FRESNO, Calif. – Very little went right for the Tacoma Rainiers in the final game of their four-game series in Fresno on Monday.
Hard-hit balls went right at Fresno defenders, the Grizzlies had two clutch two-out, two-strike hits from the hottest hitter in the Pacific Coast League, and then the Rainiers made a throwing error with two outs in the ninth inning to lose the game.
Fresno won, 3-2, and took the series, three games to one.
Tacoma had eight hits – all singles – in the first four innings. Yet the Rainiers emerged with just two runs, both scoring in the first inning.
In addition to the nine total hits off Fresno starter Brian Burres, the Rainiers hit several line drives right at Fresno defenders.
“We had nine hits and four or five other balls that we hit hard right at them,” said manager Daren Brown.
Tacoma stranded six runners in the early innings, yet still carried a 2-1 lead until the seventh inning because of an outstanding start by Jeff Marquez. Marquez allowed four hits and one walk through six innings.
The only run against Marquez came in the third inning, when Eli Whiteside doubled and Justin Christian singled up the middle on an 0-2 pitch, scoring Whiteside.
Tacoma brought in Shawn Kelley to pitch the seventh, protecting the 2-1 lead.
Joaquin Arias opened with a double, but Kelley retired the next two hitters.
Up came Christian again, and once again he fell behind in the count, 0-2. Kelley threw a slider that got too much of the plate, and Christian singled to left to tie the game.
“In this series we had trouble shutting innings down with two out,” Brown said.
Christian went 10-for-16 in the series, and he’s batting .548 on the season.
Fresno won it in the ninth against reliever Chance Ruffin.
With two outs, Todd Linden lined a triple past diving center fielder Trayvon Robinson.
Whiteside surprised by bunting with two outs. Ruffin calmly fielded the bunt and threw to first – but his throw pulled first baseman Scott Savastano off the bag, Whiteside was safe, and Linden raced home with the winning run.
“He got to it in plenty of time, and just didn’t complete the play,” said Brown.
Tacoma (5-7) fell two games under .500 for the first time this season, while Fresno improved to 9-3.
Tacoma’s Adam Moore left the game after catching the bottom of the first inning. “His knee was sore, and we’ll know more after he is evaluated,” said Brown. Guillermo Quiroz replaced Moore. … Reliever Heath Hembree, one of the Giants’ top prospects, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and earned the win.
The trip continues with a four-game series in Sacramento, starting with a game at 7:05 tonight. Tacoma starts left-hander Mauricio Robles (0-0, 4.15 ERA) while Sacramento’s starter is unannounced. The broadcast can be heard on 850-AM and www.tacoma rainiers.com.
Mike Curto is the Tacoma Rainiers’ radio play-by-play announcer.