Henley into service at this point, but this could only bother him if they rolled up Josh Boles in the first place. Boles faced the 2-3-4 batters, with Lastrade opening with a sharp bouncer to left that Hereford handled very well for the first out. Santillano struck out… and so did Alfaro. 2-0 Coons. Mora 2-4; Magallanes 1-1; Spencer (PH) 1-2, 2B; Delgadillo 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, W (4-4) and 1-2, RBI;

Josh Stevenson, Josh Stephenson… I hear they use nicknames in the Miners clubhouse, but I can’t confirm that the former Raccoon’s Josh Stevenson is “Puss”.

Game 3
PIT: RF J. Stephenson – CF de la Riva – 1B Santillano – 2B Lastrade – 3B Czachor – C Ross – LF J. Stevenson – SS Zeltser – P B. Morris
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – LF Correa – RF Gomez – C Leal – P Roberts

The Miners went up in the third inning on a Josh Stephenson triple and de la Riva’s following double, but stranded the latter runner with one out on the board. Roberts walked Santillano, then struck out two, which was his average to start this game, two whiffs per inning through four, although he also mixed in five hits and two walks to explode his pitch count in due time. The Raccoons managed a Ramos walk to start the first, which led as far as Leal’s leadoff single in the third – nowhere. The Raccoons could not figure out Bobby Morris one bit; Hereford reached on an infield single in the fourth, and Ramos hit an infield single in the fifth, but neither got even close to scoring. All this kept Mark Roberts far from a chance at the win even before he got bogged down in the seventh inning on Morris’ leadoff single (…) and drilling de la Riva. He struck out Santillano on a terrible 3-2 swing-and-miss, but at 109 pitches looked quite gassed. Surginer took over against the right-handed Lastrade with two on and two outs, and exited on a grounder back to the mound.

Bottom 7th, Harenberg opened with an infield single. The Coons now had four base hits, only one of which had actually reached the infield dirt. Correa popped out, Gomez hit into a double play. We were obviously not meant to win this game… The Miners added an insurance run on Surginer in the eighth thanks to a leadoff double by Czachor and actually productive outs after that. Bottom 8th, Leal led off with a single that actually made an outfielder move, but Nunley flew out to left when he pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot. Ramos dropped in a single against San Pedro, who then was replaced by lefty George Marsh with the tying run on base. Mora struck out, while Stalker faced righty Howard Haws and grounded out to short. Santillano homered off Fleischer in the ninth to make it 3-0, which could hardly matter at this point. Or could it? It could. Southpaw Mike Greene was in for the bottom 9th. Hereford fouled out, but Harenberg got hit. Correa moved him to second with a grounder, which was rather useless, but Rafael Gomez long shot to left wasn’t… except that it still left the Coons in the losing position by a run, that Santillano homer. Next, Greene ran a 3-0 count against Leal before nailing him, which Leal took personally and made a trip to the mound to discuss this with fisticuffs. A brawl ensued that left helmets and gloves scattered all over the infield, also a hair piece that could not possibly belong to any of our places, all of whom had thick natural fur. Leal and Greene both got tossed and when order was restored Magallanes ran for the ejected Leal while Tovias batted for Fleischer against righty David Galmore, who threw three pitches to end the game on a fly to de la Riva. 3-2 Miners. Ramos 2-3, BB; Leal 2-3; Roberts 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, L (13-4);

While Nick Valdes angrily scribbled notes, the Raccoons had to make a roster move for the weekend once the league handed down 4-game suspensions for Greene and Leal. The pain was real though – Nick Derks would have been an obvious candidate to send back to AAA for the weekend, but he was out of options and sometimes pitching rather competently and we did not want to lose him right now. Other options were Fleischer or Magallanes, but we had not touched their last option so far this year and were not keen on starting now either.

But there was another option – the Raccoons had off days on either end of their 3-game set in Vancouver, so they did not need five starting pitchers; and Dan Delgadillo had already used an option this year. Delgadillo was thus sent to St. Pete to catch some fresh air – but with strict instructions for the AAA staff to not use him – and the Coons added Daniel Rocha to the roster, batting .264 with six homers in St. Pete. He had batted .221 with the Coons in 2027. No homers.

Raccoons (72-49) @ Canadiens (63-58) – August 18-20, 2028

The Elks were now in third place, nine games back (the Titans had gone past them), but were as scary as ever because nothing good had ever happened in Vancouver. They were second in runs scored in the CL, but were also allowing the second-most runs. Their run differential was actually negative at -10. Maybe an offense that had hit a rough spot against Pittsburgh could get pack on the hindpaws against their meh pitching? The season series was well in favor of the Critters, 8-3.

Projected matchups:
Kyle Anderson (7-5, 4.01 ERA) vs. Chris Sinkhorn (12-6, 3.30 ERA)
Rin Nomura (13-5, 2.65 ERA) vs. Leon Hernandez (10-6, 3.39 ERA)
Rico Gutierrez (10-6, 2.54 ERA) vs. Joe Martin (8-9, 4.63 ERA)

Left, right, right. Some of their most annoying batters were also on the DL, including Brian Wojnarowski and Ted Gura. We would stil have to contend with Alex Torres and Tony Coca, though, also their addition David Fisher, who was leading (qualifying part of) the team with both a .310 clip and 21 homers, although only 11 of those had come with the Elks.

Oh well, boys. Just don’t get swept… everything else we can work out somehow.

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – LF Morales – 2B Stalker – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Correa – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Anderson
VAN: LF A. Torres – RF Day – CF Coca – 1B D. Fisher – C R. Ortíz – 3B Anton – SS Byrd – 2B Read – P Sinkhorn

Unfortunately Kyle Anderson put the Coons well on the way to get swept with shoddy pitching. David Fisher hit a leadoff single in the second, after which Anderson walked three straight Elks to force in a run, then conceded a second one on Howard Read’s double play grounder. Sinkhorn fouled out, but at the same time did not allow any Critter on base, at least until Fisher dropped Matt Anton’s feed for an error starting off the top of the third, putting Tovias on first. Magallanes singled to center and Anderson bunted the runners into scoring position for Ramos, who frankly was not very hot at this point and had his batting average sack steadily now. He managed a run-scoring groundout, but Morales flew out to right, and the Coons remained 2-1 behind. The signs were bleak. Anderson was fooling absolutely nobody and through four innings sat on four hits, four walks, and no strikeouts. The defense was everything that kept him alive, and the Coons could not get the ball to fall in against Sinkhorn, who allowed no other base hits through five innings. Anderson conceded a second run after an Alex Torres triple and Norman Day’s groundout in the bottom 5th, then continued putting them on base. Ramos’ error put Coca on, and then Fisher singled. Ricky Ortíz ran a 3-0 count before popping out for the third out, which was certainly a case for the Elks’ kangaroo court down the road. The awful Anderson was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, but Spencer flew out to center to begin the top 6th. Sinkhorn walked Ramos, who stole second, then reached third on Morales’ single to right. Stalker came up with the tying runs on the corners and turned an 0-2 pitch into a run-scoring groundout, cutting the gap to 3-2. Rich Hereford had almost hit a game-tying homer in his previous trip, but it had sailed foul past the pole, now took another rip, but struck out. The Coons remained nailed to two base hits, while the Elks kept swinging away merrily. Coca doubled off Kearney in the bottom 7th, and when Ricky Ohl came in to face PH Adan Myles, batting under .200, he allowed a homer to left that extended the score to 5-2 and totally put the game away, and that was even before Norman Day burned Fleischer with a 2-out, 2-run double in the eighth. 7-2 Canadiens.

Typical game for ****ing Elk Town, the city of ****ing **** stains. I angrily shook the fist from the safety of my couch back home in Portland, being of course still banned from travelling to Canada as a permanent entrenchment on their Top 10 Most Wanted List.

No, the mood was not great right now… and the Titans were resurging and had already erased a quarter of our once-10-game lead.

Game 2
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – 3B Nunley – RF Gomez – C Tovias – P Nomura
VAN: RF Day – 3B Anton – CF Coca – LF A. Torres – 1B D. Fisher – SS Byrd – C Balcome – 2B Read – P L. Hernandez

Two batters in, the Raccoons had a 1-0 lead on account of Ramos’ leadoff walk, 30th stolen base, Riley Balcome’s throwing error on the same, and Abel Mora’s sac fly. Great – now Rin Nomura just had to make it stand up! Anton and Coca lashed singles in the first, but the Elks didn’t amount to a run… surely a good sign, right? Right? Well, for now Riley Balcome remained a tenth Critter on the field, fumbling a good strike for a passed ball in the second inning that allowed Matt Nunley to go from first to second, from whence he then scored on Rafael Gomez’ single to left-center. That ran the score to 2-0, which Elias Tovias then doubled with a long homer to right-center, 4-0, and now you had flashbacks to Game 6 and how Nomura could not handle huge leads. Okay, four probably was not *huge*. Plus, this was the Elks, where we easily could have 15-11 games, one way or another.

