Saturday, August 9, 2008

Albuquerque Isotopes 4, Portland Beavers 1

August 1, 2008

Athletic events have been going on at the site of downtown Portland's PGE Park since 1893, and the first professional baseball was played there in 190
5. Over the years it's been Multnomah Field and Civic Stadium, and, since a $40 million facelift in 2000, PGE Park. It's a fabulous setting. PGE (Portland General Electric) Park is served by the city's excellent transit system, is an easy walk from downtown hotels, and is quite a unique spot. The foul territory on the third-base side of the park is quite large, allowing for football and soccer fields to be laid out in the stadium. The PGE building looms high above the right field wall, including a mezzanine of bleachers. The left field wall is far below street level. There are seats up at sidewalk height in left, and, behind the hand-operated scoreboard, the offices of The Oregonian newspaper dominate the skyline and Max light rail trains trundle past frequently.

The latest updates include wide concourses, plentiful concession stands (a bit
on the pricey side for AAA) and several levels of "luxury suites" behind home plate. Given the amenities here, it's surprising that they don't draw better. We've made baseball trips to Portland on several occasions in recent years, and have been surprised that the turnout is so low. It's probably going to seem lower than it actually is, too. The seating capacity is nearly 20,000.

Maybe we were just there at the wrong time. As we heard at our Friday night game, Saturday was Jerry Mathers Night at the ballpark (Portland Beavers... get it?) and the give-away was, of course, Jerry Mathers bobbleheads for the first 1,903 fans at the park. (I don't know why 1,903; maybe that's all they had.) It's hard to tell from the photo at the right if the bobblehead was Jerry as The Beav or Jerry as present-day Jerry. Well, no matter; they look pretty similar anyway. Word is a good time was had by all, and that the Beav signed autographs, answered Leave It To Beaver trivia questions and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

But, back to our game on Friday, which didn't lack for excitement, because it was "Latino Night" at the ballpark, which meant that some of the PA announcements were in Spanish, and that there were some salsa dancers for entertainment between some of the innings. It must be hard to dance on field turf.

The game
The contest between the Albuquerque Isotopes and Portland Beavers was a well-played one. It was a near "dandy." Our official definition of dandy is different from the one used by Dave Niehaus, who would label a 12-11 slugfest as such. Here's the official word:

Dandy, n. -- A baseball game in which fewer than five runs are scored, no team scores more than three, and no errors are made.

A 4-1 game in AAA really ought to qualify; maybe the standards should be relaxed slightly from our major league dandy definition. In any case, starting pitchers Cesar Ramos of the Beavers and Rick VandenHurk of the Beavers put on a good show, getting the ball and throwing it, and getting guys out. The game was 0-0 until Will Venable hit a solo homer just to the right of dead center with one out in the bottom of the fourth to put Portland up 1-0. Albuquerque tied it in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by VandenHurk -- with two National League affiliates going at it the pitchers were batting. I love that! Portland is the AAA club for the Padres and Albuquerque is a farm team of the Marlins. That's a long flight if they call you up to be in Miami by noon tomorrow. It remained knotted at 1-1 until the Isotopes broke through with two in the eighth on a double by shortstop Robert Andino. They tacked on one in the ninth for good measure to win it 4-1.

Player of the game
You've got to give it to "The Hurk," Albuquerque starter Rick VandenHurk, who went seven innings, gave up one run on just two hits, struck out six and walked three. He had an RBI to boot. I'd love to give a glowing report on the Isotopes' starter; he had 17 starts for the Marlins in 2007 and started four this year, including a couple in late July as the Florida rotation has had some injury problems. He spent most of his season at Carolina in the Southern League. Ramos was almost as good for Portland, going seven and allowing just one run on four hits. He walked two and fanned three. The Isotopes got their last three runs off Carlos Guevara, who took the loss.

The highlight for Portland, aside from the strong outing from Ramos, was the homer by Venable, who played center field and hit third for the Beavers. Venable is a good athlete who starred in baseball and basketball at Princeton. He's the son of Max Venable, who had a 12-year career as a sub outfielder with the Giants, Expos, Reds, and Angels, and also is now the hitting coach for Portland. Will is hitting .303 with a dozen homers and an .857 OPS at Portland, but he'll be 26 in October, a little old to be a top notch prospect.

Mariners' fans will also recognize the name of Glenn Abbott, "The Tall Arkansan." Abbott, a starting pitcher for the early M's, is Portland's pitching coach.

Box score


Sweetie the Scorer said...

Nope, no changing the dandy rules. And there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing astroturf and the designated hitter. And no metal bats.

Sweetie the Scorer said...

Hey Weisenheimer that was a GLOWING report about the ISOTOPES! Ha!