Danny Hultzen has room for improvement, but seven strikeouts and one earned run in his fourth Triple-A start was good enough to keep the Tacoma Rainiers alive Friday.
The Rainiers’ bats weren’t much help, tough.
Tacoma sent 16 hitters to the plate without a baserunner to show for it after taking a sixth-inning lead as the Colorado Sky Sox rallied on a pair of home runs from Andrew Brown to win, 4-3, in 11 innings at Cheney Stadium.
Brown tied the game with a solo-shot in the top of the ninth off Scott Patterson and put the Sky Sox ahead in his next at-bat with another homer, this time off Steve Hensley. His 20 home runs are the third-most in the Pacific Coast League.
Tacoma’s 3-4-5 hitters – Mike Carp, Alex Liddi and Nick Franklin – each went down on strikes in the seventh and almost did again in the 10th, but Franklin grounded out on a slow roller to first.
Hultzen was flashy with his stuff at times, but he lasted just five innings, leaving after throwing 94 pitches.
He was tagged early on an RBI single by Matt McBride that scored D.J. LeMahieu in the top of the first inning – unearned because of a passed ball that allowed LeMahieu to advance into scoring position.
But Hultzen pounded away at the strike zone after that. He sent Chad Tracy back to the dugout by striking him out with a 90-mph fastball, and struck out Hernan Iribarren with a 79-mph pitch in the dirt to earn two quick outs in the second. But then Tommy Field took him deep to left.
Hultzen did some bending after that but never broke. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth unscathed and wriggled out of the third and fifth innings as Colorado Springs left runners on the corners both times.
Of the 11 baserunners Hultzen put on, he stranded nine.
Franklin put the Rainiers (39-52) on the scoreboard with a screaming home run over the right-field wall. Darren Ford put Tacoma ahead with a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth that scored Vinnie Catricala and Luis Rodriguez – extending his hitting streak to 16 games.
Liddi hit a two-out ground-rule double in the fifth to advance Carp to third base. Franklin came up and sent a pitch to the warning track in center field, but it wasn’t far enough and he flew out to end the threat.
Right-hander Stephen Pryor was listed on the Rainiers’ roster as he starts a rehab assignment but did not appear in the game. The Mariners sent him to the disabled list June 13. … Brian Sweeney made his first relief appearance after making six starts. His absence in the starting rotation frees up a spot, possibly for recently signed David Pauley. … Jeff Marquez relieved Hultzen and tossed a scoreless sixth in his first appearance since heading to the DL on June 19.
Right-hander Hector Noesi makes his first start with the Rainiers since being demoted from Seattle. He will face the Sky Sox’s Edwar Cabrera (2-0, 3.86 ERA) at 7:05 tonight in the third game of the four-game series at Cheney Stadium.