Leon Hernandez rung up Nomura for the second out, but still struggled to get out of the inning. Ramos walked, stole second on Balcome again, Mora singled, and Stalker walked, presenting the RBI-less RBI leader Hereford with a 2-out chance to wet your paws for. He grounded out to Anton… It turned out he missed his beat by only one cycle through the lineup – Rich homered on his next attempt against Hernandez, extending the lead to 5-0 in the fifth, so that could probably help to break a mini-slump. Nomura was sharp at this point, having allowed only one runner in the previous three innings, and that Norman Day single had been unwound on Anton’s 6-4-3 grounder, but created a completely unnecessary mess in the bottom 5th. The beleaguered Balcome hit a 1-out single, got forced by Howard Read, but with two outs and the pitcher at the plate, Nomura inexplicably walked Hernandez, then allowed an RBI single to Day. Immediately all my red alerts went shrieking off. The pitching coach was tossed from the dugout to talk sense into Nomura. It worked for the moment; Matt Anton grounded out to Stalker to end the inning and strand two. Nomura walked Torres in the sixth, but struck out John Byrd to strand that runner at third base, but I still had this feeling of inevitable doom squeezing my guts, which was not even eased when the Coons got another error on a 5-3 attempt working in their favor in the top 7th. Stalker had just knocked out Hernandez with a 1-out single when Hereford grounded to third. Anton threw that one away, leaving former Raccoon Jonathan Shook with runners in scoring position and one out against Kevin Harenberg, eeeh, make that Matt Nunley with the bags full after the intentional walk. Nunley was 0-for-3, but Shook was a righty, and I decided to have faith while I was rolled up into a ball and chewed on my favorite pillow. When Nunley lined out unluckily I howled like a mortally wounded dingo, at least until Shook walked Rafael Gomez in a full count to force home a run. Tovias flew out to right, and Nomura got stuck for good in the bottom 7th. Curtis Hargraves pinch-walked with two outs, and Day singled to right to put them on the corners. Portland sent for Kevin Surginer in a double switch that removed Nunley for Jon Correa and shifted Hereford to the hot corner. Surginer brought no immediate relief, shedding an RBI single to Anton, but then rung up Coca, arguably the bigger threat. The Coons stranded two in the eighth, then had two on with one out against Raul de la Rosa in the ninth when Tovias spanked a 3-1 pitch into an inning-ending double play. Reason to keep bracing for impact! Balcome hit a leadoff double off Ohl to begin the bottom 9th, and that was not the last fly hit off Righty Ricky … but the other three were caught by either Mora or Gomez and Balcome never scored. 6-2 Coons. Ramos 1-2, 3 BB; Mora 2-4, RBI; Stalker 2-4, BB; Harenberg 3-4, BB; Gomez 2-4, BB, 2 RBI; Nomura 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, W (14-5) and 1-3;


The Titans also lost, so the lead was not going to shrink any further and rather rapidly for the moment…

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – RF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – LF Correa – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Gutierrez
VAN: RF Day – 3B Anton – CF Coca – LF A. Torres – 1B D. Fisher – SS Byrd – C Balcome – 2B Read – P J. Martin

Harenberg popped out uselessly to strand Stalker and Hereford in the top of the first and it was straight downhill from there. Tony Coca homered to put the Elks up 1-0 in the same inning, and in the third Rico lost leadoff man Read on four pitches before Nunley lost grip on Martin’s bunt and peppered it into the dugout for a 2-base error. Day hit a sac fly, Anton hit a 2-run homer, and the Coons were in full retreat at that point, with the Elks leading 4-0 on two base hits, a mark that the Raccoons were still chasing and only matched in the fifth inning when with two outs … Rico Gutierrez singled.


Mora and Hereford hit singles to begin the sixth inning, and the Coons had to draw serious blood now, or else I could really go and pack my suitcase for the flight to New York. Harenberg hit into a fielder’s choice that left Correa with runners on the corners and two outs, and he grounded out precisely to Howard Read, at which point I accepted my fate. By the time I came back from the bathroom it was the eighth inning, still a 4-run game, though now 5-1, and the commentators said something about Alberto Ramos having brought in a run for Portland, but, eh… spilled milk. I was ready for the airport when the ninth unspooled. Nunley led off with a single against relegated starter Victor Govea, but Tovias struck out. Spencer’s pinch-hit single made it a save chance and brought on Raul de la Rosa, the righty closer who had to face left-handed bats now. It didn’t go so well – Ramos ripped a triple into the gap that suddenly brought up the tying run, Mora, in a 5-3 game. Abel came through with a forceful single past Read’s reach, and it was 5-4 for Stalker, who hit into a fielder’s choice. But, ah, we still had Hereford, who was still due about 7 RBI on the week, so he better start now! He hit a 3-2 pitch to right, Read lunged and knocked it down, but couldn’t hold on, had to scramble through the dirt, and his throw was late, Rich had beat it out! Two on and two out for resident killjoy Kevin Harenberg, who last had enjoyed a clutch hit in the 2026 postseason. No good options were available on the bench, though, so the Coons had to go with what had been a solid slugger so very recently, the thought still hurt. He grounded out to Read, because of course he would. 5-4 Canadiens. Mora 2-4, RBI; Hereford 2-4, BB; Nunley 2-4; Spencer (PH) 1-1;

In other news

August 15 – SAL RF/LF Luigi Banfi (.275, 10 HR, 46 RBI) has recorded a 20-game hitting streak that started in his sixth game with the Wolves after coming over from Charlotte in a trade. Banfi records two hits in the Wolves’ 10-4 win over the Knights to reach the 20-game mark. Nine of the Wolves’ runs score in a riotous fourth inning.
August 15 – The troubled Scorpions lose RF/LF Pablo Sanchez (.333, 4 HR, 52 RBI) for up to four weeks with a sprained ankle.
August 17 – The Falcons amount to only three hits against the Warriors, but still win 1-0 on CHA 1B Pat Fowlkes (.280, 14 HR, 48 RBI) going yard to lead off the first inning.
August 17 – The Gold Sox beat the Pacifics, 3-2 in 13 innings, when LAP Joe Vanatti (.282, 5 HR, 37 RBI) overruns the 1-out single of DEN 3B/2B Tony Fuentes (.248, 4 HR, 36 RBI) for an error that allows Denver’s Terry Kopp (.282, 15 HR, 60 RBI) to score from second base.
August 20 – The hitting streak of SAL RF/LF Luigi Banfi (.280, 12 HR, 53 RBI) ends at 24 games as the Warriors hold him and the rest of the Wolves dry in a 6-3 Sioux Falls win.

Complaints and stuff

This week sucked. There is no other way to put it. We scored five runs per game last week, resulting in a 7-0 week. This week we went 2-4 while scoring 3.17 runs per game. Go figure.

Our owner is not a bad person in itself – that is what I believe. But we spent most of Wednesday morning going over the layout of the team store and which jersey should hang where to max out sales. Like that was not bad enough, he also had numbers and charts presented by some weird black kid with huge glasses and one of those new laptops with a virtual display. The kid was constantly nodding his head while elaborating on his charts. He could not have been older than 15. Some sort of economics prodigy with a college degree. Also a freak. We had those dark cookies with the milk cream in the middle and he would ask for a spoon (his mom did allow him to handle knives and Nick Valdes had to promise to watch out in that regard) to open the cookies and scratch out the cream, then only ate the black stuff…

Not that the milk cream went to waste. By the end of the mind-suffocating session, Matt Nunley and three other players were beleaguering the table to fight over the scraps.

Ah. At least nobody broke his leg this week. Ain’t life great?

Fun Fact: Rich Hereford is 10 RBI away from joining the franchise top 10 for RBI in a single season.

That mark is 111, several seasons tying for ninth place here, most recently Hugo Mendoza in 2021. Even though this week was not exactly a showcase for Hereford, he is still within easy reach of even Tetsu Osanai’ pair of 121 RBI season in 1986 and 1990 that still tie for third place. Osanai also holds the all-time Raccoons record with 140 RBI in 1989. Second is Mendoza with 133 RBI in ’20.

Osanai’s 140 RBI tie for fifth all time with a mark fellow Hall of Famer Gabriel Cruz put up the year before in 1988. This was the ABL record for 13 years until Jesus Rivera of the 2001 Capitals broke it with 143 RBI, and that has been the high water mark ever since. Nobody was ever had more than 143 RBI.

In second and third are a pair of Dallas Stars that went on to Portland later in their careers. John Alexander drove in 142 in
08, and then there is Mendoza again, tying for third with NYC Stanton Martin’s 2008 campaign with 141 RBI.

