The Tacoma Rainiers dug themselves an early hole Sunday against the Salt Lake Bees, and their comeback effort fell short in a 4-2 Pacific Coast League loss at Cheney Stadium.
Salt Lake earned a four-game sweep of the Rainiers (23-39), who have lost six in a row and 11 of their past 13 to fall further into the PCL Pacific North cellar – 13 games behind leader Reno.
The Bees (34-30) are the first team to sweep the Rainiers at home in a four game series since Aug. 16-19, 2011 against Omaha.
“We need to swing the bats better than what we’ve been doing,” Tacoma manager Daren Brown said. “As a club, we had a pretty good month of May, playing most the games on the road.
“We just haven’t swung the bats well at home.”
Over the homestand, the Rainiers (24-39) finished 1-7, hitting a paltry .138. Tacoma finished the game Sunday with four hits – two from a pair of Franklin Gutierrez doubles.
“He’s healthy, he feels good. That’s the main thing for a guy who’s rehabbing,” Brown said of Gutierrez, who is trying to work his way back from injuries to his pectoral muscle and heel. “He’s swung the bat well the last few days, and he played center field in back-to-back days for the first time.”
Rainiers starter Jeff Marquez (4-7) trailed 4-0 after two innings.
Paul McAnulty’s two-run double highlighted a three-run first inning for Salt Lake as the first three batters got hits. The Bees added another run in the second when Robinzon Diaz scored on Drew Heid’s single.
Marquez has struggled in giving up runs early.
“The first innings been tough for him. He’s done that a few times, leaving the ball up in the zone and they made him pay for it,” Brown said. “It’s something he has to figure out.”
Marquez never had a chance to settle down, allowing at least one baserunner in each of the six innings he pitched. The game could have been worse if not for some solid Rainiers defense and the Bees not capitalizing on a few of their opportunities.
Salt Lake had the added benefit of starter Eddie McKiernan (2-1) being recently called up from Double-A Arkansas, so the Rainiers didn’t have much of a scouting report.
“He’s a guy recently called up from Double-A,” Brown said. “We have to give him a look the first few times around.”
Those first few looks paid off in the sixth inning. Luis Rodriguez led off with a solo home run to right field, and after Gutierrez’s second double, McKiernan was replaced with Sean White, a former Rainier and Seattle Mariner.
Gutierrez would later score on Adam Moore’s sacrifice fly. An error and walk loaded the bases with two outs for right fielder Casper Wells, but the rally ended when Wells grounded into a force out after a nice diving stop by Bees shortstop Ed Lucas.
“You would like to think he’s going to get a hit,” Brown said. “We had the bases loaded, but that’s one opportunity we had. They made a pitch, and we didn’t get the job done.”
For their part, Tacoma pitchers kept Salt Lake off the scoreboard after the first two innings – Cesar Jimenez pitched 12/3 scoreless innings, and Chance Ruffin added 1 innings.
Tacoma goes on the road for seven games, starting with a three-game series against Salt Lake beginning at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) today. The Rainiers send right-hander Brian Sweeney (1-1, 3.82 ERA) to against Bees left-hander Greg Smith (2-3, 3.19).email@example.com @manninkt