COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – In retrospect, it was probably for the best that Danny Hultzen made his Triple-A debut away from Cheney Stadium.
Hultzen allowed five runs on five hits in three innings, taking the loss in the Tacoma Rainiers’ 8-4 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on Saturday night.
In front of 5,826 fans on Star Wars Night at Security Service Field, Hultzen was as wild as the original film’s cantina scene.
Hultzen fell behind hitters and allowed three runs in the first inning. He walked three batters in the second inning, including one with the bases loaded.
After the Rainiers tied the score at 4-all with a three-run rally in the top of the third, Hultzen issued another walk with two outs and wild-pitched the go-ahead run home.
“First time in Triple-A, I think he was trying to prove some things,” Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard said. “His peers were here, and I think that has a little to do with it mentally – just thinking ‘I want to show these guys, I belong here, too.’ ”
Hultzen (0-1) issued a lot of walks at Double-A Jackson – 32 in 75 innings – but he was virtually unhittable, allowing 38 hits while holding opponents to a batting average of .151.
He did not allow many hard-hit balls on Saturday. He gave up five hits, but only three were line drives, and all of the outs he recorded were routine plays.
The Sky Sox had some good luck in the first. With Tacoma leading 1-0 and runners at first and second with two outs, Brandon Wood hit a flair down the right-field line that kicked up chalk dust for a fair ball and an RBI double. Chad Tracy followed with a blooper to right that fell in for a two-run single.
“After going right to Double-A and dominating, that’s frustrating,” Bernard said. “To be thinking you made a good pitch – it’s aggravating.”
Tacoma shortstop Carlos Triunfel made two errors leading to a pair of unearned runs as the Sky Sox expanded the lead in the middle innings. Triunfel had made only one error in his previous 22 games at shortstop.
The sloppy performance came at the end of a long travel day for Tacoma. Alarm clocks were set for 4:30 a.m., and the team had to go to the ballpark shortly after arriving in Colorado Springs.
“Obviously it was a long day, but I don’t want to make any excuses,” manager Daren Brown said. “I expect us to play better than we did. We battled early but just kind of ran out of gas.”
It’s safe to expect a sharper outing from Hultzen in his next start. The left-hander reached 88 to 91 mph with his fastball, and he also threw sliders and change-ups. He simply wasn’t able to control any of his offerings.
“His stuff was good, but his command wasn’t,” said Brown. “It was a rough first start, but he’ll be ready to go next time.”
If the Rainiers stay in rotation for the next five days, Hultzen will pitch at Cheney Stadium on Thursday against Las Vegas. … Mariners director of player development Chris Gwynn was in attendance. … Luis Jimenez, the Rainiers’ 285-pound designated hitter, hit his annual triple in the first inning. Sky Sox right fielder Tim Wheeler missed a diving catch and did not get up as the ball bounced to the fence.
The second of four games in Colorado Springs will start today at 12:05 p.m. (PDT). Tacoma will start Andrew Carraway (2-2, 3.51 ERA) against top Rockies pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz (3-4, 2.61).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.