SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake Bees may have changed the name of their stadium, but it was the same old result for the Tacoma Rainiers in the opener of a four-game series.
Tacoma squandered a three-run lead in the late innings and lost to Salt Lake on Monday, 9-7.
It was yet another defeat in Salt Lake City’s beautiful stadium, which now has a new name: Spring Mobile Ballpark. The Rainiers are 3-14 in the building the past three years.
This time, it was a series of bloop hits and ground balls squeezing through the infield that led to the Salt Lake win.
Daren Brown has see it before in his three years as Tacoma manager.
“We’ve been in this park before – you’re never safe here, and they’re going to keep coming after us,” said Brown, whose Rainiers lost their third straight game.
Michael Saunders hit a pair of solo homers – both line drives over the right field fence – giving him four homers in four games.
Jeff Clement went 3-for-5 with a home run of his own as the Rainiers built a 5-2 lead.
But Salt Lake’s Matt Brown ruined Andy Baldwin’s day with a two-out, two-run pop fly double that made it 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth. The flare landed in the Bermuda Triangle of shallow center field, where three Rainiers defenders could not reach it.
Still, Tacoma added two runs in the top of the seventh inning and took a 7-4 lead into the stretch.
But rehabilitating Seattle Mariners reliever Cesar Jimenez gave up four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Jimenez walked three, but the hits were soft – with the exception of Chris Pettit’s line drive two-run double down the left-field line, which brought home the tying and go-ahead runs.
“Jimenez wasn’t as good tonight as he was the last couple of times out, but its all part of the rehab process,” said Brown.
Jimenez (0-1) threw 42 pitches over 1 innings in his longest outing while attempting to return from biceps tendinitis.
The Rainiers made two errors in the infield to allow Salt Lake an insurance run in the eighth.
Tacoma (11-13) has lost three straight games, each frustrating: Saturday, Saunders dropped a fly ball to allow the winning run to score; Sunday, Luis Muñoz was rocked for five homers in his Tacoma debut; and Monday, it was the soft hits for the Bees, while the Rainiers left 15 runners on base.
“They had a few of those – we’ve seen that here before,” says Brown. “When they had runners on base they took advantage of it.”
The Rainiers sank further into last place, now six games behind first place Salt Lake (17-7).
Outfielder Jerry Owens signed his free agent contract and joined the Rainiers on Monday. In order to make room for Owens, outfielder Freddy Guzman was released. Guzman hit .214 in 42 at-bats and led the team with four stolen bases in 13 games. Guzman’s status was hampered by a broken hamate bone, which caused him to miss spring training and join the Rainiers late.
The Rainiers face a rehabilitating John Lackey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) today at 5:35 p.m. Lackey, who has gone 31-14 for the Angels over the past two seasons, has been on Los Angeles’ disabled list since spring training with a sprained right elbow. Tacoma will start Garrett Olson (2-2, 3.08).