Rich Hereford still needs 17 RBI to even break the single-season ABL top 100.
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Raccoons (73-51) @ Crusaders (65-59) – August 22-24, 2028

Tying for third place in the North and eight games back were the Crusaders, who had so far won only three of a dozen games against the Raccoons this year. We would very much like to channel that mojo again after a rather meh experience in Vancouver, and also to not invite the whole wolfpack of three teams that still entertained plausible hopes back into the race for the division. New York ranked ninth in runs scored, but fifth in runs conceded. Overall, their +20 run differential was not very impressive.

Projected matchups:
Mark Roberts (13-4, 2.74 ERA) vs. Carlos Marron (10-7, 3.73 ERA)
Dan Delgadillo (4-4, 5.03 ERA) vs. Robby Gonzalez (8-10, 4.00 ERA)
Kyle Anderson (7-6, 4.08 ERA) vs. Eddie Cannon (10-8, 2.81 ERA)

Three more right-handers to face. Also please note that Dan Delgadillo was not yet on the roster, since Armando Leal was still suspended for the opener, so we still carried Daniel Rocha as third catcher.

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – RF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – LF Correa – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Roberts
NYC: RF I. Vega – 3B Schmit – C F. Delgado – SS Cameron – CF Olszewski – 1B Jam. Richardson – LF J. Espinosa – 2B B. Torres – P Marron

At first, Roberts was the guy who threatened to come apart early. The Crusaders sent four men up in the opening inning and all hit the ball excessively hard. Only Andy Schmit got the ball to fall in though, hitting a double to center, after which Felipe Delgado and Joe Cameron both lined out to Hereford in rightfield. The Coons had stranded runners on the corners on Harenberg’s account in the opening inning, and then got Ramos on base with a 1-out walk in the third. Alberto scooped second, moved over on Mora’s fly to center, and then came in when Tim Stalker singled over the shortstop Cameron. That was not all – Carlos Marron unwound quickly as Rich Hereford and Kevin Harenberg fired back-to-back jacks to rightfield, upping the score to 4-0 in a real hurry. That didn’t mean Roberts won by default, though. Anything batting from the right side had a good chance to burn him, and even Marron hit a 1-out double in the bottom 3rd. Roberts might have been fine, but after Ivan Vega’s groundout plated the runner with a wild 1-2 well past Tovias.

Bottom 5th, the 4-1 lead was put further to the nest, as were by strained nerves. Roberts got Jamie Richardson on a grounder to Nunley, then loaded the bases against the bottom of the order on straight singles by Juan Espinosa, Bobby Torres, and PH Nelson Ayala. That would only bring up more right-handed batters. Abel Mora shagged a deep fly by Vega to hold the rightfielder to a sac fly, 4-2, and Hereford caught an Andy Schmit offering at the edge of the warning track to sit down the Crusaders. We had sure been more comfortable with Mark Roberts and a lead… His spot in the order came up with no outs and Nunley and Tovias on base after soft singles off Keith Roofener in the seventh inning. There was probably no harm in getting the bunt down here as opposed to pinch-hitting outright. The bunt worked, the Crusaders walked Ramos intentionally, and that brought up Mora with the sacks full, and he added to the lead with a clean-as-a-whistle RBI single to right. Drew Olszewski then robbed the Coons of major damage done, shagging gappers by both Tim Stalker (for a sac fly) and Hereford (to end the inning), keeping the score at 6-2, which was still the score in the bottom 7th when Roberts was relieved with two outs and Bobby Torres on second base. Ivan Vega very nearly went yard on Jonathan Fleischer’s first offering, but Jon Correa made a leaping grab at the fence as that ball lacked just a iota of depth. Fleischer also did the eighth before the Critters nearly exploded in the bottom of the ninth. Kearney retired two Crusaders before walking Espinosa on four pitches. Torres was a righty, but maybe we’d strike luck- nope, single to center, and quite sharp at that. Time for a pitcher not about to ride off into the horizon. Ricky Ohl came on, saw, balked in a run, conceded another on a Ryan Anderson double, and then somehow Stalker got claws on PH Carlos de Santiago’s bouncer and turned it into the final out before I could get a one-way ticket to the top of the Empire State Building. 6-4 Coons. Stalker 2-3, 2 RBI; Rocha (PH) 1-1;

Ricky Ohl got credit for a save here, because baseball does not award Incinerations as a statistic, although I have lobbied for that for decades.

The pinch-hit single in the ninth was also the last act for Daniel Rocha for now (although he was very likely going to be back in September), as the Raccoons brought back Dan Delgadillo to start on Wednesday and to rebalance the roster.

Game 2
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – C Leal – RF Gomez – LF Morales – P Delgadillo
NYC: 2B Jam. Wilson – RF Jam. Richardson – LF de Santiago – 3B Schmit – C F. Delgado – 1B J. Espinosa – SS Vacarri – CF Olszewski – P R. Gonzalez

The Coons scored a quick run with a Ramos walk and singles by Mora and Stalker, but Gonzalez rung up Hereford and got a double play (…) from Harenberg, getting out of the first. Gonzalez went on to hit Armando Leal in our backup catcher’s first plate appearance since being ejected and suspended for brawling after getting hit by Mike Greene, but for now Gonzalez got to keep his nicely shaped jaw. The Coons loaded the bases on Danny Morales’ singled after Gomez hit into a fielder’s choice, and then Gonzalez misfielded Delgadillo’s bunt, trying to nip Gomez at third, which he never really had a chance for. Gonzalez, sweating, walked Ramos on four pitches to push in a run, then gave up a clean single to center to Mora for the next run, 3-0. The bleeding was not yet to stop. Schmit missed Tim Stalker’s fast bouncer for a 2-run double, Hereford hit a sac fly, and Harenberg flew out to center to end the inning at 6-0. Now Yusneldan just had to reasonably hold up against a lineup stacked with every left-handed batter with two legs the Crusaders could find and cram into a lineup – only Felipe Delgado was going to face Delgadillo right-handed.

The Crusaders stranded two in the second, then two more in the fourth. Schmit and Delgado had hit singles off Delgado with one out, but Espinosa struck out – Yusneldan’s first in the game – and Giacobbe Vacarri flew out easily to centerfield. But held on, which was really all he had to – don’t get whacked for five, and you’re fine. Meanwhile Chris Wickham no-hit the Coons for 3.2 innings in long relief, but was finally cracked by Danny Morales with a solo shot to left, running the score to 7-0 in the sixth. Wickham got out of the inning against Delgadillo, but would not log another out. He walked Ramos to start the seventh, then loaded them up on singles to Mora and Stalker. Another right-hander, Jesse Wright, replaced him to face Hereford, who hit an RBI single to right. Wright would not retire many; in fact he only retired Morales, yielding two more RBI singles and a bases-loaded walk in between, and then was broken up by Delgadillo with an RBI single. Now, the Coons were up by a dozen. Keith Roofener was back, surrendered an RBI single to Ramos, but then got out of the horror inning by whiffing Mora and getting Stalker to fly out to right. The score was 13-0 at the stretch, although the Crusaders got on the board in the bottom 7th, where Felipe Delgado took Yusneldan deep – yes, the only right-handed batter he was facing. Delgadillo got stuck in the eighth, walking Schmit and Delgado with two outs, and was replaced by Billy Brotman. Not for Brotman, but just in general the Coons made sure to tack on some insurance run on Blake Lowrey in the ninth. Spencer doubled (in Ramos’ place, who had been taken off his legs), Mora walked, Stalker hit an RBI double. Nunley popped out (Hereford was also off his legs), but Harenberg broke the scoreboard for good with a 3-run shot to right, FINALLY putting him into double digits. Brotman allowed a run on a Jamie Wilson double in the bottom 9th… but did anybody care? 17-2 Furballs! Ramos 1-2, 3 BB, 2 RBI; Spencer 1-1, 2B; Mora 2-4, 2 BB, RBI; Stalker 4-6, 2 2B, 4 RBI; Hereford 2-4, 2 RBI; Harenberg 2-6, HR, 4 RBI; Delgadillo 7.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, W (5-4) and 1-3, RBI;

What a rout!!

We probably won’t score for the rest of the month, but what a rout!

