PENSACOLA, Fla., - The Pensacola Blue Wahoos appear to have found a new closer with seven games left in the regular season. It is right hander Tanner Rainey whose fastball often breaks 100 mph. Rainey earned his first Double-A save for the Blue Wahoos with his last three pitches all in triple
PENSACOLA, Fla., - The Pensacola Blue Wahoos appear to have found a new closer with seven games left in the regular season. It is right hander Tanner Rainey whose fastball often breaks 100 mph.
Rainey earned his first Double-A save for the Blue Wahoos with his last three pitches all in triple digits as Pensacola snapped a four-game losing streak with a, 3-2, win Monday over the Mississippi Braves in front of 4,001 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
The 24-year-old Rainey in his last two relief appearances has struck out seven of the eight outs and walked one. For the Blue Wahoos he has 23 strikeouts in 14 innings over 11 appearances with a 1.93 ERA.
The former West Alabama first baseman, who holds that school's home run record with 19, also singled in his first professional at bat.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly was asked after the game if Rainey, in his third professional season, would be the Blue Wahoo's closer.
"I think so," Kelly said. "I liked what I saw. That's impressive. He throws the ball hard and can swing the bat."
The game also marked Pensacola starter Austin Ross looking back in form in his fifth start since spending a month on the DL with tightness in his throwing shoulder. He was limited to 14.2 innings over four starts but Monday the 28-year-old right hander cut loose with 93 pitches in 5.2 innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks with no strikeouts.
Ross is now 8-0 with a Southern League-leading 1.89 ERA.
"I've never been shut down during the year," Ross said. "It was frustrating but at the same time it was the right thing to do. I knew I would have a decent amount of pitches. I wish I had gone deeper (than 5.2 innings.)"
Kelly also liked having the old Ross back in the rotation, especially with the playoffs approaching Sept. 6.
"This is the first time since he's come back that he looked like he was his old self," Kelly said.
Ross's eighth win on the season was also Pensacola's 400th win since its inaugural season in 2012. The club has 426 losses, posting winning records in only its last two seasons.
The Blue Wahoos first victory in franchise history occurred on opening day April 5, 2012 when they defeated the Montgomery Biscuits, 3-1. Pensacola third baseman Henry Alejandro Rodriguez, who drove in all three Blue Wahoos runs, smashed a two-run home run in the eighth inning off Montgomery reliever Frank De Los Santos for the victory. Pensacola reliever Justin Freeman earned the win and closer Donnie Joseph picked up the save.
"That's cool," Ross said. "It's always good to be a part of something like that, especially with a class organization like Pensacola."
To make a bid for the Southern League championship, Kelly said he needs other players to return to health like second baseman Shed Long, who is expected to start Tuesday after playing his last game Aug. 3.
Also third baseman Nick Senzel, the Cincinnati Reds top prospect, left the game Thursday after one at bat because he felt dizzy but he has yet to be cleared to play. Senzel had 10 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .340 batting average in half a season in Double-A.
Mississippi catcher Alex Jackson hit a bomb, his third homer for the Braves, to left field in the second inning to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
Pensacola went ahead, 2-1, in the fourth inning. The first run scored with the bases loaded and one out when shortstop Blake Trahan hit a chopper to Mississippi third baseman Connor Joe, who dropped the ball, allowing first baseman Gavin LaValley to score. LaValley led off the fourth with a double, crushing a fly ball over the head of Mississippi center fielder Keith Curcio.
The second run in the fourth inning scored when Pensacola starting pitcher Austin Ross came up with the bases loaded and knocked in his third RBI of his career when center fielder Jonathan Reynoso scored. Ross hit a chopper that Braves first baseman Joey Meneses dove and caught and threw to second to get Trahan at second base for the second out of the inning.
Pensacola left fielder Gabriel Guerrero scored in the fifth inning when Aristides Aquino grounded out into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs to go ahead, 3-1.
Mississippi came back in the sixth inning when Jackson singled up the middle to drive in shortstop Dylan Moore to trail Pensacola, 3-2.
That's when the Blue Wahoos turned to their bullpen. Zack Weiss threw 1.2 scoreless innings and didn't allow a hit with walking one and striking out two. Then Rainey finished up the game.
The Blue Wahoos are guaranteed to be in the Southern League playoffs after winning the first half and are currently in fourth place at 29-34. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are in first at 35-28 in the Southern Division, six games ahead of Pensacola.
GAME NOTES The Pensacola Blue Wahoos play the fourth game of a five-game series against the Atlanta Braves Double-A affiliate the Mississippi Braves at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. The M-Braves are starting RHP Touki Toussaint (2-3, 2.33) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Jesús Reyes (1-4, 3.19).
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices.
You can watch the home games live or tape delayed on Cox Sports Television Monday through Thursday on Channel 319. Friday, Saturday and Sunday games are broadcast live on BLAB-TV.
BIG FISH Shortstop Blake Trahan was 1-for-4 with one RBI...Pitcher Austin Ross was 0-for-1 with one RBI...Left fielder Gabriel Guerrero was 1-for-3 and scored a run...First baseman Gavin LaValley was 1-for-2 with two walks and scored...Center fielder Jonathan Reynoso was 1-for-3 and scored once.
Tickets to the 2017 playoffs are now on sale! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com, visiting the Box Office or calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.