Shutouts were a rarity for the Tacoma Rainiers last year – getting blanked twice during the 144-game schedule.
A mere 17 games into the new season and the Rainiers have already matched that mark.
Charlie Culberson had four RBI, Roger Kieschnick and Todd Linden each smacked two-run homers, Fresno starter Brian Burres combined with reliever Mitch Lively to post a one-hit shutout, and the visiting Grizzlies bested Tacoma, 12-0, on Saturday before 5,846 fans at Cheney Stadium.
The Pacific Coast League Southern Division-leading Grizzlies (13-4) pounded out 19 hits, getting a 5-for-6 effort at the plate from Conor Gillaspie and four hits from Edmonds native Linden.
The 19 hits equaled a season high for Fresno and were the most given up by the Rainiers (7-10) this season.
“(Burres) kept us off balance and we didn’t do a whole lot at the plate,” Tacoma manager Daren Brown said. “Plus their guys swung the bats pretty well tonight.”
Things started innocently enough in the first inning – Tacoma starter Jeff Marquez walked leadoff hitter Justin Christian before a perfectly placed bunt from Gillaspie down the third-base line had a runner in scoring position early for the Grizzlies.
By the time the top half of the first inning ended, Fresno had already pushed three runners across home plate – and the deficit could have been far greater if not for a solid defensive play from first baseman Scott Savastano, whose driving snag of Brock Bond’s bases-loaded line drive with one out prevented at least one more run from scoring.
Whatever heroics came from Savastano’s stellar play, however, were immediately wiped out one inning later after Kieschnick’s two-run shot to right field pushed the Fresno lead to 5-0.
Burres (1-1) retired the first eight batters and 10 of the first 11 before Luis Jimenez gave the Rainiers their only hit of the game with a two-out single in the fourth.
Prior to the game, the Rainiers paid tribute to local sports and civic icon Clay Huntington, who was instrumental in bringing Triple-A baseball to Tacoma in 1960.
A Pacific Northwest radio and TV pioneer, Huntington, who died May 1 at the age of 89, and business partner Ben Cheney began their quest to bring baseball to Tacoma in 1957, eventually luring the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate from Phoenix to Tacoma.
As part of the ceremony at Heidelberg Park, the road from South 19th Street leading to Cheney Stadium, formerly South Cheyenne Street, was renamed Clay Huntington Way.
The Rainiers continue their homestand with Fresno today at 1:35 p.m. Mauricio Robles (0-1. 3.95 ERA) takes the mound for Tacoma, while the Grizzles counter with Eric Hacker (3-0, 2.00).