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – LF Correa – CF Mora – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – 2B Spencer – C Tovias – P K. Anderson
NYC: 2B Jam. Wilson – RF Jam. Richardson – LF de Santiago – 3B Schmit – C F. Delgado – 1B J. Espinosa – SS Cameron – CF Olszewski – P E. Cannon

The Coons hit three singles, but did not score in the first, instantly fueling my fears that we were actually out of runs for the week. The Crusaders instead scored two in the bottom 2nd with four base hits, first an Espinosa double and then three straight 2-out singles, starting with the opposing pitcher, Eddie Cannon. Ramos and Hereford hit doubles in the third to get at least one run on the board, but that was not enough for Anderson, who was consistently pitching with the bases occupied, and somehow didn’t get blown out completely despite eight hits and two walks against him in the first four innings. There were some untimely pops for the Crusaders, there was a crucial double play the de Santiago hit into, but there was certainly no good pitching to be seen from the Raccoons’ hurler. Delgado hit a single in the bottom 5th, but that was it before Anderson was removed after five abysmal innings, yet still only a 2-1 deficit. He almost was taken off the hook in the sixth; Harenberg, who had struck out twice with a total of four batters on base before, hit a single to left, and then Gomez doubled to center. Olszewski seemed to have made a weak throw, so the Coons sent Harenberg around third, but then Harenberg stumbled, lost pace, and was thrown out to end the inning. Kearney was almost undone by a Cannon double, but held on in the sixth, and Surginer overcame a leadoff walk with a double play in the seventh. The top 8th saw Sean Casey yield a leadoff single to Correa, who was run for by Magallanes. The Colombian stole second base, but Mora struck out, Hereford struck out, and Matt Nunley, hitting for Surginer, grounded out to Jamie Wilson. With the Coons hesitating agonizingly hard, the Crusaders stepped in and put the game away, tearing Nick Derks to shreds in the bottom of the eighth. Olszewski homered, Derks allowed a walk to Wilson, and then surrendered back-to-back doubles to Bobby Torres and de Santiago to give up three runs in total. The Critters only went on to waste another leadoff double in the ninth, Rafael Gomez doing things to Travis Giordano, before the bottom of the order stranded him at third base. 5-1 Crusaders. Correa 2-4; Hereford 2-4, 2B, RBI; Gomez 2-4, 2 2B;

I mean, this was an obvious loss. We were never going to score after plating 17 the other night…

The good news was that we outplayed the competition and held an 8 1/2 game lead going into the weekend in Oklahoma.

Raccoons (75-52) @ Thunder (70-57) – August 25-27, 2028

The Thunder had won four in a row and had a top 3 offense in the Continental League, but their pitching was average at best. They were allowing the sixth-most runs, with an especially porous bullpen that sat dead-last in the CL and that they had not managed to meaningfully improve all season. The season series, which the Raccoons had won the last two years, was still up for grabs as it stood at 3-3 going into this final set of the year – except if the Thunder and Coons would both make the playoffs (which has happened before). They were only six games out in the South, and all they really needed was plenty of wins, right now.

Projected matchups:
Rin Nomura (14-5, 2.65 ERA) vs. Andy Palomares (11-11, 4.83 ERA)
Rico Gutierrez (10-7, 2.61 ERA) vs. Danny O’Reilly (1-4, 5.07 ERA)
Mark Roberts (14-4, 2.74 ERA) vs. Jose Vazquez (6-9, 4.16 ERA)

Right-left-right, with the southpaw O’Reilly, being a 27-year-old sophomore with the fitting nickname “Dump Truck”. The Thunder were missing some notable players, foremost Dave Garcia (thumb), Erik Janes (back), and “Butch” Diaz (back).

Game 1
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Leal – 3B Nunley – P Nomura
OCT: 3B L. Rivera – C Burgess – RF Sagredo – SS Serrato – CF Pagel – 1B McWhorter – LF L. Otero – 2B Kane – P Palomares

Harenberg ended another inning with a foul pop in the first but at least “Bam Bam” Hereford had then singled to left already to cash Tim Stalker and his triple for an early 1-0 lead. Rinse repeat in the third. Hereford singled home Stalker, who this time had doubled, and then Harenberg ended the inning with a strikeout. Unfortunately, Nomura was somewhat leaning on his defense and failed to strike out anybody in the early innings. This included yielding a single to Palomares, moving him to second with a wild pitch, and then conceding the run on Lorenzo Rivera’s single. Rivera would only be left stranded because Mora shagged a 2-out drive by Luis Sagredo in the gap, so probably more offense was a good move here as the Coons led 2-1 after three. Nope – the Coons stranded Leal and his double in the fourth, and then saw Alex Serrato go well yard to left to tie the game leading off the bottom of the inning.

Nomura kept whiffing no one, and in the fifth was in deep trouble. A Leal error had put Mike Kane on base to begin the inning, and after a bunt Rivera hit an infield single. Runners on the corners, one out, and Mike Burgess was down 0-2 but then still lashed a liner to center. Mora made another running catch to hold the game in one piece, and Kane, who had lost his quickness a long time ago, retreated to third base as Mora came in on full steam. Sagredo also fell to two strikes, also didn’t go down on a third, but at least grounded out to Harenberg to end the inning. On to the bottom 7th where scrappy Canadian backup Thierry Becker opened with a pinch-hit single up the middle, batting for Leo Otero. Liam Riley then hit for Kane, but grounded out. The runner advanced to second, but the Thunder did not hit for Palomares, who popped out to Stalker. Rivera popped out to Ramos, and Nomura had gone seven without a single strikeout, then was rewarded for it with the lead. Who else than Hereford would hit an RBI single in the top 8th? Well, no one. This time he plated Abel Mora from second base, putting the Critters up 3-2. Here was Harenberg again, not with the best of games, but he sure knew a cue when he heard one. Hereford was itching to get going for second, but could never get a jump. Harenberg made it easier on him, although I gasped when he ripped a 3-1 pitch. But he ripped it well, all the way over the rightfield fence to extend the score to 5-2. Nomura faced two more batters, whiffing none. Burgess drew a leadoff walk in the bottom 8th, then moved up on a groundout, which then had the Coons go to Surginer, who basically did nothing right. A wild pitch moved Burgess to third, from where he scored on Serrato’s sac fly, and then Surginer shed a single and a walk in a full count, inviting Becker as the go-ahead run, although now the Coons skipped to Josh Boles right away. Not that Becker was a lefty. This just seemed like a good spot. Boles surrendered an RBI single in a 1-2 count to Becker, then another single to left to Andy Bareford. The Thunder sent McWhorter from second base, Rich Hereford threw him out at the plate, and we somehow crawled into the ninth still with the lead. Thankfully Boles would retire the Thunder in order in the following inning, even whiffing two. 5-4 Raccoons. Stalker 2-4, 3B, 2B; Hereford 3-4, 3 RBI; Nunley 2-4;

Game 2
POR: SS Stalker – 2B Spencer – LF Morales – 3B Hereford – RF Gomez – 1B Harenberg – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – P Gutierrez
OCT: 3B L. Rivera – LF L. Otero – RF Sagredo – SS Serrato – CF Pagel – 1B McWhorter – C L. Riley – 2B Kane – P O’Reilly

The Thunder had a 2-0 lead through four, having scored early thanks to a Lorenzo Rivera leadoff double and two soft singles by Sagredo and Serrato in the bottom 1st, then again on Kyle Pagel’s first homer of the season in the third. The Raccoons had two hits and as many double plays through four innings, but put Hereford on base with a leadoff single in the fifth. Gomez grounded out, but Harenberg mashed a wicked homer to right-center to tie the game. Rico lasted six, but that took him over 100 pitches with some stretches of wonky command in between, and he was not going to be back. It looked like he would get yet another no-decision, at least until Harenberg hit a 2-out dinger off O’Reilly in the top of the seventh that gave the Critters their first lead in the game. Well, Gutierrez still got a no-decision. Brotman issued a 2-out walk to Sagredo in the bottom 7th, was double-switched out for Ricky Ohl, and Ricky AGAIN ****ed it up, being taken yard by Serrato in a full count. That one flipped the score and sent the Critters reeling for a brief period. Tim Stalker singled with one out in the eighth, stole second, and after Spencer lined out to Serrato still came around when Danny Morales dropped a single into shallow center, tying the score at four before Hereford grounded out, and that tie even survived a combined Ohl/Kearney/Surginer attempt to come apart in the bottom 8th. Ohl allowed a leadoff single to Victor Hodgers, Kearney nailed Liam Riley, Surginer fooled nobody, and somehow the Thunder still stranded them in scoring position.

Top 9th, Jonathan Snyder retired Gomez and Harenberg before filling the bases on an infield single by Tovias, Nunley’s pinch-hit single, and then a walk to Mora. Tim Stalker hit a ball to deep center, but could not get it past Pagel, stranding the whole set. Fleischer pitched a scoreless ninth, sending us into extra innings for the first time in a bit. Ramos hit a 1-out single hitting for Morales in the top 10th, but was caught stealing even before Hereford struck out against Snyder. Hodgers reached on a Stalker error to begin the bottom 10th, but was then doubled up by Riley and Fleischer struck out Becker to extend the game. The Coons were down to Derks and Boles at this point, going with the former in a road game, while their offense produced a leadoff single in the top 12th, Mora getting the ball past Rivera. He stole second, then was stranded after Stalker walked, Spencer flew out, and Ramos cracked hard into a double play. The tie was not broken until the following inning, when with one out in the top 13th Max Nelson gave up a booming homer to Rafael Gomez. Nobody else reached and Tovias ended the inning with a K, which led the Coons to empty both their pen and bench in a double switch that with the Coons having had the pitcher in the #8 hole since Rico’s departure would prevent Boles, should he give up exactly one run, having to lead off the 14th at the plate. Leal was the last Coon off the bench, so it was now or never. Josh wisely opted for “now”, retiring Becker, Chris LeMoine, and Rivera in order in the bottom of the thirteenth inning. 5-4 Coons. Stalker 2-6; Ramos (PH) 1-2; Harenberg 3-6, 2 HR, 3 RBI; Tovias 2-6; Nunley (PH) 1-1; Mora 1-2, BB; Gutierrez 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; Fleischer 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K; Derks 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K, W (1-0);

The Titans were still hanging in there at 8 1/2 back, but the Critters had at least shoved the Crusaders and Elks back to double digits by this point.

But we would still ask Mark Roberts to be kind to the pen in the Sunday game.

Game 3
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – 3B Nunley – C Tovias – P Roberts
OCT: 3B L. Rivera – C Burgess – RF Sagredo – SS Serrato – CF Pagel – 1B McWhorter – LF L. Otero – 2B Kane – P Vazquez

Of course he got shattered, what else could ever happen? Serrato homered to lead off the second, which was still manageable, but the following inning went straight to hell once and for all. Kane doubled, Rivera singled, and Burgess and Sagredo hit back-ot-back bombs to lead the Critters 5-0 when they had already stranded a runner on third base twice in the game. Ramos had walked, stolen second, and been left over in the first, and Tovias had singled, been bunted over, and advanced on a grounder in the third, and also had not been brought home. The Thunder were less picky, and had Roberts in the ropes after just three innings, with no long men available. Kevin Harenberg with his tail suddenly on fire hit a solo shot in the fourth, but that was not going to rescue the team… but they unfurled a 3-spot in the fifth that was certainly making it interesting again. Tovias singled, was bunted over, and was still at second after Ramos grounded out to short. Then the 2-out terror began. Mora walked, Stalker plated both runners with a deep double, then scored on Hereford’s single. Even Harenberg singled, but Gomez couldn’t get a grounder past Serrato and the inning ended.

It was now a 5-4 game, but the Raccoons still required Roberts for length after a wild bullpen night on Saturday. He entered the fifth on 72 pitches, so it was not unreasonable to expect to squeeze another two frames out of him. He got through the fifth alright, then dropped down his third sac bunt of the game after leadoff singles by Nunley and Tovias in the top 6th. With runners in scoring position and one out, suddenly he had a chance for the win again! To my greatest dismay, Ramos struck out ripping when a single would have done so much for us. Abel Mora, well more experienced, knew what was needed, poked a soft single into shallow center, and even Tovias on the back end managed to score with the early start, flipping the score to Coons’ way, 6-5. Stalker popped out to end the inning, and the greedy Coons pushed Roberts into the seventh. Kane hit a leadoff single, but he rung up Riley before departing. Ricky Ohl came on as we grandly planned to use him for five outs. Hodgers batted for Rivera to counter the righty, singled, and so did Sagredo with two outs. The latter one scored Kane to tie the score at six, and there was no undeserved win for Mark Roberts in this game.

More nightmares in the ninth. Mora led off with a single against Snyder, only to get picked off before Tim Stalker doubled to left-center. But the Coons still had the nasty Hereford coming up (but no Harenberg, with Kearney in the #5 hole)! Rich looped a ball to left-center, uncatchable and perfect for Stalker to scurry home from second base to grab a new lead, 7-6. Bareford threw home late, allowing Hereford into scoring position, but the Coons were in a pickle with Kearney. Josh Boles had seen two longer outings in the last two days and was not quite fresh. On the other hand, this was a RISP situation with one out and a bunt was not going to help. The Raccoons achingly decided to send Leal to pinch-hit; Billy Brotman was also available for the ninth, so maybe we would be fine after all. Leal walked, but neither Gomez (F8) nor Nunley (K) came through, leaving this to Brotman indeed. Kane went to 0-2 before firing a deep drive that Hereford snagged at the fence, Bareford singled, Becker singled, and I closed my eyes and sighed. Burgess singled to load them up, and only now the Coons sent for Boles. Three on, one out, winning run at second base, Sagredo poked the 2-2 into play, back to the mound, Boles to home, OUT, Tovias to first – late. Serrato would get a shot with two outs, fired a 2-2 pitch to deep center, Mora back, Mora back, Mora even more back – AND HE MADE THE CATCH!!! 7-6 Blighters!! Mora 2-4, BB, 2 RBI; Stalker 2-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI; Hereford 2-5, 2 RBI; Harenberg 2-4, HR, RBI; Tovias 3-4; Morales 1-1;

(is blue in the face, but still does not dare to exhale)

In other news

August 21 – Good news, bad news for the Pacifics, who lose C Dylan Allomes (.278, 9 HR, 40 RBI) to a torn quad, but still expect him to come back before the end of the regular season.
August 21 – In further unfortunate events for the city of Angels, the Pacifics get 1-hit by SFW SP Juan Muniz (14-5, 3.28 ERA), who claims athe 2-0 shutout win. LAP OF Justin Fowler (.335, 13 HR, 60 RBI) hits a double right in the first inning for the only L.A. base knock.
August 23 – PIT 3B/2B Omar Lastrade (.268, 7 HR, 49 RBI) could be out for four weeks with an elbow sprain.
August 26 – CIN MR Jon Ozier (4-6, 3.86 ERA) does not just blow an 11th inning, 6-5 lead the Cyclones grabbed in the top of the inning against the Warriors – he walks five batters in the bottom of the 11th to force in two runs in the Warriors’ 7-6 win.

Complaints and stuff

Kevin Harenberg again showed glimpses this week of awaking from his 5-month coma. I mean, it is hardly ever too late, but we sure appreciate him doing something useful from time to time. And with glimpses I mean he batted .370 with SIX homers and 11 RBI this week. It was enough to jump his OPS by 45 points (and it is merely late August…) to .740, the highest it has been since the second game of the season; and also enough to make him Player of the Week, his second such nomination this season, actually beating some years where he was a pretty nifty batter throughout without being made Player of the Week twice (or even once). He has ten such awards in a 9-year career.

We released 2026 third-rounder Dillon Barkley this week. Three years of batting under .200 in Aumsville we deemed enough. There is more like him, f.e. second-rounder George Burke from the same draft, also being utmost miserable in Aumsville.

Roberts’ win on Tuesday locked the season series against the Crusaders for the Critters, which gave them upper paws against New York for the third straight season, a mark they last reached from 2015 to 2017. We have not had a longer winning spell against the Crusaders since the 1990s. On the other hand, Roberts’ torpid Sunday outing probably buried his triple crown ambition for good. His ERA is up to 2.94, eighth in the CL, and he has now dropped behind Tom Shumway and Jonas Mejia, too. He still leads the strikeout race, and is one win behind sole leader Rin Nomura, who remains fourth in ERA behind Gill, Rutkowski, and our dear Rico Gutierrez, but doesn’t have a whiff in strikeouts, which of course was not made better by going 7.1 innings with ZERO strikeouts in his sole start this week.

Fun Fact: 29 years ago today, Jason Turner no-hit the Thunder in a 3-0 win, becoming the second Raccoon to throw a no-hitter after Juan Berrios’ in 1977.

Second Coons no-no artist, and the first one to retire with a winning record. Jason was the #3 pick in the 1983 draft, taken by the Knights and was a #94 prospect when the Raccoons got him at the deadline in 1987 in a 5-player deal that principally sent away ineffective SP Vicente Ruiz and Steve Walker of our scruffy mid-80s middle infield combo, the other half of which was Winston Thompson. The no-hitter the threw on August 27, 1989 was actually not the first of his professional career. He also no-hit the AAA Lubbock Flame on May 30, 1988.

He went on to pitch for the Critters for nine seasons, leading the league in ERA with a 2.55 mark in 1991, and winning 20 games once, but eventually signed up for big bucks in L.A. afterwards.

That was after the 1996 season…...

Funny exercise on top before I am shooed away by the tears; when Jason Turner signed with L.A. we got the best-possible compensation pick in the 1997 draft, the #13 selection, and turned that one into Dan Nordahl, who as you may remember was an often aggravating staple of our bullpen during the Decade of Darkness.

We eventually flipped him and Randy Farley (who had been part of the return for David Brewer after ’97) to the Warriors for Adrian Quebell prior to the 2005 season, a move that soon enough ended Al Martin’s career for no good reason.

Quebell was flipped along with three other players, all marginal, into Stan Murphy the following decade, who then went to the Warriors as a free agent after 2015, giving the Raccoons one of their four supplemental round picks in the 2016 draft. The Raccoons turned those into Zach Graves, Chris Matty (chronologically the Murphy compensation), Dave Dyer, and Justin Chambers, so into two to four busts depending on your threshold for a “good” supplemental round pick. In order, they have been worth 3.1, 0.1, 1.8, and zero big league WAR in their careers, and none currently hold a major league job (Dyer was demoted back to AAA by the Titans), and two have already retired (Matty, Chambers). Now, the 2015 offseason also saw the arrival of R.J. DeWeese (costing us a second-round pick, $16.5M over five years, and countless years of life expectancy for 12.6 WAR before both DeWeese and Matty were folded into a 4-player deal that also exchanged centerfielders with the Thunder. They got Andy Bareford, we got Josh Stevenson.

Stevenson is the player where the direct trail from Jason Turner ends. He spent three years with the Raccoons, then left as free agent and has since bounced from team to team. When the Indians signed him after ’23, no compensation was attached to him. (Although the Raccoons would involve Dave Dyer in a deal for Hector Morales, a 28-year-old lefty still taking up space in St. Petersburg)

Okay, I am not quite done here. Remember how I said Steve Walker was one of the players we shed to acquire Jason Turner in 1987? How far can we go back in the other direction? Steve Walker reaches back a fair bit, all the way to 1981 when the Raccoons picked him up (with Spencer Dicks) in a trade that sent Ken Clark and David Castillo to the Warriors. Both of those last two players connect to the Raccoons in the inaugural season of the ABL in 1977… sort of. They were even in the minor leagues for Portland in 1977 (Clark), or where traded for somebody who was (Castillo). January 1978 saw us trade minor leaguer Guy Mawson to the Knights for Castillo, while Clark, who hit precious little for the 1980 and 1981 Raccoons, initially hit for the cycle in an AAA game in 1978, and actually was the #79 prospect at some point. He hit .254 with 14 homers for the Alley Cats in 1977.

There ya go! An unbroken link of players traded for one another or signed as compensation picks from the 1977 season all the way to the present day, even though the ends might dangle in the minors:

Ken Clark – Steve Walker – Jason Turner – Dan Nordahl – Adrian Quebell – Stanley Murphy – Dave Dyer – Hector Morales
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Raccoons (78-52) @ Bayhawks (58-71) – August 28-30, 2028

The Baybirds were buried at the bottom of the Southern Division, owing to a lack of pitching that had seen their fourth-best offense completely undone by a bottom three rotation and a simply crummy bullpen. Their run differential was -32, so their record was probably a bit worse than you’d expect, but on the other hand they were also 4-2 against the Raccoons for the year. But even in 2027 San Fran had been the only team in the South to not lose their season series against Portland. Not that it had gotten them into the playoffs then, either…

Projected matchups:
Dan Delgadillo (5-4, 4.68 ERA) vs. Guillermo Regalado (9-8, 3.92 ERA)
Kyle Anderson (7-7, 4.05 ERA) vs. Gilberto Rendon (8-6, 4.98 ERA)
Rin Nomura (15-5, 2.69 ERA) vs. Matt Huf (9-10, 4.37 ERA)

Three right-handers against us in the final series oft he month – we’d have Thursday off before rosters would expand for the weekend set against Indy.

Game 1
POR: SS Alb. Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Leal – 3B Nunley – P Delgadillo
SFB: CF Hawthorne – SS M. Martin – 1B Caraballo – RF C. Martinez – LF Orozco – 2B W. White – 3B E. Moreno – C Jai. Jackson – P Regalado

The second inning saw the Critters load the bases on a Gomez single, Leal getting nailed, and Nunley squeezing a 3-2 pitch for a walk, only to bring up Yusneldan with one out. At least he put the ball in play, flying out to Ruben Orozco sufficiently deep to bring in Rafael Gomez for the first run, after which Ramos struck out. That Gomez single was the Coons’ only base hit in the first five innings, and Delgadillo would not hold on to the 1-0 lead forever. The Bayhawks had two singles and as many double plays the first time through the order, but Mike Martin, the DP goat in the bottom 1st, hit a 1-out triple in the bottom 4th, and Delgadillo lacked the stuff to get out of that sticky spot. He lost Tomas Caraballo on balls, then surrendered the tying run on a sac fly before Orozco grounded out to Nunley. The Raccoons took a new lead in the sixth, Rich Hereford singling to center to score Abel Mora from second base, but after Harenberg got four wide ones – the Baybirds had obviously taken note of his exploits the previous week – Rafael Gomez chopped into a double play to end the inning.

Regalado opened the bottom 6th with a single to center, and it was all downhill from there for Delgadillo. After two outs shuffled the tying run to third base, Caraballo plated the pitcher with a ground rule double and Cesar Martinez walked. With nothing but left-handed bats approaching, the Coons pulled the plug on the well-travelled Degladillo and sent Jeff Kearney with two on and two outs. He walked Orozco, then surrendered a big liner to Wade White… right into the maws of Hereford in leftfield, stranding three in a 2-2 game. Kearney somehow made it through the seventh and the bottom of the order without being murdered by either the Bayhawks or his own GM, and the Coons got a good opportunity in the following inning when Ying-hua Ou walked Ramos on four pitches to begin the top 8th. Mora singled to put runners on the corners, and San Fran was in a real pickle now…. Or so you’d be forgiven to think. Stalker grounded out to first, moving up Mora, but not Ramos, and Hereford and Harenberg both popped balls up in the ****tiest way, and nobody scored in the inning. Top 9th, leadoff single by PH Jarod Spencer, then a walk to Leal issued by right-hander Alex Ramos. Nunley’s appearance screamed double play in an agonizingly slow game, but he was a left-hander after all. And struck out, as did Jon Correa in the #9 hole. Ramos put the 0-1 in play, grounder past the aging Wade White for a single, and Spencer was not going to be held and beat out Cesar Martinez’ throw to break the tie. The throw to home plate also allowed the runners to advance further, leading to two more runs when Abel Mora singled cleanly through the left side; Leal from second base would not have scored on that ball, but Ramos from second base had not a lot of trouble. The Raccoons turned to Kevin Surginer for the save eventually, with Ohl having thrown the last two days, and Boles even the last three days. Surginer was *relatively* rested, having thrown three pitches on Saturday (and more on Thursday and Friday…). Kevin loaded the bases in eight pitches, allowing a single to Martinez, nailing Orozco, and walking White in four, but the Raccoons had nobody to go to, except Jonathan Fleischer, and no, not with the bags full already. Tom Hawkins hit a sac fly, Jaiden Jackson hit an RBI single, but PH Jose Pulido struck out. That brought up leadoff man George Hawthorne, who fell to 2-2 before popping a pitch foul that Nunley chased to the sidewall … and caught. 5-4 Coons. Mora 3-5, 2 RBI; Spencer (PH) 1-1;

Nick Derks pitched the eighth and got the W. He went 18 appearances without a decision before now taking W’s in back-to-back relief outings.

The Titans beat the Thunder, 9-3, to keep the distance at 8 1/2.

Game 2
POR: SS Alb. Ramos – CF Mora – 2B Stalker – LF Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Tovias – 3B Nunley – P Anderson
SFB: CF Hawthorne – 3B Hawkins – 1B Caraballo – RF C. Martinez – LF Orozco – 2B W. White – SS Pulido – C Jai. Jackson – P G. Rendon

The Raccoons bopped their former farmhand Rendon for four runs in the opening inning, all with two outs. Stalker singled, stole second, got a running mate when Hereford walked, then came home on Harenberg’s single to right. Rafael Gomez’ 3-piece to left then reunited everybody in the dugout, even though the inning didn’t end until after a Tovias single when Nunley grounded out. However, the Baybirds would be on Kyle Anderson’s neck right away; there was a leadoff single by Hawthorne, then a clumsy walk to Martinez with two outs, and then Orozco gave the fans some life with a 3-run homer of his own. The middle of the order would go on to fail the Raccoons big time in the following innings. They loaded the bases only to have Harenberg ground out harmlessly to strand three in the top 2nd, then had Hereford fly out harmlessly to strand Ramos and Mora in the fourth … although those latter runs would have been unearned, with Ramos only reaching on a White error. He did steal his 34th base though, inching in closer to the league leaders. None of this helped Anderson a lot, who conceded the lead finally in the bottom 4th when the Bayhawks’ Orozco, White, and Jackson all singled to center to tie the score at four. They did also hit for their pitcher, Gilberto Rendon, in the inning, sending out pinch-hitter Edwin Rendon. No relation, and also no further offense as Anderson struck out both the Replacement Rendon and Hawthorne to strand a pair.

With Tovias on base after a 2-out single, the Coons went on to pinch-hit for Matt Nunley in the fifth, but Danny Morales popped out against southpaw Mike Cavallin. In turn the bottom 5th saw Hawkins lead off with a double, Caraballo went yard to right-center, and twobatters later Orozco homered to left to extinguish a horrendous Anderson, buried under seven runs in 4.1 innings. It would get worse for the Raccoons, who brought up the tying run in the seventh inning, but Tovias grounded out to strand two, and that was after Tim Stalker doubled and left the game with obvious discomfort, replaced by Jarod Spencer, all for nought. The Bayhawks added two runs in a smothering of Nick Derks in the bottom 8th, while the Raccoons entirely feebly and never scored after the 4-run first. 9-4 Bayhawks. Stalker 2-4, 2B; Tovias 2-4; Fleischer 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K;

If we lose Tim Stalker for the season, I will throw myself into the Bay. But right now, the Druid was still buying all sorts of candles and had no diagnosis prepared before the rubber game.

But there were planes going from Portland to San Francisco all the time. I could still throw myself into the Bay later on…

Game 3
POR: SS Alb. Ramos – 2B Spencer – CF Mora – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – RF Gomez – C Tovias – LF Correa – P Nomura
SFB: CF Hawthorne – SS M. Martin – 1B Caraballo – RF C. Martinez – C J. Ramirez – LF E. Rendon – 2B Pulido – 3B Hawkins – P Huf

This time the Bayhawks scored the four runs in the opening inning, swatting Nomura left and right including a 3-piece by Edwin Rendon. And despite the vibrant dysfunction between Ramos and Spencer, who hit into a double play in the first, the Coons scratched their way back into the game when Nomura temporarily stopped the hemorrhage and instead Portland scored some runs. Ramos tripled and (barely) came home on Spencer’s sac fly in the third, and the fourth saw Hereford reach on a Pulido error before Harenberg went yard to cut the gap to 4-3. Tovias singled, Correa walked, but between Nomura and Ramos the Raccoons failed to find the game-tying base hit.

And then there remained the curious case of Nomura absolutely not getting strikeouts in situations that were screaming out for them. Pulido on first, two outs, Nomura got the opposing pitcher to 0-2 in the bottom 4th, then still managed to surrender a double to Huf, swiftly advancing to surrender a hard grounder to left to Hawthorne. Ramos had to lunge to his right, scrambled deep on the dirt and fired a blast to first base that SOMEHOW beat out Hawthorne to end the inning. That looked like an infield single the whole time … and Ramos somehow still got him.

Top 6th, Tovias’ 1-out single brought up the former Baybird Jon Correa, whose acquisition we by now had chalked up another the category of “we meant well, but it wasn’t meant to be”. He was hardly batting .220 as a Raccoon with only four homers. He would not go yard here, either… but he still beat Cesar Martinez with a fly that fell for a double and provided a great scoring opportunity. With Nomura pitching more badly than in recent memory, the Coons pinch-hit right here, sending Danny Morales, who popped out uselessly, but then Alberto Ramos came through with a double up the rightfield line that flipped the score (giving Nomura an optional W) and put him a homer shy of the cycle. And Spencer? Spencer looked at strike three… That stranded Ramos at second, one inning before Correa flew out to Martinez to strand a full set of runners. Surginer and Ohl exploded in the bottom 7th then; Kevin had pitched the sixth, but put on Hawkins (walk) and Omar Millan (single) to begin the seventh. When Ricky Ohl replaced him, he surrendered a score-flipping triple to Hawthorne right away. Somehow, THAT runner remained on base despite arriving at third with nobody out… Cavallin and Armando Pena did away with the Coons in the eighth before Alex Ramos came out for the ninth. Abel Mora led off with a single, which promised not a whole lot with Hereford having been muted for most of the series and 0-for-4 in this game. He struck out. Harenberg flew out to Hawthorne in center, but Gomez got a ball over the head of Mike Martin for a single. Mora dashed for third base, bringing up Tovias, who was 4-for-4 and could not possibly have another single in his bat. He didn’t. On a 3-1 pitch, he popped out to short… 6-5 Bayhawks. Ramos 3-5, 3B, 2B, 2 RBI; Gomez 2-5; Tovias 4-5, 2B;

Maybe, instead of drowning myself in the Bay, I should drown Elias Tovias in the Bay. That would release a lot of frustration.

The Titans won two of three from the Thunder, moving in to 7 1/2. The Coons were idle on Thursday, but the Titans started a 4-game set with the Crusaders, in fourth place and 11 games out, on Thursday and lost the opener against Doug Moffatt, putting our lead as the calendar flipped to September at eight games compared to Boston, ten over the damn Elks, and 10 1/2 over New York.

Also, by Friday morning I found out that Tim Stalker had a broken foot. Off he was to the DL, but there was a solid chance he would be available for the playoffs.

If we ever made it there, eight ahead with 29 to play.

Raccoons (79-54) vs. Indians (58-75) – September 1-3, 2028

The Indians were last in offense, scoring just 3.5 runs per game, and even though their pitching was solid the combination was never going to amount to a winning team. They did have the best defense in the league though, so something to envy there… The season series stood 7-4 in the Raccoons’ favor.

Projected matchups:
Rico Gutierrez (10-7, 2.63 ERA) vs. John McInerney (8-9, 2.97 ERA)
Mark Roberts (14-4, 2.94 ERA) vs. David Saccoccio (10-10, 3.16 ERA)
Dan Delgadillo (5-4, 4.58 ERA) vs. Mark Matthews (3-5, 3.69 ERA)

McInerney was a southpaw, then two right-handers. We might also see swingman Myles Mood (0-0, 1.52 ERA) in the series. Him and Matthews had both tossed in a double header on Monday.

And of course, rosters expanded, so while the Raccoons shed Tim Stalker onto the DL, they still brought up a number of replacements, some familiar.

Jaden Booker had been mostly useless even in AAA, but we were paying his sorry bum and would try to get something, anything out of it in September. We also added Butch Gerster again (badly necessary with Stalker gone) and opted for another middle infielder in German Sanchez. Daniel Rocha took the job of catcher #3. Bullpen reinforcements came via the inevitable Steve Costilow and left-hander Jeremy Moesker, who was the only one in the crowd to not have already appeared for the Raccoons this season, but had made eight relief appearances last year for a 6.35 ERA.

Game 1
IND: SS Pizano – 2B T. Johnson – C Kennett – CF Suhay – LF Plunkett – RF Ryder – 3B C. Castro – 1B Aleman – P McInerney
POR: SS Ramos – LF Morales – RF Gomez – 3B Hereford – 1B Harenberg – C Tovias – CF Magallanes – 2B G. Sanchez – P Gutierrez

Rico was in no hurry in this game; he needed 44 pitches to get through the Indians’ lineup once and ran five full counts while doing so. While the Indians did not get a hit or run, this was not the most efficient way to keep an only slightly enlarged bullpen engaged… At least the Critters had pulled out a run in the bottom 1st, with Ramos walking and coming around on a pair of singles by Morales and Gomez before Hereford stuck a dagger into the inning with a double play grounder before Harenberg struck out for good. The Indians’ first hit would then flip the score, a 2-run homer by Alex Aleman that came with two outs in the fifth and was also unearned. Mike Plunkett had reached base on a German Sanchez error. The Critters got even in the bottom 5th on some 2-out rally that saw Ramos single, Morales walk, and Gomez hit a wicked bouncer over the glove of Mario Pizano to bring Ramos around. Pizano got revenge on Hereford then, shagging his dying bloop while racing for the outfield to end the inning, the hit a double to lead off the top 6th, but he would also make the third out at third base, tagging up on Elliott Kennett’s fly to center, only to get thrown out by Magallanes, who hit a 2-out single in the bottom 6th. Jon Correa batted for Sanchez, hit a single to right to put runners on the corners, and that ended both starting pitchers’ day. The Indians yanked McInerney for right-hander Manny Estrella, while the Raccoons used men on the corners with two outs to remove Rico and his “advanced” pitch count. Abel Mora came, walked, and loaded the bases for Ramos, who flew out to Zachary Ryder, and three more Coons were left stranded… The game then got away in a hurry from Kevin Surginer, who got rocked in the top 7th for a Mike Plunkett homer, a Ryder triple, and then Manny Sanchez’ run-scoring groundout. Gomez and Hereford hit singles in the bottom 7th, and Harenberg hit into a double play to kill the effort. Eliott Kennett added a 2-run homer off Costilow in the eighth for the final tally. 6-2 Indians. Gomez 3-5, 2 RBI; Correa (PH) 1-1; Spencer 1-1; Nunley (PH) 1-1;

How nervous a 3-game losing streak against really bad teams makes me right now?

There are five spilled cups of coffee (with Capt’n Coma; okay mainly Capt’n Coma) on and under the desk and you still ask stuff like that?

But, ah, it gets better. For Saturday we had Angel Casas bobbleheads and also a small number retiring ceremony for our newest Hall of Fame closer. That also meant that there was media interest, everybody wanted a piece of the action… and so Nick Valdes was not going to be far from Portland, either… and that with us having dropped three straight to beaten teams.

Game 2
IND: SS Pizano – 3B E. Sosa – C Kennett – CF Suhay – RF Ryder – LF M. Cowan – 2B Wagner – 1B Aleman – P Saccoccio
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 1B Harenberg – 2B Hereford – RF Gomez – C Leal – 3B Nunley – LF Booker – P Roberts

Roberts allowed rockets right from the start and before long bled for two runs on Ryder’s 2-out double in the top of the first. The Raccoons loaded them up in the bottom of the inning, but could only get a sac fly by Gomez, plating Ramos, before Leal flew out to right. But to remain fair to Saccoccio – at least he tried to help out the weirdly hesitating Raccoons and hit back-to-back batters, Gomez and Leal, to begin the bottom of the fourth. Tying and go-ahead runs aboard, the Critters had the chance to shine! Nunley’s single loaded the bases with nobody out for .180 menace Jaden Booker, who struck out in all his futility, when even Mark Roberts managed to lob a fly to center deep enough to get Gomez home and tie the score. Ramos fired a liner to center that fooled Ben Suhay bad enough to fall for a 2-out, 2-run triple, and we could have done more if Abel Mora had not struck out to keep the score at 4-2.

Alex Aleman hit a leadoff single in the fifth, but Roberts struck out the next three, including Todd Johnson as he batted for Saccoccio on the losing end now. The Indians went to Estrella again, and the Critters’ Kevin Harenberg went into the gap for a leadoff double in the bottom 5th. The Indians walked Hereford intentionally to set up the double play, a really mean strategy that oughta be forbidden! Gomez struck out before Curt Wagner missed Leal’s grounder for a bases-loading single. Three on, one out for Nunley, who held still long enough to draw ball four, and even Booker got in a run with a sac fly, stretching the score to 6-2. After the early onslaught, Roberts cruised until the eighth when Kennett got him for a 2-out solo home run, but that still had the Raccoons up by three with a now well-rested Josh Boles eager for murder… and then Rich Hereford took the chance away from him with a 2-out single in the bottom 8th, plating Butch Gerster, who had opened the frame with a pinch-hit single in Roberts’ spot. Instead, the Raccoons sent Derks into the ninth, which sounded a lot like begging for trouble, but he did away with the Indians in six pitches to even the series and set up a rubber game for Sunday. 7-3 Raccoons. Ramos 2-5, 3B, 2 RBI; Harenberg 2-4, BB, 2B; Leal 2-3; Gerster (PH) 1-1; Roberts 8.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, W (15-4) and 0-1, RBI;

This re-tied Roberts for the lead in wins, and he led the strikeout table by an even dozen, but unfortunately his ERA was constantly on the rise and still roughly half a run behind the new leader, Mike Rutkowski.

Game 3
IND: SS Pizano – C Dear – 1B Jon Gonzalez – CF Suhay – LF Plunkett – 2B E. Sosa – 3B T. Johnson – RF Aleman – P Mood
POR: SS Ramos – CF Mora – 1B Harenberg – LF Hereford – RF Gomez – C Tovias – 2B Spencer – 3B Nunley – P Delgadillo

Swingman Mood did end up facing the Raccoons, as well as a 2-0 deficit after the first inning. Mora had doubled, scored on Harenberg’s roller through Jon Gonzalez, then had allowed another double to Hereford and finally a sac fly to Rafael Gomez. The Indians got on the board in the third with Matt Dear singling in Pizano after a 2-out double. The Raccoons had an answer to that, right away, and it had substance: Ramos led off with a walk in the bottom 3rd, stole second, then scored on Mora’s single to right. Harenberg walked, Hereford advanced the runners with a groundout, Gomez plated Mora with another grounder, and then Tovias fired a 2-run shot on the first offering from Mood, staking Delgadillo to a 6-1 lead. Suhay pulled one back with a leadoff jack, but Hereford drew a bases-loaded walk against Alberto Molina in the bottom of the fourth to extend the gap to five again. The next time Hereford came up the Raccoons had Ramos on second after a walk and a stolen base, Harenberg on first with another walk shed by Molina, and Hereford broke through with a 3-run homer to right-center to bury the Indians two slams deep, 10-2. After this sixth inning, the Raccoons removed (almost) every piece of value from the lineup; only Gomez (moved in to first base) and the bottom three remained by the top of the 7th, and Delgadillo was gone before the seventh inning stretch, too, allowing Plunkett and Elias Sosa on base to begin the inning, then giving up an RBI single to Mike Roesler in the #9 hole. Surginer came in, walked Pizano, then gave up a bases-celaring double to Matt Dear before Jon Gonzalez grounded out. Suddenly I wished our sluggers back into a 10-6 game… Fleischer got rid of the Indians in speedy fashion in the eighth, and for the ninth they brought up the bottom of the order and we were sure we could risk getting Steve Costilow engaged despite his 9.00 ERA. Ah, small sample size (4 innings)! Todd Johnson popped out foul, Alex Aleman grounded out to short, and Costilow fielded Manny Sanchez’ roller himself for the final out. 10-6 Raccoons! Mora 3-4, 2B, RBI; Harenberg 1-2, BB, 2B, RBI; Hereford 2-3, BB, HR, 2B, 4 RBI; Nunley 2-4;

In other news

August 29 – VAN SP Leon Hernandez (10-7, 3.46 ERA) is discovered to have a partial tear in his UCL and is out for the season. The Canadiens will have him try and rehab the injury rather than go for Tommy John surgery.
August 30 – The Canadiens run over the Falcons in a 14-1 thrashing, with VAN LF/CF Alex Torres (.279, 19 HR, 93 RBI) plating six runs on three hits from the leadoff spot.
August 30 – The Titans’ only base hit in a 4-2 loss to the Thunder is a 2-run home run by 1B Bob Lloyd (.274, 21 HR, 82 RBI) off OCT SP Jeff Dykstra (15-9, 3.38 ERA).

Complaints and stuff

Stalker and the Druid were not very subtle about the broken foot. I found Stalker with a leg cast on my couch as I crawled into the office on Friday. At least his cast was Raccoons brown, not like Nunley’s earlier in the year.

Ricky Ohl will keep wearing #28 for the rest of the season and switch to a new number next season. He has already joked that once he will have won his second ring, he will go to #38 and just keep counting.

Rich Hereford did not a have a great week until he broke out for 4 RBI on Sunday, but still managed to zoom up the franchise leaderboard for RBI in a single season. Tying for tenth before this week, he moved up to a tie for seventh:

1st – Tetsu Osanai (1989) – 140
2nd – Hugo Mendoza (2020) – 133
t-3rd – Tetsu Osanai (1986) – 121
t-3rd – Tetsu Osanai (1990) – 121
5th – Luke Black (2008) – 120
6th – Mark Dawson (1983) – 119
t-7th – Albert Martin (2003) – 117
t-7th – Rich Hereford (2028) – 117
9th – Mark Dawson (1988) – 115
t-10th – several players – 111

We will start the next week with a crucial 3-game set against the Titans, who lost three of four over the weekend against New York, a GREAT result for the Raccoons! In fact, the Titans would have been swept if they had not rallied for a 5-run ninth on Saturday to pull out a 7-6 win in walkoff fashion. We are also far enough ahead that even winning only one of three games against them could be considered a moral victory for us, because we’d still reduce the magic number by two that way. Just don’t get swept…!

Here is the remainder of the road for the competitors in the North for the final four weeks. We will include the Crusaders and Elks… they are all on top of one another, and if the Raccoons went on a losing spree, any of those three could grab second and chase us down. List includes the playoff chance as per BNN:

POR (81-55) – BOS (6), IND (4), VAN (4), LVA (3), MIL (3), NYC (3), TIJ (3) – 98.1%
BOS (73-65) – POR (6), ATL (3), IND (3), MIL (3), NYC (3), SFB (3), VAN (3) – 1.8%
NYC (71-66) – VAN (6), MIL (4), BOS (3), IND (3), LVA (3), TIJ (3), VAN (3) – 0.0%
VAN (70-66) – NYC (6), MIL (4), POR (4), ATL (3), IND (3), NYC (3), SFB (3) – 0.0%

The Condors, up by 8 1/2 in the South, also have a playoff chance of roughly 98%.

Fun Fact: With his bases loaded walk drawn on Saturday, Matt Nunley took sole possession of third place in career RBI for the Raccoons.

Nunley has plated 870 runners in his Coons career (so, all of his career). He still trails Neil Reece (905) and Daniel Hall (980) and does not look like he has much of a shot at least at the latter, but he is also still under contract for 2029. He had been tied with Mark Dawson, who had however plated his 869 RBI in more than 2,000 fewer plate appearances as a Raccoon.
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Portland Raccoons, 51 years of excell-.... of baseball: Furballs here!
1983 * 1989 * 1991 * 1992 * 1993 * 1995 * 1996 * 2010 * 2017 * 2018 * 2019 * 2026
1 OSANAI : 2 POWELL : 8 REECE : 10 BROWN : 15 HALL : 28 CASAS : 32 WEST : 46 SAITO

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